What's the origin of decanting, and how is it done? Learn about decanting your wine.For centuries, people from around the world have been decanting wine. The Merriam-Webster definition of decant is: to draw off (a liquid) without disturbing the sediment or the lower liquid layers. The word decant stems from the Greek word for corner of the eye, kanthos, which has evolved into a prefix for many English words denoting an edge. Medical terms contain the same origin as well as scientific devices such as beakers. Eventually, decanters became relevant to wine through their dated use as containers with an edge that can pour.
Why decant wine?Decanting wine makes it taste better. Even cheap wine can taste better when it's decanted. Tannin is what gives wine a leathery texture, and when the wine is decanted, this texture is smoothed out. Sediment often rests at the bottom of full-bodied red wines, and decanting eliminates that. Any wine with a strong rich, bitter, or dry flavor can be enhanced by decanting to bring out flowery tastes.
Which wines are best to decant?Red wines are the best to decant. Older full-bodied wines that may be reaching their peak are the top choices. These wines may be expensive and are opened in preparation for dinner time. The best red wine to decant can also be a cheap bottle, because those wines typically have a strong odor when opened. Decanting eliminates this odor and brings out the taste. Your choices include:
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Grigio
Which wines shouldn't be decanted?
If you want to experiment with decanting all types of wines, don't listen to the naysayers. Instead, test as many different wines as you like! Many wine drinkers will tell you bubbly wines including champagne shouldn't be decanted because they will lose their carbonation. However, some drinkers like decanting champagne because it separates the taste from the bubbles. Most white wines don't need to be decanted because the flavors are already light, but decanting them will still bring a desired effect.
How to choose a decanter?
Choosing your decanter is simple and depends on the bottle you're decanting. The size of the decanter is what determines how much oxygen your wine will be exposed to. Light-bodied wines are best for smaller decanters and full-bodied wines are best for larger decanters. Your decanter's shape and style doesn't matter as long as you're able to properly fill it and pour from it.
How to decant wine?Before you try decanting your wine, you'll need a day to let the bottle sit so that sediment separates at the bottom. When you're ready to decant, have your chosen bottle, a decanter, and your glass ready.
1. Pour your wine.As you pour the wine into the decanter, you want the stream to have as much surface area as possible. This exposes the wine to plenty of oxygen so that it breathes. Slowly pour the wine along the side of the decanter instead of pouring it directly into the bottom. Leave some in the bottle so that you don't pour out the sediment.
2. Let your wine sit.The amount of time it takes to decant your wine depends on a few factors. White wines shouldn't be left to decant for very long, so give those about fifteen minutes. Medium-bodied red wines can be left to decant for up to an hour. Full-bodied red wines benefit the most from decanting, and if you can wait to drink it, let it decant for up to three hours. Swirl your wine in the decanter or pour back and forth between two decanters to speed up the process.
3. Drink your wine.
Once you've waited, take the time to enjoy your wine and note the flavor differences. When smelling your wine, are there more noticeable aromas now than before? Tasting wine has a beginning, middle, and end, so note how each stage is different. The texture should be smoother as well.
How to clean a decanter?
Once you're done with your decanter, rinse the inside with cold water and the outside with hot water. Don't use soap unless the glass is notably unclean, because any soapy residue left over will affect the taste of your wine.