I hear it over and over from wine stewards, wine sellers and sommeliers – When should you decant your wine? Always.
What does that mean, and why should you do it? We don’t have to get into a bunch of chemistry or mumbo-jumbo, it’s pretty simple. The idea is that you should let your wine breathe, or maximize its exposure to air. By allowing wine to mix and mingle with air, the wine will typically warm up and the wine’s aromas will open up, the flavor profile will soften and mellow out a bit and the overall flavor characteristics should improve. You can do this a number of ways:
- Pour the wine into a decanter – a glass or crystal pitcher designed to allow as much of the wine as possible to be exposed to air
- Swirl the wine in your glass – this is a quick, simple way to aerate your wine – just don’t slop on your friends
- Use an aerator – you can buy these little cone-shaped gadgets and pour the wine through – holes at the side pull air through with the wine
Think it all sounds bogus, or like some snooty wine affectation? It’s simple to test the theory – open a bottle of any wine, and taste immediately, without any swirling. Then swirl your wine in the glass, somewhat energetically but not maniacally, and taste again. You should get a slightly different flavor profile.
Why not just swirl? Why spend the money on a decanter or aerator? It’s personal preference, of course, but many red wines will open up more fully if they’re allowed anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours in a decanter (called “decanting your wine). You may find that a very tannic bottle of wine will really bloom with a little time and oxygen. Should you aerate white wine? Sure! Many whites will improve from aeration – especially oaky chardonnays.
You now have my permission to test this theory and let me know your thoughts. Salut!