Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Decanting Wine

August 11, 2016

Wine Carafe with Two Wine Glasses - The Crystal Wonderland

What does decanting mean?

Decanting is the process of pouring wine from the original bottle to a serving container (called a decanter or, if it wasn’t designed specifically for wine or spirits, a carafe). Most wines simply taste better after being allowed to breathe for at least a few minutes. But not all wines need decanting for the same reasons or for the same amount of time. Let a wine breathe for too long, and you could actually damage it.

Why do we decant wine?

There are three main reasons to decant wine:

  • To aerate a young wine to improve its flavor
  • To separate a mature wine from any sediment
  • To allow sparkling wines to lose some of their bubbles

Decanting wine reducing the bubbles of bubbly sounds odd, remember that some folks find too much fizz gets in the way of the flavor. Always ask your guests their preference.

Benefits of decanting different wines

Red wines benefit from resting in a decanter for at least twenty minutes prior to serving. Some do best with several hours of rest. Unfortunately, a wine that sits too long can actually begin to turn into vinegar and there is no way to fix a wine that has soured. If you have the time, let the wine sit but taste it regularly; when you like the taste, drink it! A little experience will teach you how different wines change as they breathe and what flavors you should expect to develop before you serve. But you do not need to be an expert to know if you like the taste. Decanting is not a complicated process. Just remember you are the one who needs to enjoy the drinking of wine later on.

White wines can also be decanted but they do no need much time to breath. Due to their content they do not last as much and their flavor can be quickly altered if kept too long outside. We recommend putting the chilled white wine in a carafe to enhance its look.

Rosé wines typically do not need to breathe before serving. Their flavor is already complex and delicate. Older wines also rarely need aeration because aging has already developed their taste.But most older wines, and some young ones, contain sediment, particles that have precipitated out of the liquid and taste unpleasant. Wine bottles are normally stored on their side, to keep the cork moist, but if you stand the bottle upright for a few days, the sediment will settle to the bottom and you can pour the clear wine off into a decanter just before serving.

If you don’t have days to wait, shine a bright light through the bottle as you pour. Pour slowly, and when you see the cloud of sediment approaching the neck of the bottle, stop pouring. You can also filter sediment out with cheesecloth, but not without some degradation of flavor.

How to choose the right decanter?

Your choice of decanter also makes a difference. If you want to let your wine breathe, you’ll want a very wide decanter. The neck can be narrow, but the bowl where the wine sits needs to be wide enough to create plenty of surface area for oxygen exchange. If you’re pouring a mature red wine, a bottle-shaped decanter is fine, if that’s your style. Almost all decanters can be appropriate, it all depends on your personal preference. When choosing the right decanter, you should consider something that matches your personal style and your home decor, as the decanter can compliment the overall look of a home bar or living space just by itself.

A lot of luxury decanters are made from crystal glass and might have some lead crystal content. Although, the term “lead” might have a negative connotation, don’t jump to any conclusions just yet. The lead oxide in glass is added for extra brilliance and it is entirely integrated into the structure of the glass. The amount is measured in percentages and determines its strength and durability. It is considered safe for everyday use and even believed to further enhance the aromas of the wine. But a lot of people raise concerns about drinking from a crystal vessel because of the possibility of leached lead into the wine. The Crystal Wonderland sells many crystal decanters and glasses that are tested and proven to be safe. Many tests have shown that the amount of lead transferred to the wine from a crystal decanter over the course of a meal is well below the FDA approved levels (1 to 2 mg per liter). But for your own piece of mind, we would recommend keeping your wine in a crystal decanter for a short period of time. These magnificent crystal pieces look gorgeous on their own even without any liquor inside. So don’t be afraid to incorporate them as part of your table setting or home decor.

Cleaning your decanter

Whatever style you choose, always clean your decanter with plain spring water before use. Soap or chlorinated water could leave a residue which will be hard to take out due to the narrow neck of most decanters. You can add some coarse salt and a little crushed ice to remove any wine stains without worrying about unwanted aroma that can ruin your wine drinking experience.

Pour it out and enjoy!

Overall, wine decanting is not complicated. Just remember, if you like the way the wine tastes, you did it right. Cheers!

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