Ask A Sommelier: Decanting wine

Q: Is decanting wine necessary?

There are two main reasons to decant a wine. The first is to “open up” a young wine that has been designed to age. The idea is to expose as much air to the wine as possible in the hope that the wine will open up and be more expressive on the nose and the palate than it would have otherwise been.

The second major reason to decant is for sediment. As fine red wine ages, micro particles begin to merge, and eventually fall to the bottom of the bottle as they become too heavy to suspend in the liquid any longer. These particles contain, among other things, many of the colour components, which explains why the colour of red wine fades over time. They are harmless, but they do taste bitter—a mouthful of sediment is no fun.

To decant for sediment, handle the bottle carefully as to not disturb the contents. Pour the wine into the decanter very slowly, using a light to illuminate the neck. When you see sediment, cease pouring. You can always try to salvage the remainder by waiting until the sediment settles again.

Finally, you may want to decant a wine simply because you like the look of your decanter. A nice touch, but hardly necessary.

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