Decant (verb) : To pour a liquid from one container into another.
Not nearly as exciting as what you were thinking eh?
Why do we decant?
– Expose wine to oxygen
– Separate wine from sediment
When I first encountered decanting it was for the latter. The sommelier decanted older wines using a candle to help them see sediment in the bottle and ensure it stayed there while it was poured into the decanter. Yet, the more common reason why we decant is to aerate the wine.
Decanting exposes wine to oxygen and lets the wine “breathe”. When you don’t have the luxury (nor the patience) to let bottles age, you can use a decanter to reap the same benefits. The exposure to oxygen helps soften a wine’s tannins and intensify its’ aromas.
What to decant?
– Big, full-bodied red wines
– Young red wines (that could age a little longer)
– Older wines
For the record, you can decant anything you want (I would advise against sparkling though). I know a winemaker who swears by decanting Chardonnay, but for simplicity’s sake, reds will benefit the most.
Pouring wine into a decanter will instantly aerate the wine, but the longer it sits there the more it will open up and soften. There’s no magic number but anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour is a good start.
There are plenty of decanters on the market these days and regardless of price point, they’re all doing the same job. Anything with a large base which is easy to pour is your best bet.
If you don’t have a decanter, don’t worry! The first time I decanted wines at a tasting we used plastic water pitchers. The glamour of decanting was never quite the same, but it showed me even the pros will use anything. You can always improvise!
I hope this shows that decanting doesn’t have to be intimidating. More importantly, I hope you taste the difference. Make sure to have a little wine before and after, it’s the best way to learn and obviously the most enjoyable.