Decanting Wine, Is it worth it?

To answer the questions simply; yes and no.  Experts throughout the wine industry disagree on a myriad of points about the need to decant wine.  Thus depending upon who you talk to decanting is a worthwhile task or a waste of time and money.

To begin with, decanting is the process defined as the separation of mixtures.  The purpose of decanting wine is to separate sediments from the larger volume of clear liquid (can be important for older wines).  Decanting can also allow for agitation of the wine which causes it to mix with oxygen enabling a more fuller flavor to develop (can be important for younger wine).

While the reasons for decanting listed above look very advantageous, they are also the result of older wine production methods that required decanting to finish off the wine making process.  Most wines produced today will not require decanting. The consistent refinement of the wine making process ensures that wines are thoroughly clarified before they are bottled.  Wine producers do this by a process of fining (removal of soluble substances) and mechanical filtration (removal of particulates).

The types of wines that generally require decanting are those which have been aged in the bottle as opposed to the barrel.  These wines, typically red rather than white, will produce a sediment when aged for ten years or more. While this sediment can be displeasing to the eye, it is more displeasing to the tongue and decanting is a must.

Young wines can also benefit from decanting, although the aim in decanting is slightly different than with red wines.  Exposing the young wines to air can help to soften the “bite” and allow for the complexities in the aroma to more fully develop.  For this reason, if at first taste, your wine presents a highly tannic and mouth puckering feel, decanting can be of great use.

However, before you run out and by decanters in fear of sediments and the need for aeration, remember that almost all wines today undergo a refined production method which prevents sediments and allows for measured oxidation.  Also, sediments occur over the course of many months if not years.  Thus while still in the production stages, your wine, in a sense, has already been decanted before bottling.  Aging wine in wood barrels also allows allows the wine to undergo carefully controlled oxidation over many months.

So if you are not in the habit of decanting wine, should you start?  The answer is still yes and no.  Remember, today’s production methods decant wine before it is bottled thus ensuring that wine is ready to drink right out of the bottle.  However, not every wine undergoes the same process so ultimately the choice is yours.  The important thing is that you get the most out of your experience with wine as possible.  So, the next time you are shopping for wine, inquire about the possibility of sediment in the bottle (if the bottle is too dark to see into), the relative age of the wine, and the general consensus for the label you are choosing.

About americanwinegrape

American Wine Grape Distributors Inc. AKA A. Silvestro Wine Grape, has been in business for over 5 decades. We are wine enthusiasts just like you and want to share in that enjoyment. This is why we are developing a new and exciting platform for growers, restaurants, sommeliers and home winemakers. Our goal is to bring the wine community together and is the driving force behind our new blog.