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How to Decant Wine and Why it Actually Matters

Have you ever seen someone in a restaurant pour wine into a decanter and you think, "That’s a little too much show for me!" or "Does it make that much difference? They’re going to be drinking that wine in about 2 seconds!"

By the time you finish reading this blog post, you’ll understand the importance of decanting your wine and will be equipped to start maximizing your wine’s aromas and flavors with a decanter.

What is Decanting?

Decanting wine is essentially the process of pouring the contents from the bottle into another vessel ... a decanter. Typically, the wine is then served from the decanter. Generally speaking, decanting serves two purposes:

  1. It separates the wine from any sediment that may have formed in the bottle.

  2. It gets air or oxygen to the wine so the wine's aromas and flavors will be more vibrant when served.

Decanting also softens the taste of the tannins that cause harshness and astringency in young red wines.

The simplest rule of thumb is decant wines that are red, old, and bold. To be fair, there really aren't many wines that get worse with decanting.

Decanting Old Wines

The reason for decanting old wine is to remove the juice from the sediment that has collected in the bottle over time. This is a good idea for reds five years and older. To decant these aged reds, stand the bottle straight up for several hours, or even a day, before consumption. This lets the sediment fall to the bottom. Then, pour the wine slowly into the decanter. Stop pouring when you see sediment or cloudiness reaching the neck. The bottles are designed to catch the sediment there. Once the juice is removed from the sediment, the decanting process is over and the wine is ready to be drunk. Don’t leave your old wines out to “breathe." This will shorten its consumption window.

Decanting Bold Wines

Now, for big, bold, young reds, the purpose of decanting is different. It’s to introduce oxygen to the wine. To learn about the importance of exposing wine to oxygen, check out my YouTube video "Letting Wine Breathe: How it Works & Why it Matters." Practically speaking, when you decant young, bold reds, pour the wine quickly to let the wine get plenty of air mixed into it. I really recommend that you decant most young reds, especially bold varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Nebbiolo.


If you want to learn more about decanting, including the best decanters to buy, check out my YouTube video "How to Decant Wine (and why it actually matters)."

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