Wine Decanting: A Quick and Easy Guide

Sommelier pouring out red wine into glass carafe to make perfect color of red wine. Male waiter with decanter at bar counter. Bartender decanting wine without disturbing the sediment

Have you been wondering what to do with the decanter you received as a wedding gift? Have you been using yours as a vase for flowers? Good news! There is a purpose for that decanter and the wines you drink on a weeknight or on special occasions will benefit if you put yours to some use.

What to Look for in a Decanter

One of the main reasons for decanting a wine is to aerate the wine—to help soften it up by exposing it to oxygen. Your decanter should have a wide base so that after you have poured wine into it, you have a large surface for oxygen to come in contact with the wine The more wine is exposed to oxygen, more it softens. While you should get a decanter that is easy to wash, you should consider one with a narrow neck. Pouring the wine on an angle against the narrow neck of the decanter ensures you will create a waterfall effect that will splash the wine around on its way down, thus creating additional air—and oxygen—to help soften the wine.

Three Types of Wine that Benefit from Decanting

Expensive Wine

Expensive wines should be decanted for two reasons: first, to help soften the wine, especially in tannic cabernet sauvignon, Barolo, Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and zinfandels. Second, to help keep sediments from older wines out of the glass. Decanting such wines through a fine sieve will ensure a sediment-free sip.

Inexpensive Wine

Decanting inexpensive wine will aid in mellowing harsh, overpowering and sometime sulfuric-smelling, and tasting, wines. A $10 wine will oftentimes taste like a $25 wine after decanting for 30 minutes. A trick I use on these types of wines is to pour a bottle into a decanter and pour the contents from one decanter into another.

Acidic Pinot Noir

Although I appreciate bright, cherry-filled pinot noir aromas, some young, acidic pinots can benefit from decanting. As little as 15 minutes can turn a young, tart Pinot into the velvety, silky wine most of us enjoy.

While $400 cobra-shaped decanters are available, a $30 one with the aforementioned characteristics will do fine.

Here are some of my favorite New Jersey wine retailers selling various decanters:

Amanti Vino – Montclair

Bottle King – Multiple locations statewide

Gary’s Wine – Bernardsville, Madison and Wayne

Joe Canal’s – Multiple locations in South Jersey

Princeton Corkscrew – Princeton

Sterling Fine Wines – Sterling

Tewksbury Fine Wine & Spirits – Oldwick

Wine Legend – Livingston and West Orange

Wine Library – Springfield

Veronique is a food and wine writer based in Morris County, NJ.  As the author of the popular blog, Food & Wine Chickie Insider, Veronique shares recipes, wine and restaurant reviews and insight into the travel industry. Follow Veronique on Twitter, Instagram or like her Facebook page.