Decanting wine is a fun and easy pastime once you’ve figured it out.
Most wines can be decanted to enhance the flavor, but there are certain wines that will benefit most from decanting. The purpose of using a decanter is to remove sediment and aerate the wine, releasing sulfur and other less desirable flavors to smooth out its taste.
Here, we’ll walk you through six steps for choosing, decanting, and (best of all) tasting your wine.
6 Steps to Decant Your Wine
Before we get started, you’ll need the following materials:
- – A bottle of wine
- – A decanter
- – A small towel
- – A wine glass
Preparation time: A day to let the wine sit, then 15 minutes to three hours for decanting depending on your personal preference in wine.
Step 1: Pick your bottle of wine
Don’t think too much about choosing the perfect wine, because decanting works with most wines. Cheap wines are great for decanting because they often have the most noticeable sulfur odors that improve when decanted.
Full-bodied, older red wines are the most sought after for decanting because they come with sediment and have high tannins. Choosing a wine that doesn’t have sediment is ok too, because aerating the wine will still enhance the taste. Tannins create a dry texture, and aeration softens high tannin wine to bring out floral flavors.
White wines with very bitter flavors are a good choice for decanting as well. If you have a bottle of white wine that you’re not so fond of, aerating it can help smooth the flavors and you may enjoy it more. White wines that are chilled in refrigeration can especially benefit from decanting to room temperature.
It’s not typically advised to decant any sparkling wines or champagne because decanting those will ruin the carbonation. Most wines are meant to breathe, while those beverages are meant to bubble. However, decanting sparkling wines will still smooth the flavor and reach desired effects.
Step 2: Choose a decanter
There are many shapes of decanters to choose from, and they typically come in three sizes. The size determines the amount of surface area the wine has to aerate.
- – The smallest decanters are best for light-bodied red and white wines.
- – Medium sizes are for medium-bodied red wines.
- – Large sizes are for full-bodied red wines.
The shape of the decanter doesn’t matter as much. You want to be comfortable with using it, so make sure you can fill and pour it. Cleaning a decanter is always tough, and you may find a special brush for the decanter if you’re set on a certain style.
Step 3: Pour your wine
First, if there is sediment in your wine bottle, you’ll need to let it sit for a day so that the solids sink to the bottom.
When you go to pour your wine into the decanter, keep a cloth nearby in case you have any spills. (Don’t forget, red wine stains!)
Start by tipping your decanter so that, as the wine bottle is poured, the wine runs down the side of the decanter. The stream of wine should have plenty of surface exposed. Pour the amount that you plan to drink, and leave at least a few inches in the bottle so that the sediment is not poured out.
Step 4: Let the wine sit
Once your wine is poured into the decanter, you have a few options.
With older red wines, if you’re feeling sophisticated you can let the wine sit for a few hours, especially if the wine is being opened before its peak. Anyone drinking expensive wines may want the full decanting experience, which means preparing this well in advance for dinner time.
Light and medium-bodied red wines can be left for up to an hour. White wines are sensitive, so you can let them decant for about fifteen minutes.
One way of speeding up aeration is to pour the wine back and forth between decanters. If you don’t have a second decanter, don’t worry. When you first pour the wine you do most of the work for aerating it.
Swirl it around in the decanter a bit as well.
Step 5: Enjoy your wine
Pour from the decanter into your wine glass and make a toast, because you’ve decanted your first wine bottle!
Here’s a brief explanation on how to properly taste your wine:
- – Smell your wine for fruits and other aromas. There should be primary, secondary, and tertiary scents.
- – Taste your wine for sweet, salty, sour, and bitter flavors on all parts of your tongue.
- – Feel the texture of the wine when you taste it.
- – Once you’ve swallowed, consider the timing of the wine to distinguish the beginning, middle, and end flavors.
Step 6: Clean your decanter
After enjoying your delicious decanted wine, it’s time to clean and store your decanter.
Don’t use dish detergent very often, because decanters are tough to clean and any residue left behind will affect the taste of your wine next time. Rinse the outside with warm water and give the inside a thorough rinse with cold water. Don’t worry about fitting your hand inside to dry it, and let it sit upside down to drip dry for a few hours. Finally, be sure to store your decanter somewhere safe.