How and Why to Decant Wine

By Adrian Smith

Decanters are a fantastic addition to a wine collection. They look beautiful, enhance the ‘wine experience’, and can work wonders in the right situations. But what are those situations and when should you use a decanter? Read on to discover expert advice from award winning TV presenter, speaker and journalist, Aidy Smith.

Five Reasons to Use a Decanter

Removing Sediment From Wines

There’s many reasons that can result in wines building up sediment, but one thing is for sure – you don’t want it in your glass. By tilting a decanter onto its side and slowly pouring the wine into it, you can ensure your wine is served without bits. The trick is to have a light (flashlight, phone light, candle) underneath the bottle where it begins to turn into the narrow spout so that you can see the sediment inside. Once you’ve got as much wine out as you can and begin to see the sediment forming, stop.

Adrain Smyth Decanter Set Red

Full Bodied Wines (1-2 Hours)

Full-bodied wines can often be a bit too much as soon as they are poured from the bottle. Decanting for anywhere between 1-2 hours can open up the aromas and taste profile, allowing the fruit to really shine and for you to get the most out of your purchase. Ultimately, it’s up to you how ‘full bodied’ the wine is, as everyone’s palate is different. My advice would be to have a taste and if you think it’s a bit too much, bring out the decanter! Make sure to continue to taste every 30-45 minutes so you’re not over-exposing the wine to oxygen.

Vintage Red Wines (2 Hours)

Older vintage and expensive wines can greatly benefit from being decanted, although you need to be incredibly careful to ensure that you’re not leaving them for too long. I would suggest having a little taste every 15 minutes until you find the sweet spot. Think older vintage Californian, Italian, Bordeaux-based and Spanish wines or varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Chianti etc.
Highly Acidic Red Wines (20 Minutes – 1 Hour) If you’ve opened up a red wine that is just overbearingly acidic (for example, a Pinot Noir), you may be able to salvage it. Around 20 minutes in a decanter could mellow out the acidity allowing the fruit to come through on the palate. Try swirling the decanter every five minutes or so to speed up the process.

White Wines

White wines being decanted? Actually yes, it can happen! If you’re dealing with a very old white wine chances are it will need a bit of last minute decanting to open up and breathe before being served. Examples of these could include old white Rhônes or older vintage Rieslings. Some heavily oaked Chardonnays can also benefit from being decanted as it will allow the nuances of the fruit to shine through. In fact, there’s a variety of Parisian restaurants that have even been known to decant champagne (although I wouldn’t recommend it, you’ll lose the fizz!).

Adrian Smyth Decanter White

Which Decanter Goes With Which Wine?

Big, Full-Bodied Red Wines

Wines which have a higher complexity, more tannin structure and are generally bigger and more robust should be placed into a decanter with a large, wide base. This allows more oxygen to do its job. Think Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Primitivo, Petit Verdot etc.

Adrain Smyth Decanter Red Pour

Medium Bodied Red Wines

When it comes to medium-bodied wines, you’re looking at a mid-sized decanter (the standard decanter size). Grape varieties that fit this profile include Merlot, Shiraz, Barbera or Syrah. Slightly less space in the glass will allow these wines to sit in the decanter for longer before reaching their peak and becoming spoilt.

Lighter Red Wines

For lighter reds such as Pinot Noir and Barolo, opt for a medium-sized decanter, but make sure it’s sat in the fridge/wine conditioning unit for about an hour before using it.

Adrian Smith Decanter Main Image

White Wine & Rosé

A small decanter is the way to go here as white wines (unless older vintages) don’t really need decanting. There’s also the fact that these wines need to remain cool and are often sat within ice buckets. Transferring them over to a decanter will see them warming up a lot faster, however with a Miele Wine Conditioner that benefits from a dedicated SommelierSet there is a generous amount of space to place decanters to ensure they stay at a desired temperature.

The Miele Touch – My Favourite Wine Conditioning Unit

Miele has a variety of wine conditioning units with multiple temperature sections, so whether white, red or sparkling, your wines will be looked after. From smaller units that fit snugly into kitchen fixtures to larger models with an abundance of features, there’s a lot to be said for treating your wine properly.

Adrian Smyth Decanter KWT6834 SGS With Sommelier set

My favourite model includes a Sommelier Set, as you can easily store not only the decanters but glassware as well. If you’re serving a white wine, cold glassware can make all the difference in helping keep the temperature down for longer. Similarly, if you are decanting a red wine and allowing it to breathe, the central zone is the perfect place to keep it – not only is it temperature controlled, it’s the perfect display and has enough room to fit up to four decanters should you be hosting something special.

About the Author

Wine and spirits presenter, as well as columnist for the Independent, Adrian Smith aims to educate and inspire consumers on the latest trends and choices. He is also the founder and editor of digital consultancy and lifestyle blog Sypped and editor in chief of Drink Me; the world’s fastest growing drinks publication with over 550,000 subscribers. Aimed at luxury consumers, the publication covers a variety of drink related travel and lifestyle features.

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