Decanting: When, Why & How?

WINE 101

Wine Decanting 101: Everything You Need to Know about Decanting Wine

JANUARY 21, 2022

Your new bottle of Freemark Abbey Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has arrived, and you are ready to enjoy it, but wonder: can it be sipped as is? Or would the bottle benefit from decanting? That’s a great question and something that a large number of people consider before uncorking red wine. Many bottles benefit from decanting, but it’s not always necessary. Let’s break it down.

First, what is decanting? The process of decanting involves slowly pouring the liquid from the bottle into another vessel. If you’re at a tasting room or restaurant, the wine is traditionally moved into a decanter, a special glass vessel that comes in all shapes and sizes. The wine is often swirled in the decanter and left to rest at room temperature before drinking.

Why decant? It serves a few purposes but here’s the main one: To aerate the wine. If you’ve heard someone talk of “letting a wine breath,” they are referring to the process of aeration. When wine is introduced to oxygen, it releases certain flavors and aromas developed while the wine was aging in the bottle. Aeration improves the flavor of a wine because it allows everything to soften and relax.

When to decant? Generally speaking, younger red wines with intense tannins benefit most from decanting. Some older reds that have been aged, as well as whites and rosés that are unfiltered or made naturally may also benefit from decanting. The only wine you should never decant is sparkling, because it will deflate the bubbles, and no one wants that. The good news is, you can’t hurt a wine by decanting, so go ahead and give it a try.

Practice makes perfect. How to decant wine in three easy steps: 1. Open the bottle. 2. Keeping the bottle at a 45° angle, then slowly pour the liquid into the decanter at a steady pace. If any sediment approaches the opening, stop decanting. If you don’t have a proper decanter, use a glass carafe. A watch pitcher works wonderfully in a pinch. 3. Let the wine rest at room temperature in the decanter for at least half an hour before drinking. Although wine professionals love to debate the perfect length of decantation, it’s difficult to over-decant a wine. Now go enjoy that delicious Napa cab!

Wine Being Poured into a Decanter