Posted on: Monday 27 February 2017
Decanting – which wines need it, when should you do it and how? And does it really make a difference? We spoke with Wine Society Educator Ben Knight to shed some light on this often divisive topic.
What is the biggest misconception when it comes to decanting wine?
The biggest misconception is that you don’t need to decant white wines. This simply isn’t true. All wines benefit from a little air, from red and white to rosé and orange. It really does open them up and makes for a better drinking experience.
How long should you decant wine for?
This is one of those annoying wine things. It varies from wine to wine and style to style in that some wines show better more quickly, while others need more time to breathe.
What are the biggest benefits of decanting? Are there any wines you shouldn’t decant?
Decanting helps the wine to open up, thereby amplifying the aromas while softening the texture. As wine ages, its ability to handle lots of air diminishes. With that in mind, I wouldn’t recommend decanting your treasured 20-year-old wine in the morning and expecting it to be sound for dinner.
How do you decant wine?
Young wines you can just tip upside down into your decanter, but older wines need a more steady hand, as they often have sediment that you don’t want in the glass. Find a flat surface, get your tools ready before you start, and make sure you have a light source to hold under the neck of the bottle so you can see when the sediment starts to come through.
What if you don’t have a decanter?
You don’t specifically need a decanter. You can decant into anything. It can be another empty bottle, a clean vase, a water jug or anything that can hold the wine. While quality decanters are lovely, it’s the air that is key – not the vessel.
We tested the theory of decanting using two full-bodied reds from Castro’s Ligador: a Shiraz Mataro and a Cabernet Malbec. Both wines were tasted before and after decanting. After two hours of decanting, both wines had completely opened up, revealing more aromas and flavours, while softening the mouthfeel. Verdict? Decant, decant, decant.