Bringing out the flavour: using a decanter to let wine breathe

There are many myths with regards to letting wine breathe. One of the most common is that simply taking the cork out of a bottle shortly before serving will suffice. Though this is better than nothing, there are several steps you can take to properly prepare wine so that you can enjoy its best possible flavour.

Ideal Wine Company decanter
Using a decanter to help your wine breathe. Photo: Elite Traveler

The importance of decanting

Though opening the wine does let a small amount of air into the bottle, decanting it allows for wine to be fully aerated which brings out the flavour. As a guide, many sommeliers decanting wine an hour before serving.

Different wine types can develop more than others during this process. A younger, vintage wine for example can benefit from being decanted or doubly decanted, the process of pour the wine out of the bottle and then back into it, for at least an hour.

Once decanted, wine should be consumed that day as the flavour quality decreases much faster once wine leaves the bottle.

When not to aerate

Depending on your wine of choice, decanting should be done carefully to avoid spoiling the fragile flavours of, particularly, old vintage red wines. White wines in general receive few benefits from decanting, unless the wine is prepared very shortly before serving.

Preserving the decanter

Keeping your equipment clean is essential to bringing out the full-flavour of wine. The best way to do this is to clean it straight after use. This prevents any wine drying in the decanter and leaving residue which can be difficult to clean and adversely affect your next serving. Always dry the decanter fully after use to preserve its original, fine condition.

To clean the instrument, repeatedly swill and empty it with warm water. Holding a clean decanter above very hot or boiling water will cause steam to build up on the outside which you can polish off with a light cloth or duster to enable an enduring shine and prevent the glass from staining over time.