Aeration & Decanting
A common question I’m asked is when to aerate or decant a wine. Before I dive into the answer, we first have to grasp the fundamentals of each concept. When you use an aerator or decanter, you’re trying to achieve a similar purpose, that is, to expand the surface area of the wine exposed to the air.
Why do this? It jumpstarts oxidation, evaporation, and allows the wine to “breath.” When winos say “breath,” they are referring to breaking
down the chemical compounds that have sat “tight” in the bottle as the wine aged in a cellar or wine fridge.
However, not every wine will improve from aerating or decanting. In fact, if you expose certain wines to too much oxygen, you may ruin the wine or change the wine to the point that it is underwhelming compared to it’s fullest potential (more on this later). In addition, some wines simply don’t need it and it’s best to drink the wine as is.
Now, at times, you may need to decant but not aerate. For example, older red vintages may throw sediment but if you aerate, the wine may become flat or one- dimensional due to too much air exposure. So in this case, a softer exposure to air via decanting is a wonderful option. When done properly, you are removing the wine and leaving the unwanted, bitter sediment in the bottle.
Which wines benefit from each practice? Young and tannic wines with abundant fruit concentration are best suited for aeration or decanting. It helps mellow out the wine and bring about the wanted fruit bouquet. Complex, fuller-bodied white wines bode well with oxygen exposure too. For example, don’t be shy to decant Burgundies, White Bordeaux, and white wines from the Rhone Valley.
At the end of the day, these are loose guidelines that may help heighten your wine tasting experience but a beauty of wine is subjectivity. You may like a certain style of wine decanted or not, follow your heart when it comes to wine
but more importantly, follow your tastebuds.