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The Decanting of Wine

Have you ever ordered a bottle of wine in a restaurant and noted that the last glass tasted much better than the first? Or found that the wine was really starting to come together just when the dessert was being presented and your server was trying to steal away your glass? Have you ever opened a bottle of red wine at home and found it drinking much better the next day, improving overnight like yesterday’s pizza?

Decanting wine is an effortless task that delivers measureable extra pleasure by opening up the taste of the wine and softening aggressive tannins in younger wines. So why are so few people in this country bothering to do it? Could it be partly because the practice of decanting wine is rarely offered or available at restaurants and wine bars? As the American wine consumer becomes savvier about their enjoyment of wine, I predict that this lack of decanting service in commercial establishments will change. While this article probably won’t herald the revolution, I encourage you to add the simple exercise of decanting to your home wine-drinking routine to elevate the quality of the wines you are already consuming without adding any new cost.

Big reds and even those rare aged white wines would be good candidates for decanting. Many wine writers, such as author Karen MacNeil in the book The Wine Bible, advocate decanting for the purposes of aeration, especially with very tannic wines like Barolo, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, and Rhône wines while noting that decanting could be harmful for more delicate wines like Chianti and Pinot Noir.

Zonin Store USA
Zonin Store USA

If you’ve participated in a serious wine tasting, then you’ve experienced decanting properly executed. For any wine professional whose career depends on buying and selling, the decanting of wines is a rule not to be broken because any one transaction after a tasting could cost thousands of dollars and more. The wine enthusiast at home will not need to work that hard. No longer is it important to light a candle so that you can see and capture every speck of sediment while pouring, have the perfect white linen backdrop, or crank a bottle slowly to prevent – heaven forbid – residue from falling into the glass.

A simple funnel and decanter are all that's required.

Simply pace your pour properly to avoid spilling over the side of the funnel. You will find all shapes of glass being used as decanters, but any decanter with a wide base that exposes more wine surface to oxygen will do. I found one of my favorite decanters on the clearance shelf of a big box store for two dollars. If you have leftover wine that you wish to keep for another time, refill the original bottle from the decanter and vacuum the bottle to suck out the extra air, or try blending leftovers to fill the bottle to the top and experience blending yourself in the process.

The goal while drinking wine is to expose the wine to oxygen. The goal while the wine is stored is to eliminate oxygen. Think about what happens when the insides of an apple are exposed to oxygen for too long and then imagine that happening to your lovely wine in the bottle.