Posted by Tim Stobbs on June 3, 2010
I was recently in a conversation with someone who passed along an idea about how to improve your wine on the cheap. At first I was skeptical that somthing as simple as decanting the wine out of the bottle into a glass container could actually do anything. Yet after spending $10 on a decanter at HomeSense and trying it twice, I have to firmly say decanting your wine should be standard practice in most cases.
How does decanting work? Well there is some debate on how exactly it works, but generally speaking the theory goes that by exposing your wine to extra oxygen you help bring out its subtle flavours. Overall decanting is most effective on newer wines who haven’t matured into their full flavour. If you brew your own wine you really must try this as I found it hugely beneficial on my own wines. I even did a side by side test with a bottle where I decanted half of the bottle and poured two glasses to compare. It was unmistakable flavour improvement. I suspect the effect would be less notable on an older commercial grade wine, yet I haven’t done that experiment yet.
How exactly do you do it? Your going to laugh on how easy this is, but use a glass decanter and you pour the bottle in. You will likely notice a flavour change right away, but give it about ten minutes and you should be good to go. Pour wine out of decanter into glass and enjoy. No special techniques required. Just good old fashion pouring.
So how significant is the upgrading effect? Well on my home made wine I would give the difference as buying a $8 bottle and a $22 bottle. As I noted above I haven’t tested this on a commercial wine yet (since I don’t have any in the house), but that is the approximately taste effect. So you can see how after one try you could potentially break even on your investment on a decanter. So it’s good to know why some restaurants use those little open glass bottle to serve wine, they are decanting it to improve its flavour.
What’s the down side? There is a dark side to decanting. If you use it on an older and delicate wine you might actually damage the wine’s flavour by expousing it to too much oxygen. This isn’t exactly common so I won’t worry about it for most wines unless you commonly drink a Pinot Noir. Also if you buy a decanter without a stopper you could be in trouble if you don’t finish the bottle. A decanter is for serving, not for storage of the wine so typically you won’t find one with a stopper. Some oxygen is good, but you really not suppose to leave it on your counter expoused to oxygen for days.
So do you decant your wine? If so, what lessons can you share on what not to decant? If you don’t decant, are you going to give it a try?