Let's Talk: Decanting & Aeration

Let's Talk: Decanting & Aeration

Decanting... you know, that extra step of pouring it in another container before you pour it in your wine glass. Does it REALLY do anything to make your wine taste better?
 
The simple answer is YES*
 
Decanting your wine has the potential to make your wine do a complete 180 in improving how it tastes. I have that bolded asterisk (*) there because in some cases (like if you have a very old and delicate wine) over-exposure to oxygen could ruin it.

 

There are two main benefits of decanting wine:

 #1 - To separate your wine from any sediment build-up
#2 - To enhance the aroma and flavor through aeration

     

    Reason #1: To separate your wine from any sediment build-up

    Sediment build-up usually is only an issue for RED wines that are unfiltered and/or older. Most of it is made out of bits of seeds, grape skins, and crystal-like tartrates.
    Sediment won't hurt you. It's completely natural and just the byproduct of the winemaking process. Some winemakers filter their wines to remove sediment completely - while others prefer to keep their wines unfiltered to add a bit of character and personality. Since sediment is unpleasant to drink or look at, you want to avoid it from getting into your glass. and decanting is a great method in doing so.
     
    To keep sediment out of your glass, follow these simple steps:
    1. Grab yourself a decanter.
    2. Open your wine bottle.
    3. SLOWLY pour the wine into the decanter without stopping. Once you get to the bottom half of the bottle, pour EVEN MORE SLOWLY.
    4. Keep your eye on the neck of the bottle. Towards the end of pouring the whole bottle of wine into the decanter, stop when the wine color becomes cloudy or if you see what looks like little specs of dust.
    5. The wine that you poured in the decanter is now ready to serve. Discard the last little bit of sediment-filled wine that's still in the bottle.
     
     

     Reason #2: To enhance the aroma and flavor through aeration

    The second reason why it's beneficial to decant your wine is all about that “opening up“ and "exposing your wine to oxygen" thing. I know it sounds weird when people say "my wine needs to breathe" but that's actually a legitimate statement. The official/scientific name for it is aeration, which means "to supply something with air".
     
    Bare with me as I nerd out and talk science for a bit. 🤓
     
    Wine is a collection of chemical compounds. When you open up a wine bottle and pour it into a wine glass, you are forcing it to be exposed to oxygen. That mere exposure triggers a chemical reaction to certain compounds within your wine that are susceptible to it which makes it oxidize and evaporate.
     
    The chemical makeup of your wine will determine what your wine needs.To illustrate, I've outlined a few 'decanting scenarios' in the chart below!
     
    As for determining how long to decant your wine, I always say "AIR on the side of caution", because once you've exposed your wine to oxygen, there is no going back! The general rule of thumb is that the more young and full-bodied your wine is (think Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah) the longer you'll want it to decant. Delicate, older, and/or more light-bodied wines like Pinot Noir and Gamay open up quite easily and only need around 30 minutes in a decanter.
    It's also important to note that you are also exposing your wine to oxygen when you swirl it in your glass. So don't forget to factor that in when you are trying to determine your decanting time.
     
    And what about those go-go gadget wine device things? You've seen those weird-looking contraptions before. You know, that wine thing that looks like something came from the old SkyMall magazine? Perhaps you heard they can make a $5 bottle of wine taste like a $50 one?! These wine devices, commonly called "aerators", are used to expose air to wine at a much faster pace than it naturally would. Just think of them as a super-fast alternative to decanting. Instead of having to wait an hour for your wine to open up in a decanter or wine glass, aerators do it INSTANTANEOUSLY because they force wine through a funnel of pressurized oxygen. I'd recommend aerators to anyone, especially to those who are pressed for time. It might not make your bottle of two buck chuck taste like Caymus, but it will improve the flavor when you need a glass of wine STAT!