What’s the Point of Decanting Wine?

Ross Gardiner
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Wine can be scary. We completely understand that. It’s one of those intimidating subjects with a myriad of rules and regulations, mannerisms and faux-pas. Straying from or rejecting these concepts invites social exclusion and ridicule. Wine’s high opinion of itself can often detracts from its pleasure.

Of course, all of this is ridiculous. No amount of pretension should ever cloud your enjoyment of the juice, but it understandably happens. It’s easy to get nervous in an old school crowd that prattles off tasting notes as purple as their stained teeth. When they liken the arousal of their senses to Wordsworth verses, all you smell is “wine.”

Look, no one knows everything. It’s important to remember that if you’re wondering “why,” chances are someone else at the table is wondering “why” too. So, just ask:

WTF is the point of decanting wine?

There. Doesn’t that feel better?

In a nutshell, the main reason for decanting wine is to allow it to oxidize. Red wine loves oxygen. It needs it. Most white wine isn’t too fussed about it, and sparkling wine can’t stand the stuff. So if you’re looking to sink a bottle of red in an evening, pouring it into a decanter to let it breathe is a very good idea.

Think about the decanter as a huge glass. If you’re into sniffing your wine you’ll notice when you pour a glass of red that it continuously changes over the course of an hour. This is the influence of oxygen, and the process has an immediate, noticeable effect. The oxygen quashes some of that initial funkiness you don’t want, and softens any aggressive tannin in order to unleash the wine’s bouquet like a new bride.

The other reason people decant their wine is to remove sediment—something most of us with our $11 supermarket swill don’t have to concern ourselves with. When decanting your juice, you should tilt the decanter like a beer glass and pour the wine in slowly. This will catch the nasty wine pulp in the neck!

The downside (upside?) to decanting is that you’ve pretty much committed yourself to polishing off the entire bottle. Once its innocence is stripped away by the seductive air, it’s never getting it back. In other words, wine doesn’t keep long in the decanter.

Wines to Decant

Cabernet Sauvignon




Bordeaux Reds

White Burgundy


Here’s is a general rule of thumb: full-bodied, high acid or high tannin wines will benefit from a chance to breathe in the decanter. 

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