It isn’t always obvious when, why and how you should decant a wine, so this helpful how-to guide aims to provide some quick guidance you can refer to whenever the occasion arises!
Does all wine need decanting?
The concise answer here is no, but if you like your wine decanted, go ahead! It comes down to a little bit of practice, experience and perhaps know-how, but if you’re ever unsure, you can Contact Us, and we would be happy to advise.
How do I know if a wine does need decanting?
If a wine is likely to throw sediment (the ‘bits’ at the bottom of your bottle), it is a good idea to remove it through decanting. Whilst sediment is harmless, it can be unpleasant with a gritty texture which can detract from the experience of drinking your wine. Vintage Port and aged red wines are good examples of bottles that are likely to need sediment removal. Tip: if a wine has been stored on its side for an extended period, you should be able to hold the bottle up to the light and, with careful rotation, spot if there is any sediment clinging to the inside of the glass.
You may also want to decant a wine if it needs ‘opening up’. Have you ever opened a bottle of wine, had a glass, then revisited the bottle the following evening to discover the wine is now more expressive? That is because the wine was initially ‘closed’ and needed some time to reveal its true character through gentle oxygen interaction. In this instance, you can speed up the process of a wine opening up through decanting because the process aerates the wine. This is usually more appropriate/ necessary for younger wines. Tip: open your chosen bottle of wine and taste a sample to judge if decanting is needed.
How do I decant a wine?
Now that you have established if your wine needs decanting, onto the crucial part.
Where possible, stand your bottle upright for a few hours (preferably 24 hours) before you intend to open it. Once opened, begin slowly and carefully tilting the bottle towards the decanter whilst trying to avoid any ‘glugging’ sounds. Continue to steadily pour the wine continuously, carefully checking for any sediment as you reach the end of the bottle. The moment you see some sediment slipping out of the bottleneck, cease pouring. Tip: decant your wine in a well-lit room or even hold a light under the bottle as you pour to spot sediment filtering through. You could also use a piece of muslin cloth over the decanter opening to ensure any smaller bits of sediment are caught.
If you don’t have a decanter, a jug will work just fine, but ensure it is large enough to hold the contents of a bottle of wine!
What is double decanting?
If you’re looking to get a lot of air into a wine as quickly as possible, the double decanting technique is often the best method. Decant the wine into your decanter or jug as above and then pour it back into its bottle (after washing it out in case of any sediment residue). If you’re decanting a wine with no sediment, e.g. a white wine, you can pour as vigorously as you wish. For those who are confident in doing so, pour from a greater height to allow more oxygen interaction.
For more information on decanting wine, listen to our podcast When and why should you decant our wine? Including some helpful tips and a video demonstration.
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