When it comes to a new bottle of wine, there is one important step between uncorking and drinking--decanting. I am always torn between decanting and not decanting. I love pouring wine in my glass, swirling it before each sip, and tasting the wine as it changes over the course of the night. But, if you are wanting a more instant change, decanting is absolutely the way to go!

Decanting has the ability to really enhance the flavors of the wine you’re drinking.

What Does Decanting Mean?

First, it’s good for you to know what decanting wine is, if you don’t already. Decanting wine means slowly pouring the wine from the bottle into a different container. Special emphasis should be placed on the word “slowly”. Pouring slowly ensures you won’t disturb the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Wine is often decanted into a glass vessel with an easy to pour neck.

What Are Some Benefits to Decanting Wine?

Now, there are three main benefits to decanting wine:

  1. Decanting separates sediment from liquid. First and foremost, decanting is about separating wine from the sediments that settle at the bottom of the bottle. Red wines have the most sediment, and older wines even more so. Young white whites have the least amount of sediment. Sediment doesn’t hurt the wine, but it also doesn’t taste very good.
  2. Decanting enhances flavor through aeration. Aeration introduces oxygen to a liquid. You may have heard a wine connoisseur use the phrase, “allowing the wine to breathe” to describe aeration. Aerating wine softens the tannins and releases gases that have formed in the absence of oxygen. It allows the flavors and aromas that were dormant, while all bottled up, to expand and breathe.
  3. Decanting also saves wine in the event of a broken cork. Okay, we’ve all been there when trying to uncork a bottle and the cork just breaks. It happens! While pouring slowly, the cork will gather near the neck of the bottle as you decant into another vessel. You can also use a strainer while decanting to filter out the smaller bits.

What Wines Need Decanting?

Any type of wine can be decanted. From young wine to old wine, red wine and even white wines, its true most wines benefit from decanting if only for a few seconds for aeration. Although, young, strong red wines are typically what need to be decanted, because their tannins are more intense and could therefore benefit from a little aeration.

What Wines Don’t Need Decanting?

Sparkling wines like champagne shouldn’t be decanted. Sparkling wines thrive most with their effervescence and decanting reduces said that.

Here’s How to Decant Wine

Decanting wine requires a little patience and a gentle hand. Here’s how:

  1. If your bottle has been stored horizontally, you’ll want to stand it up prior to decanting to allow the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle again.
  2. Use a corkscrew to open the bottle.
  3. Tilt the neck of the bottle toward the decanter. Prevent the wine from gushing out by keeping the bottle below a 45 degree angle.
  4. Steadily pour the wine into a decanter. Keep your eyes peeled for any sediment that approaches the opening. You can also shine a light on the neck of the bottle to have a better look at the sediment as it approaches.
  5. Stop decanting if any sediment approaches the neck of the bottle. Tilt the bottle upright, then start again.
  6. Finish pouring, leaving a small amount of wine in the bottle with the sediment.

You can decant wine up to four hours before you anticipate drinking it, but know that older wines will not benefit from this long of time breathing.

By now you should be a decanting pro! There truly is an art not only to wine making but to wine drinking.

- Natalie