Before you go out and buy the most stylish decanter, you should learn a few basics about why decanting wine is so important. Read on for some surprising information!
A wine decanter is the glass vessel used to serve wine. So, the process of “decanting” your wine is simply pouring your wine from its bottle into this vessel. While you might not think this glass vessel is all that important, it actually makes a huge difference in the overall taste and experience.
That’s why it’s important to understand exactly what decanting does before you order that gorgeous hand blown glass decanter off Etsy. First, not all wines actually need to be decanted. Second, not all decanters are created equal. Before we jump too far ahead though, let’s take a look at what this process actually does.
Wine and Oxygen Have A Special Relationship
Winemakers work incredibly hard to control the presence of oxygen. That includes while harvesting grapes, fermenting them, and even while wine is aging. This is important because oxygen can modify flavor in a huge way. According to The International Journal of Food Science, aromatic compounds can become oxidized and lost during different stages of harvest. These compounds are a huge part of the overall flavor, so that’s pretty important.
While certain parts of the fermentation process are anaerobic, or without oxygen, this compound is vital during the first stage of fermentation. That’s where oxygen aids the yeast in turning sugar into alcohol. Oxygen also helps form other flavor-influencing compounds, like esters. If you’re after wine with an intense fruity aroma, you’re actually searching for wine with more esters and lower levels of specific alcohols.
Oxygen also has a huge influence on the aging process. While wine is maturing in a barrel, tannins become less harsh, aroma becomes richer, and oxygen moves through the wood and into the wine. The last item is how oxygen infuses wine with the flavor of the barrel itself. The key is the very slow infusion of oxygen during this process.
Long after a wine has been bottled and sold, oxygen still plays a role in how the flavor develops. Natural corks allow for micro-oxygenation. The small pores are what allow the wine to seep into the cork. This causes corks to swell up and create tighter seals against the glass of the bottle. A tiny amount of oxygen is also able to pass through these pores. However, as more wine saturates the cork, it makes it harder and harder for oxygen to get through.
What Do Wine Decanters Do?
Once you open that bottle of wine, it becomes exposed to lots of oxygen. Too much can flatten its flavor and create a stale experience. If you’ve ever saved half a bottle of wine and tried to drink it again a few weeks later, you might have experienced this. On the other hand, a certain amount of oxygen can actually make a wine taste even better due to certain chemical reactions.
This is where decanters come in handy. As you pour wine into a decanter, more wine is exposed to oxygen. Basically, you’re oxygenating your wine which helps certain aromatic compounds express more fully. For an older wine with bold flavors and lots of tannins, this process will soften the astringency and bring any fruity, floral notes to the forefront.
All you have to do is pour your wine into the decanter and wait. Depending on the type of wine and how old it is, your wait time can range from thirty minutes to several hours. You can speed up this process a bit by pouring the wine along the side of the decanter to increase oxygen exposure or even just by swirling the decanter a few times. While it may be tempting to drink it as soon as possible, we promise you it’s well worth the wait.
Which Wines Need Decanting?
First, not all wines need to be decanted. Most white wines, particularly wines that are already very aromatic, don’t need decanting. If the wine is already fully expressing its flavors, decanting may cause the wine to lose flavor and taste stale.
There are rare occasions where a white wine may need decanting. Sometimes a white wine with a full body and funky vegetal flavors may benefit from a very short decanting process. However, we wouldn’t recommend decanting white wines for any longer than thirty minutes.
Most red wines can benefit from decanting. So, the following list should help you determine just how long you have to wait to enjoy your wine…
How Long Should You Decant Your Wine?
- A full-bodied, fruit forward Cabernet Sauvignon will benefit from decanting for 2 hours. This includes our Fattoria di Travalda, Supertuscan Tenuta di Burchino, and Guadalmare, Maremma.
- A Merlot with a soft finish and mild tannins can also benefit from a 2-hour decanting process. There’s a large variety among this style of wine, however, so it’s important to periodically taste it. This helps to ensure it doesn’t become over-oxygenated. We would recommend this length for our Guadalmare and Tenuta Ceppaiano, “Alle Viole.”
- The fruit-forward flavors of a Pinot Noir only need roughly 30 minutes to decant. Any longer and you may lose some of those delicate cherry and currant flavors. Our Grand Noir and La Cattura have very similar features to a traditional Pinot Noir and would benefit from this shorter decanting time.
- Sangiovese, which have a more prominent puckering effect, will benefit from a 2-hour decanting period. This allows the acidity to soften and the rounder fruitier flavors to fully express. You’ll notice this with wines like our Guadalmare, Morellino di Scansano or Filicheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
- A full-bodied, tannin heavy Shiraz will need somewhere between 2–3 hours. These dark, complex wines have a variety of flavors, from intensely savory to floral and herbaceous. That makes this another wine you should periodically taste. If you prefer our Tenuta Santa Lucia, then consider using this method.
This advice is appropriate for wines that are two to ten years old, so if it’s younger or has stronger tannins, it may need a bit longer. Once a wine is decanted, it can’t be undone and is best consumed within twelve to eighteen hours.
Types of Decanters
Before you click “Add to Cart” on that decanter, make sure you’re buying the right decanter for your wine. Certain wines benefit from more oxygen than others, and the shape of your decanter can influence how much wine is exposed to oxygen. The key is to pay attention to the body of your wine. The fuller the body, the bigger the vase.
For full-bodied reds, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, you’ll want a decanter with a wide vase. Older wines with bold flavors need more oxygen to decant properly. The wide vase means that more surface area of the wine will be exposed to oxygen.
Wines like Merlots or Sangiovese with more medium bodies will do fine in a decanter with a medium-sized vase, and light-bodied reds can be decanted in smaller vases. Anytime you decant white wine, you’ll also want a smaller vase to avoid over-oxygenation.
Decanting Wine Enhances the Overall Wine Experience
Not only does decanting your wine influence the aroma and flavor, but it can also be a beautiful piece of art that enhances your table setting and elevates the mood of your gathering. Whether you’re decanting a bottle of wine for just you and that special someone or for an entire party, it’s a great way to explore different aspects of wine tasting.
Next time you decant one of your SECCO Wine Club bottles, be sure to tag us in the picture for a chance to be featured on one of our stories! Don’t forget to stock up on all your favorite bottles and feel free to leave us a comment down below if you found this information interesting or helpful.