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grassl glass wine decanter filled with red wine on table

Guide to Decanting Wine Like a Pro

Decanters are beautiful symbols of fine wine. Every wine collector, wine lover, and enthusiast eventually gets their hands on one of these fine glass or crystal pieces. But what is a wine decanter and what does decanting wine do? How do you actually decant wine?

Decanting wine might seem intimidating, but it isn’t. In fact, it’s a technique everyone can use to enhance their tasting experience. Here’s how to decant wine like a true professional. 

What Is Decanting Wine? 

Let’s start from the beginning. Decanting separates a liquid from a solid by pouring it without disturbing the deposits. Aged, mainly concentrated, red wine sheds sediments after sleeping in a dim-lit cellar for a few years. These deposits, although harmless, can make the wine look murky, so decanting well-aged wine is customary. 

What Does Decanting Wine Do?

Decanting wine has other benefits. When transferring a wine from its bottle to another vessel, the wine is exposed to air and oxygen — it becomes more expressive as the aromatic molecules in the wine become volatile. 

This means that you can decant wine, even if it doesn’t have sediments, as it is a fun way of bringing out those lovely scents hidden in the fermented grape juice. To decant wine, you need a decanter or similar vessel, which is why beautiful crystal decanters often make their way into every wine lover’s cellar or cabinet. 

Why Decant Wine?

First, because it might have sediments, easy to see as deposits on the bottom of the bottle. You can also decant wine to let it “breathe” or open up by exposing it to oxygen. 

When to decant wine depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Decant wine if you prefer crystal clear red wine without the opacity caused by sediments — the muddy deposits made of precipitated tannins and pigments. 

On the other hand, you can transfer any type of wine, red, white or rosé, into a decanter to make it more expressive. The process also elevates the wine’s temperature a few degrees, which might come in handy. 

How to Decant Wine Step by Step

If you need to decant wine to separate it from its deposits. These are the steps to take in the most formal of environments. 

  1. Prepare a gueridon or side table with a few cloth napkins. Light a candle away from the table and bring the gueridon to the table. 
  2. Bring the wine from the cellar to the table gently. A sommelier might use a wine bottle basket to ensure the sediments are undisturbed. 
  3. Open the bottle of wine and pour the wine into the decanter over the candle, stopping when the fine smoke or sediments make their way to the bottle’s opening. 
  4. If you’re decanting the wine to aerate it, pour it from the bottle into the decanter; no light source is needed. Pour aged wine slowly and young wine more vigorously. 

Considerations Before Bringing Out Your Decanter

  • Not all wines need or benefit from decanting. Again, sediments in wine are harmless, and some wine drinkers don’t mind them ending up in their wine glasses. Not all wines need aeration either and it’s up to you to determine if the wine in question can perform better after being decanted. 
  • Although red wine is usually what people decant, you can also decant rosé and white wine. Some people even decant sparkling wine to make it more expressive, although the process might drastically reduce its effervescence. 
  • Using a decanter can enhance any wine dinner. There’s no reason you shouldn’t bring out your crystal decanter and serve wine with it. Perhaps the wine won’t taste or smell any better but pouring it from the decanter is already a fun way to make dinner more memorable. 

Now that you surely want to decant your next bottle of wine, you must know how to choose a decanter for different types of wine. Most decanters fit a standard bottle of wine, but if you’re used to opening large-format bottles, there are magnum-sized decanters available. Decanters can vary in shape and size, and although some decanters have sophisticated forms, sometimes the simpler the design, the better. 

Ensure the decanter can aerate the wine nicely with a wide enough surface, and you’ll be all right. When possible, choose crystal decanters over those made of glass. 

Cleaning and storing your mouth-blown decanter is as vital as having a decanter in the first place. After all, these are delicate pieces — handcrafted by artisans to enhance your wine enjoyment. 

To clean a decanter, use warm water, and wash it immediately after using, since you don’t want leftover wine to dry out. Avoid using soap or detergents, as decanters are designed to capture aromas, and the soap’s smell can be hard to eliminate. 

Decanters are generally not dishwasher safe but ask your supplier; you might be surprised. After rinsing, allow your decanter to air-dry and remove watermarks with a clean, odorless cloth

If you enjoy wine, whether you’re a casual wine drinker or an enthusiastic collector, having a proper decanter in hand is always a good idea. Shop now from a supplier you can trust and ensure the decanter is a piece you’ll be proud to bring out when having friends coming over for dinner. 

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