The Louisvale Guide: Do I Need to Decant My Wine?

Wine decanting can be a tricky issue for many people. From the basics of getting it done, to why we do it at all, many people are intimidated by the very idea. Luckily, you have the expert team at Louisvale Wines to help! Today we dive deeper into everything you need to know about decanting wine, from why you would want to right through to how to do it like a pro.

The Basics of Decanting

Decanting wine is the process of transferring wine from its original bottle to a different vessel, known as a decanter, before serving it. It’s not done just to look pretty, although some wine carafes, pitchers, flasks, and decanters are very beautiful indeed. The process of decanting helps to separate the wine from any sediment that may have formed during the ageing process.

Decanting also allows the wine to breathe (known as aeration), which can greatly enhance its flavour and aroma. When wine is exposed to air, it begins to oxidise, which softens its tannins and allows its aromas and flavours to develop. Decanting can help to speed up this process, particularly for younger red wines that have a lot of tannins and may be too harsh to drink as-is.

I Thought Oxidation Ruined Wines?

You’re not wrong! As with many things in life, there can be too much of a good thing. Oxidation is a natural chemical process where oxygen mixes with the wine and alters its chemical components. A little of this can be great- as we mentioned, it can soften a tannin-heavy wine, or bring out desirable flavours and smooth acidity. Of course, too much oxidation can take this too far and ruin the wine, so there’s a balance to strike. That said, most ‘bad’ oxidation happens when the wine is exposed to too much air long-term, such as in bad storage, rather than on the table. You’ll never ruin a wine just by decanting it, although letting it stand for too long may reduce a great flavour a little.

What Wines Need Decanting?

Of course, not all wines need this process to taste great. In fact, sparkling wines like our MCC Brut range should never be decanted, as they will lose their signature fizz before you enjoy it! Usually, decanting is best done for red wines, like the Burgundy, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bordeaux varieties.

So you wouldn’t necessarily air a white like our stunning Cape Chardonnay. However, some whites do taste smoother and more mellow with a little aeration, so you can always give it a try and see what you prefer. As a rule of thumb, sharp or young wines do better with aeration than older, more mellow varieties. However, aged reds typically need decanting to remove the sediment that forms over time in the bottle.

Wine Decanting 101

To decant wine, you will need a decanter (there’s plenty of beautiful ones on the market). A clean, dry funnel will be helpful, too, but if you have a steady hand you can skip this. If your wine has been in storage, especially on its side, you might want to plan ahead and allow it to stand upright for the day, so the sediment can properly settle. Even if it hasn’t been stored too long, stand the bottle of wine upright for a few hours to allow any sediment to settle at the bottom.

Now slowly and carefully pour the wine into the decanter, making sure to leave any sediment behind in the original bottle. Don’t tip the bottle too far, as this will churn up the sediment again. Rather take a ‘low and slow’ approach. You can also use a small flashlight or candle to help you see the sediment as you pour if needed. Leave about a shot’s worth of wine at the bottom, so no sediment creeps in.

Once the wine is in the decanter, let it sit for a little while to allow it to breathe. The length of time will depend on the wine and how open the mouth of your decanter is, but 30 minutes to an hour is usually sufficient for most red wines. You can then serve the wine directly from the decanter, or pour it back into the original bottle if you prefer. You can’t really over-decant a wine, but keeping its standing time at 4 hours or under is smart. Remember that standing open too long will damage a wine, so pop it back in a sealed storage container or the original bottle with a stopper if it’s open longer than about 12 hours.

While you will find special aerators on the market for wine, they’re more of a fun gadget then a necessity, and can over-aerate some wines. So don’t feel you need them.

Decanting adds some subtle layers of flavour to wines, and can make a brash or young wine taste better at the table. There’s plenty of expert tips and tricks you can look into, but the basics are very simple indeed- just let the wine breathe before you drink it! The Louisvale Wines team are passionate about all-things-wine, so if you have any questions about decanting our wines, feel free to reach out to us- we are always here to help!