Which wines should I decant? How do you decant a wine? When should I do it?

These are some of the most common doubts about the technique of decanting a wine.
Many people think that this is a complex and sophisticated operation. In reality, decanting a wine is a much simpler process than it seems, but it still requires some care.

Here are the benefits of decanting a wine and how and when to do it.

What does it mean to decant a wine?

Decanting consists of carefully passing the wine from its original bottle into a container - usually crystal or glass - known as a decanter.
This technique is used to enhance wine tasting in two ways:
1. Removing any deposits
Decanting separates the liquid from the natural sediments that appear over the years in wines that have aged in the bottle. These residues tend to appear in older or unfiltered wines.
2. Softening and release of aromas
In the decanter, when it comes into contact with oxygen, the wine will have the opportunity to release its aromas and flavours. These become more vibrant and balanced, with softer tannins.

This procedure is especially important for wines that have been bottled a long time ago and need to be aerated to reveal their full flavour.

Which wines should be decanted?

Some wines benefit more from the decanting process than others. This technique is mostly used for red wines, although it can also be applied to other wines.
The following are suitable for decanting
>> Wines that have deposits at the bottom or on the walls of the bottle, to avoid making them unpleasant to taste;
>> Fuller-bodied, complex wines with accentuated acidity that need to open up their range of aromas and flavours and soften the tannins present.
>> Wines that have been aged for a long time, such as Vintage Ports, which, because they have not been filtered, tend to gain natural sediment. In these cases, the decanting process should be carried out with special care and gentleness, in order to minimise the wine's sudden contact with oxygen. In this way, it will be possible to preserve its structure and aromatic qualities.
Do not require decanting:
>> Delicate, very young wines with little complexity. In these cases, decanting can cause them to lose their aromas;
>> Wines that have been aged in wood and filtered and bottled recently, such as Tawny Port or many Late Bottled Vintage wines.
>> Sparkling wines, as the decanting process causes the drink to lose its effervescence.

How to decant a wine correctly

To decant a wine with a tank, follow these steps:
1. Place the bottle in an upright, immobile position for a few hours so that the sediment settles at the bottom of the bottle.
2. Carefully open the bottle, avoiding shaking the liquid.
3. Place the decanter on a flat, stable surface.
4. Slowly pour the wine into the decanter in a single, continuous movement. This operation should be carried out in a well-lit area so that you can see the tank approaching the neck and avoid it coming out of the bottle.
5. If necessary, use a mesh funnel or paper filter to help you with this task.
6. Before serving the wine, let it rest in the decanter. Depending on the characteristics of the label in question, this resting time can generally vary from 30 minutes to two hours until the wine reaches its full potential.
In cases where you want to decant to aerate the wine, the process is similar but should be carried out around one to two hours before the wine is served.

How to choose a decanter?

There are various types of decanter on the market, varying in size and shape.
You can choose according to the type of wine you are serving. For wines that need to breathe, we recommend a container with a wider base and a more horizontal shape to allow more exposure to the air. For more delicate wines, a container with a narrower mouth is more suitable, helping to preserve their aromas and flavours.
Give preference to crystal or clear glass decanters, so you don't run the risk of adding any unwanted flavours to the wine and can ensure the clarity of the decanted liquid.
When investing in this piece, also take into account whether it can be cleaned easily and whether it gives you a good hand-hold when pouring the wine.

Practise and learn how to decant your wines

As with any technique, it's with practice that you'll learn to get the most out of the benefits that decanting can bring to the wine you're tasting.
Remember that when you decant a wine, its aromas and flavours will change. During this process, we suggest that you try a small amount before serving the wine. Learn and evaluate how it evolves until you achieve a satisfactory final result.
At our UVA Wine Shop, you'll find a wide range of wines whose tasting will benefit from the decanting technique. Pay attention to the flavours. If you're not sure whether a wine needs to be decanted, contact us and we can help you clarify.