Decanters are lovely ways of enhancing your wine tasting sessions. These beautiful pieces, often made with shiny crystal, bring a wow factor to the table. Still, not everyone knows how and why to use decanters — what if you don’t even have one?
Here’s how to decant wine without a decanter and how to let the wine breathe with what you already have at home. Decanting wine is fun and all, but it’s not the only way to “open” that stubborn wine that just doesn’t want to give in.
Use your decanter more often! If you don’t own one, decant wine without a decanter, it’s no big deal. Here’s all you need to know about it.
What is a Decanter?
A decanter is a glass or crystal vessel, and it can come in all shapes and sizes. What all decanters have in common is that they can contain an entire bottle of wine, sometimes even a double-sized magnum!
Decanters are typically used to separate a well-aged wine from the silts accumulated on the bottom of the bottle. By carefully pouring the wine from the bottle into the decanter, one effectively decants it, leaving solids and deposits behind.
At the same time, the wine is exposed to air, and the oxygen causes a physical and chemical reaction. The wine “opens up” as it breathes, becoming more intensely aromatic.
Types of Decanting
There are two basic types of decanting. The authentic decanting process is used to remove sediments from cellar-aged wine, and the modern kind of decanting is used for any wine to expose it to oxygen.
Traditional decanting is a complex process. One must light a candle or have a light source below the bottle, which must be transferred from the cellar to the table undisturbed. By pouring the wine from the bottle into the decanter, one can spot when the fine sediments begin to make their way into the bottle’s mouth. Stop pouring and you’ll have sediment-free wine.
A second type of decanting is not intended to remove sediments from wine. In this case, you want to allow the wine to breathe by exposing it to air.
What Wines to Decant?
Not all wines benefit from decanting, but those that do can come in all colours and styles. If you’re decanting wine to separate the liquid from the deposits, you’re probably handling a well-aged wine. Only after several years in the cellar does an age-worthy wine sheds sediment.
As for decanting to let the wine breathe, you can decant young or old wine, whether red, white or rosé. Some people decant sparkling wine as well, although most of the effervescence is lost in the process.
How to let wine breathe depends on how much the wine swirls and splashes during the decanting process. Gentle decanting is best suited for mature wine, and a little violence is encouraged to wake up younger wines.
5 Reasons to Decant Wine
- Decant wine to remove sediments. Deposits accumulated in concentrated red wines after several years in a cellar. Some producers bottle their wines unfiltered, which means they will probably collect deposits over time.
- Decant wine to let it breathe. By transferring the wine from the bottle to another vessel, you expose it to air. Aromatic molecules become more volatile, making the wine more expressive.
- Decant wine to keep your guests guessing. If you don’t want to show your guests the label of the wine in question, perhaps for a blind tasting, decant it out of sight and bring it to the table.
- Decant wine to salvage a bottle with a faulty cork. If your bottle comes with a crumbly cork, filter the wine and transfer it into a decanter to remove floating pieces of cork.
- For fun. Decanters are beautiful pieces, and they look gorgeous at the centre of the table. Decant wine to elevate your dining experience.
Fake decanting is a modern term that’s gaining popularity, and it refers to decanting wine from its bottle to a vessel that’s not necessarily a proper decanter. You’ll find several ideas below.
For example, if you transfer the wine into a flower vase, you’d be fake decanting it. Of course, the term is not really helpful, as most decanting is already fake. Unless you’re transferring the liquid to separate it from its solids or deposits, you’re not really decanting the wine, anyway; you’re just aerating it by moving it from one container to another.
Fake decanting is not a thing. There’s decanting, and then there’s transferring the liquid from one vessel to another. Of course, sometimes the container available is not pretty enough to bring to the table, and that’s where double decanting comes in.
To double decant a bottle of wine, transfer its contents to any container and carefully return it to the bottle. The wine benefits from contact with oxygen, and you can pour the wine from its original bottle.
As a side note, there’s an alternative method to traditional decanting called hyper decanting. It has been proven repeatedly that wine becomes more aromatic and expressive after being blended for a few seconds.
Of course, this can change the wine’s texture, and the most subtle aromas will disappear entirely. Still, if fruity wine is your thing, hyper decanting might be for you.
What Should I Use if I Don’t Have a Wine Decanter?
If you don’t have a proper decanter, use a crystal carafe or pitcher. A fishbowl or a vase are equally effective at oxygenating wine, provided they’re clean and free of odours. A glass jug or a mason jar can also become adequate vessels to transfer your wine and let it breathe.
Of course, even plastic containers can help you make your wine breathe, although they won’t look as pretty table side. As mentioned above, you can even aerate your wine in a blender, but leave the party trick for casual get-togethers and not formal dinner parties.
If you don’t have any presentable vessel to transfer your wine into, double decant it and serve it from its original bottle.
Decanters certainly make wine service much more fun, and they have many uses. As you see, sometimes wine needs a little help to show its best, which means using that good-old decanter.
Besides, having a few decanters around the house is a fantastic way to display your passion for wine. Decanters are beautiful to look at, even when you’re not using them. Decant young and old wine, red or white.
As soon as you feel the wine is not showing its full aromatic potential, bring out your decanter. If you don’t own one, now you know how to decant wine without a decanter. There’s no excuse! Call some friends over and pop open a few bottles of wine — let’s decant some wine!
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