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Myth or Mystery: Do you always have to decant wine?

Myth or Mystery: Do you always have to decant wine?

Have you ever been bored stiff at a dinner party with someone laying down the law on how a certain wine should be drunk and why? Well if not, lucky you, but for those who have this section aims to debunk the myths about wine.

Q: Do you always have to decant wine?

A:  Nearly all young wines: red, white, orange and even rosés, benefit from being decanted.

Most wines are drunk young and with aeration they open up, becoming more expressive and characterful and in young reds the tannins will soften. Think of it as if you are releasing the wine from the confines of its bottle.

What about natural wines? Wines made with a low-intervention approach usually benefit from being decanted as they are normally bottled unfined and unfiltered resulting in sediment or deposits. They may also have some residual carbon dioxide (a natural product of fermentation) which will normally disappear after pouring into a carafe. Sometimes when you open a bottle of natural wine it can be a little stinky or muted. Whilst not necessarily unpleasant, a decant will usually allow this to blow off allowing the true personality of the wine to be revealed. 

How about older wines? Decanting older wines is more about taking them off their sediment rather than oxygenation. This needs to be a much gentler process as the wine is more fragile and exposure to air needs to be more limited. This is why different shaped decanters are used and for older wines and a vessel with a narrower opening and base is preferable. 

How to do it - Hold your chosen vessel at a slight angle and gently pour the wine. However, if you feel the wine is tasting tight, unexpressive, high in acidity or even a bit gassy, you can be more vigorous with your pouring to allow lots of air to get to the wine, making it more approachable. 

Slow your pouring towards the end of the bottle and if you can see any solids stop pouring and bring the decanter upright. You can then pour it back into the wine bottle, if preferred, as it's easier to fit in the fridge, ice bucket etc.

Tips and tricks:

You can use any old jug, carafe, Kilner jar - we've even witnessed a Chemex coffee maker being successfully used! Decanting wine is the process, not how fancy your equipment is.

Stand the bottle upright an hour or two before opening as this will allow any sediment or deposits to settle.

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