Wine Decanter

Guests of fine-dining establishments may find themselves being served from a wine decanter, rather than a bottle. Any wine enthusiast who wishes to properly appreciate older wines and certain tannic wines such as a Bordeaux or Cabernet Sauvignon would be well-served to use a decanter.

What is a Wine Decanter?

A decanter is a specialized vessel made specifically to hold the decantation of a sediment-heavy liquid, often wine. Decanters vary in size and shape but are typically made of glass and feature a squat, heavy bowl and long neck. As the name would suggest, these vessels are primarily used for decanting a liquid. The simplest definition of decanting is simply pouring a liquid from one container to another but it has come to be used almost exclusively for the process of pouring wine from the bottle into a decanter. This is done in order to separate clear liquid, the wine, from the portion containing sediment. Sediment typically occurs in old wines or ones that were not clarified or filtered during the winemaking process.

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Aerating Wine With a Decanter

Wine experts also suggest using a wine decanter to aerate wines that are high in tannins. Aeration is allowing a wine to “breathe” by increasing the wine’s exposure to the air. A wine’s aroma will open up and its harsher elements will soften on the palate through aeration. A wine decanter aids aeration by increasing the surface area of the wine exposed to the open air. Aeration does not actually soften tannins but instead softens a drinker’s sense of the tannins by altering the perception of sulfites through oxidization. To aerate a wine simply pour the bottle into the decanter and let sit for an appropriate amount of time, typically 15-20 minutes.

Which Wines Should be Enjoyed With a Decanter?

Restraint should be used when choosing wines to decant. Older wines are the most obvious beneficiary as most modern wines are filtered for sediment and don’t produce much as they age. Wines that benefit from aeration in a decanter are the high tannic wines: Barolo, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, and Rhone. Wine experts caution not to decant more delicate wines such as a Chianti or Pinot Noir however, as they believe it could be harmful. A general rule of thumb is to only use a wine decanter for red wines to maximize enjoyment of the bottle.