by Hillary Zio
Understanding which wines to decant and for how long can be a bit confusing, especially to the novice drinker. Many types of wine can benefit from 1-2 hours of air exposure before tasting, as it simply opens them up. This allows wine to reveal fruit, floral and mineral aromas that likely weren’t apparent immediately after opening. Even fairly simple and inexpensive wines can greatly improve in terms of complexity. However, with some wines, such as aged Burgundy, exposure to that much air can actually do more harm than good. Here are three types of wines that almost always benefit from a decant.
- Young, red wines. Without much time in the bottle, young red wines can be quite tight and don’t showcase the grape’s flavors immediately after opening. These might taste bland or one-dimensional and even uncomfortable to drink. Softening the mouthfeel by a quick decant is the perfect solution for allowing the grape to show itself. After around two hours of air exposure after decanting, a young wine might reveal earth or mineral driven flavors that were previously hidden or subdued when first opened. This makes the young wine quite enjoyable to most drinkers, especially when compared to a glass from the same bottle that was not decanted.
- Mature wines with sediment. Naturally, most wine produces sediment from grape skins after a few years in the bottle. While harmless, this is not enjoyable to drink as the particles can feel a bit like sand in your mouth. When decanting slowly and carefully, you are able to separate the wine from the sediment, revealing a clean and clear wine. I recommend placing these mature wines in an upright position for several hours or overnight before decanting them. A strainer placed at the opening of a decanter can be quite handy with sediment removal. Make sure to pour the wine in one slow and steady stream, keeping an eye on the sediment and stopping when it is visible in the neck of the bottle. Usually, these wines require much less exposure to air than young wines, since they have been softening and developing in the bottle over time. Therefore, just 15 minutes of breathing time after decanting should suffice.
- High tannin varietals. Thick skinned grape varietals like Cabernet or Syrah usually need more time to breath. After around two hours of air exposure, they will soften significantly, allowing the harsh astringency to dissipate. The result is a much more pleasant feeling on the tongue and gums when drinking. Also, softening these high tannin wines often make food pairing easier and more enjoyable. Don’t have two hours? Wake Up Wine is the perfect solution, as around 10 minutes on the system with the push of a few buttons can give you the same result.
As mentioned, many wines can benefit from decanting and aeration. Rather than simply guessing how long is best, I highly recommend using Wake Up Wine. With their recommended guide, you can search by varietal so you’re never just guessing. Believe me, once you start comparing the same wine before and after using Wake Up Wine, you’ll see why most wines express fruit, floral and mineral aromas after just minutes on the system.