April 10, 2012 in Wine and Stemware
There is a lot of debate on whether using a wine decanter is really important when it comes to ‘better tasting wine.’ Let’s see what a decanter does (and doesn’t) to decide if it’s a good idea to get one.
Reasons for using a wine decanter
A wine decanter is used for two main reasons that are widely acknowledged:
1. Remove sediments by decanting older wines.
2. Wine mixes with oxygen while pouring, so that you can experience its full potential. In other words, it “breathes” or opens up.
This is supposed to improve the taste of wine.
A third reason, for which I mainly use decanters is that
3. It completes my wine experience.
This can totally depend on your personal taste. Some people like simplicity and/or are quite content with a good wine and a good wine glass.
For me, when I am drinking with my friends or family, having a decanter on the table completes the experience. It’s a symbol of preparedness as a hostess for me. Sometimes I use a wine decanter with paintings and ornaments on it. This way, I can taste as well as see wine – its beautiful colors, the delicate decorations, and how glass and decorations interact with light. It’s a more sensory experience. And then we all talk about it – instead of drinking in silence, we drink, talk, laugh – and surprisingly, that actually makes the wine taste better.
Hard-core wine critics and professional tasters may yell at me for not paying attention to the taste of wine itself. But I think in many cases a food or beverage tastes better with company and lots of laughter.
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.
How to Decant Wine
It sounds simple enough: Pour wine from the wine bottle into the decanter.
However, even within the sommelier community, there are different opinions on how exactly it should be poured.
The general guideline is that younger wines can be poured straight into the decanter, while older wines require more
precise decanting in which they are poured extra slowly.
Does Decanting Work for White Wine?
Yes. Drew Langely, wine director for an upscale restaurant, said in a Los Angels Times article “Wine Decanting: Give Wines Some Air” that wine becomes “much more aromatic and expressive” when they are decanted.
Photo Courtesy of Sidsavara.
When to Decant It?
Aerating wine ‘too much’ can make it fade faster, and some people argue that swirling the wine glass is enough for aeration.
This can be particularly true if the wine you are drinking is very fragile or old. In these cases, the wine should be decanted no more than 30 minutes before drinking.
Younger, vigorous, full-bodied red and white wine can be decanted an hour before drinking.
What’s the Difference Between a Carafe and Decanter?
A carafe is usually used to store and serve various liquids, such as water, coffee, tea, and wine. It is often insulated and can be served for both hot and cold beverages.
A decanter is usually not used for storage – it is used for pouring off the liquid from one container to another. It is typically used for alcoholic beverages.
Both may or may not have a stopper.
For practical purposes, there is really no hard and fast rule to say that prohibits you from using one or another vessel for decanting wine. Many products nowadays are shaped in such a way that they could be easily called a decanter or a carafe.
The point is that it doesn’t really matter as long as you get what you want out of it.
Photo Courtesy of Babelwine.com.
Most importantly – What is “Good Wine”?
All the debate about decanting wine and making it taste ‘better’ assumes that there is some kind of ideal wine that everyone is supposed to like. But in reality, such a wine probably does not exist.
Even professional wine critics have different opinions. They argue when to decant a wine, how to decant it, or whether to decant it at all. In addition to that, people have different preferences and tastes.
Also, sometimes perception is as important as reality. Knowing that a particular wine is rated A+, 90, or whatever high value assures them that it’s a good wine and makes it taste better for some people. Can we say that it’s bad practice? Of course not. If they drink that wine and enjoy it, there is nothing bad about it.
That’s why I always tend to go back to Reason number 3 of using a wine decanter. I never did a controlled experiment on all the wine drinkers of the world to test whether decanting a wine works for every single wine in the world. But I know for sure that having one completes my table setting and that people like to talk about an eccentric or beautiful decanter that they have never seen before. It’s a good conversation starter and I enjoy drinking wine that way.
So just try drinking a few different types of wines, decant or don’t decant it, and experience it for yourself. Wine drinking does not follow a standard formula. No matter what score a wine got on a leading wine magazine and no matter how you decanted it, if you like it and enjoy it, then it is right for you.
The place where every glass is handmade.