To Decant or Not to Decant?

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Decanting has become de rigueur in fine restaurants, and many wine aficionados have added to their collection of wine accouterments at home.

With many more wines being consumed in their youth, rather than pulled from the cellar when they are decades old and absolutely in need of decanting, why are decanters so popular?

Christian Mouiex, who oversees winemaking at the legendary Chateau Petrus, says, “I prefer to decant wines, both young and old. It is a sign of respect for old wines and a sign of confidence in young wines.

“Decanting old wines, just a few moments before they are served, helps ensure that their clarity and brilliance are not obscured by any deposit that may have developed over time. Decanting your wine several hours before it is served gives the wine a chance to bloom and attain a stage of development that normally requires years of aging.”

Larry Stone, former Master Sommelier and General Manager of Napa Valley’s Rubicon Estate, is a firm believer in decanting.

“I view decanting into the proper vessel as an integral part of wine service and the enjoyment of wine,” he says. “Old wines with a lot of sediment should gingerly, and with little disturbance of the wine, be decanted off of their sediment into a taller, narrower decanter with a small surface area. This should be done just prior to serving them. The idea is not to oxygenate the wine but to clarify it, improving the appearance and the texture of the wine by avoiding the gritty and bitter components associated with the sediment.”

On the other hand, a young, robust wine — which may be muted in its aroma profile or “reduced” — benefits most from decanting into a broad decanter.

“The enormous surface area of the wine in such a broad-based decanter allows for the maximum effect of oxygen on the young tannins and aromas of the wine. It liberates the aromas, intensifies the fruitiness of the mid-palate and rounds out the texture,” Stone explains.

Adds Master of Wine Roger C. Bohmrich: “Decanting is not only helpful for separating wine from deposits in the bottle; an elegant decanter adds immensely to the beauty of the dinner table and heightens the expectation that the wine will be delicious.”

Is decanting for you? Find out by decanting a wine you enjoy often. Better yet, decant one bottle several hours ahead, then open and pour one immediately. If you see a difference in the evolution and enjoyment of the decanted wine, you may want to make decanting a regular part of your wine enjoyment.

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