Most people think pouring wine in a decanter is an act reserved for venerable old bottles that have shed sediment and thus need to be decanted to leave those solids in the bottle. You can also use it on young wines of any style or color, if you so choose.

A sommelier friend of mine once compared wine coming out of a bottle to a winter jacket you pull out of a cedar closet after months of storage: you need to give it some air so it stops smelling like the closet. In the same way, pouring a younger bottle into a decanter can give it some welcome aeration and help the aromas open up. It is true for tannic young reds, but also for a light white that is feeling a little timid on the nose.

In the cases of young wines or white wines, you’re not removing sediment, so the process is called carafing, rather than decanting (which implies leaving heavier stuff at the bottom). You can do it more rapidly – in fact, the more vigorously you do it, the more oxygen is brought in to aerate the wines.

It’s always a question of taste, of course. But if a wine seems closed or inexpressive, think about it. It might just need some fresh air.

About The Author

Remy Charest

Rémy Charest is a Quebec City based journalist, writer, and translator. He has been writing about wine and food for over 12 years in various magazines and newspapers. He writes two wine blogs (The Wine Case, in English, and À chacun sa bouteille, in French) and, as if he didn’t have enough things to do, he also started a food blog in English, The Food Case, and one in French, À chacun sa fourchette.

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3 Responses

  1. Mary Harrison Goudie

    Could not agree with you more, on a recent trip back to Scotland I was missing my home port of Lisbon and all the fabulous wines of Portugal that don’t seem to get much exposure in the UK. I did track some excellent bottles down from various Portuguese wine regions Douro, Dao, Alentejo and my favorite Terras do Sado just across the river from us in Lisbon and shared them with my neighbor who is used to ordering directly. I got his two decanters into action and he was amazed at what we were discovering from wines that he had only drank straight from the bottle before. With older and tannic reds think about even leaving over night in the decanter – you know that soup is better on the second day – it can work for wine too.

    The best vessel for the young wines happened to be an over sized milk jug that I was able to give the wine a good swirl in – what a difference. so get going and jug and carafe your favorite tipple and taste the difference.

    Appreciating wine is like slow cooking and may well be better done at home where we have more time to do the business so to speak rather than at the restaurant table – even there you can ask for your wine to be decanted. Try it and let me know what you find

  2. randomGurl

    This is a fabulous tip! In fact, I just did this the other night with a bottle of wine from Blackbird Vineyards. It was a 2007 proprietary blend and I received as a gift. I had never tasted the wine and just figured it could do with some decanting. It sat for a good 4 to 5 hours before we drank it and it was a nice lil table wine. The next night, we opened another bottle (same) but this did not decant. WHOA…what a difference a decant makes. Whether young or not. I never thought about doing the same with whites. Will have to try that.