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How to Use a Decanter

Monday, January 12th, 2009 at 12:30:25 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Personalized Wine Decanter

Decanters are essential for enhancing the flavors of a young wine or for removing sediment from an old wine. There are all kinds of shapes and styles available but you may be wondering: “What do I do with it?” There are two simple methods of decanting:

1. Decanting a young wine, to aerate it
• Take out your decanter, funnel, and wine. Open the bottle of wine.
• Affix the funnel to the top of the decanter and pour a slow stream of wine through the funnel. Watch as your wine cascades from the sides of the funnel and into the decanter.
• As the wine goes through the funnel and the surface area of your wine is spreading, the wine is aerating, changing its aromatic properties.
• Once the full bottle is poured into the decanter you can remove the funnel from the top of the decanter, and pour from the decanter into your glasses.

2. Decanting an old wine, to separate the sediment
• As tannic, red wines age, the sediment often conglomerates, forming unwanted clumps in the bottom and along the sides of the bottle. The sediment is harmless–made up mainly of grape skins–but it is usually bitter, and impedes the enjoyment of your wine.
• Old wines open up over time, as the pores in the cork allow them to breathe. Therefore, aeration with a funnel isn’t necessary for an older wine.
• Slightly angle your decanter and slowly, pour the wine into the decanter so that only the liquid pours through, leaving the sediment behind in the bottle. Discard the bottle and sediment, and pour the wine from your decanter into glasses.

Now that you understand the basics of decanting, you may need some help selecting the perfect decanter to suit your needs. In this brief video, we explain some of the different styles available, and their benefits. Enjoy!

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Do you have any special decanting techniques? Please share your story, with us!

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7 Responses to “How to Use a Decanter”

  1. What happens if you pour the wine through an Aerator into the decantor? Is that essentially giving it too much oxygen? Should you use one or the other?

  2. It always amazes me how few servers (even in places with good wine lists) understand what the decanter is for and how to use it. I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve seen an old, sediment-laden wine dumped at full speed into a decanter along with all of the sediment, or, (my favorite) the server stopping half way through the pouring process to check the level of what’s left in the bottle, which of course negates the entire process.

    I’ve also had servers grab a bottle that I’ve been keeping upright all day off of the table and turn it upside down to gawk at the label. Then they ask me if I want to decant it. I usually tell them, “not much point in that now.”

  3. @Allison- I would not recommend using an aerator on an old bottle of wine but for a young bottle, there’s nothing wrong with using an aerator on top of a decanter. It’s actually a great use!

    @Rob- That’s very funny. It sounds like those restaurants need some kind of wine education system in place!

  4. 4 Bill Williams said:

    OK, I understand the reason a red wine should be decanted but I have heard any number of “opinions” with regard to how long it should be allowed to decant, someone I felt to be quite knowledgeable suggested that a particulary young red would benefit from aerating for several hours. If true, how does one then maintain the “ideal” temperature for serving?

  5. 5 David Moseler(Wine Storage Consultant) said:

    Bill, you have asked a great question! Ideal service temperature has a range anywhere between slightly below room temperature to room temperature. I typically decant a young red for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. I took some readings that I’d like to share with you. With an ambient of 75 degrees, I took a 2003 Crauford from my Eurocave at 56 degrees and below are my findings:
    8:30 56 degrees
    9:00 65.5 degrees
    9:30 68 degrees
    10:00 70 degrees
    10:30 72 degrees

    One product that I’d recommend is using our Ravi Instant Wine Chiller if you’d like to serve your red a bit cooler after hours of decanting.


  6. 6 Kathryn Smith said:

    I have a friend that lives in a vineyard in Healdsburg, CA. He goes so far as to decant for up to nearly 24 hours. I have never heard of a bottle being open that long before enjoying. What do you think? How long can I leave a bottle in a decanter before I must enjoy it. I enjoy wine while cooking but will not drink the whole bottle in one day. Lastly, what do you consider an older bottle vs. a young bottle of wine?

  7. We have a wine bar that just opened localy. They have a nice selection of wine to chouse from nice wine glasses and they serve great sandwiches. But there is not one decanter in the whole bar? I wounder if they realize how much aeration improves the boquet and flavour. When I went to a white shirt and tie bar in Dallis they even poured the whole bottle into a decanter and poured a taster let us smell the cork and left the decanter at our table it was so elegant.

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