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Why should I decant wine?

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Why you should decant wine

I can recall when I was a young woman watching an episode of Columbo where one of the suspects was decanting a fine wine.  I had never seen anyone go through such drama to have a glass of wine.  The wine connoisseur was going on and on about the importance of using cheese cloth, having a steady hand while you poured, and making sure there was ample time to allow the wine to breath before dinner as though to err on any of these points would surely result in loss of life. Back in the day, many wine drinkers were self-appointed snobs and I believe this kind of snooty behavior only helped to further taint the growth of wine as an everyday beverage to be enjoyed by the masses.

Decanting Wine

Decanting Wine

Decanting wine isn’t a big deal.  But at the time, all of the decanting hoopla gave me the impression that only expensive wines were worthy of decanting, which made me think it was an undertaking I’d never have to bother with, given my limited budget.  However, I’ve since learned that decanting is not a task reserved only for expensive wines like a Bordeaux.  It is a simple but important step for many wines that are consumed on a nightly basis by ordinary wine drinkers like us.

So below I’ve outlined a few legitimate reasons to decant wines, aside from the snobbery of it all.

It Tastes Better

Simply uncorking a bottle of wine and allowing it to sit on the counter is not adequate for the wine to breathe and improve its drinkability. The air surface created by the tiny little opening of the bottle is not large enough to allow the wine to breathe properly.

Think about this. How would you feel if someone pushed you into the pool, stuck two straws up your nostrils, and then asked you to breathe?  After your initial panic, as you float on your back with the straws protruding from your nose, you may be able to get a bit of air as the straw breaks the water surface, but it’s not the most ideal situation for breathing, wouldn’t you agree?  It’s the same for wine trapped inside a bottle.   Release the hounds!

Decanting Red Wine

Another reason to decant is as wine matures, its structure changes, resulting in a shift in the aroma and tannin.  Red wines become paler, moving from purple and ruby red to brown and brick red as they age.  The strong tannins that give red wine their structure start to round out, becoming less jagged and more polished like a teenager becoming an adult. The aromas become more aromatic and the bouquet develops as baked fruit, spice or nuttiness.


Decanting White Wine

Many people are not aware but you also should decant some white wines.  Similar to reds, white wines undergo their own growth from awkward adolescence to adulthood.  However, they get darker as they age, taking on a more golden hue and even sometimes approaching brown.  Allowing young wines to “get some air” will usually improve the taste.

So the next time you open a bottle, stop to think if you should decant or not.  Decanting could mean the difference between a good wine and an excellent wine.

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One Comment

  1. Dan Martin says:

    It’s like working with whole spices. You’ve gotta toast them before they’re at their aromatic best. You can’t rely on them coming in the bottle that way.

    I suspect that as wineries become increasingly cautious about letting oxygen into their wines before they’re bottled, we need to increasingly decant them so they can breathe.