Our buyer Fleur gives her thoughts on decanting wine, especially from BIBs
Why decant a wine?
Decanting is a technique used most commonly to get some air to the wine. The aromas and flavours can be opened up by transferring the wine from its original container to a decanter or another vessel (like a jug).
Decanting is also used to remove any sediment that may have developed, most often found in mature and unfiltered wines.
Yet it’s not the essential practice it once was, as the majority of wine drinkers these days don’t have heaps of older wines sitting in a cellar. Plus many modern wines are filtered, reducing the chance of sediment.
Should you decant a wine, and how?
Yes you absolutely can but don’t have to. Young wines with big flavours do respond well from having a few hours in a decanter before drinking, so we often decant BIB wines that are medium to full-bodied and encourage customers to do so when it suits them.
Rule of thumb is older wines are far more delicate so shouldn't be decanted too long before serving.
Reds are most commonly decanted but whites, rosé and sweet wines can all have their aromatics lifted by spending some time in a decanter.
It shouldn’t be cumbersome, just ensure your vessel looks and smells clean and is made from an inert material. It doesn’t necessarily need to be glass (although often this adds to the aesthetic appeal).
Gently and steadily pour the wine into the vessel, and if your wine does have sediment you can stop pouring before it spills into the decanter. You don’t want wine sploshing about when you serve it, so only fill any decanter to about 2/3 full.
Things do get much more complicated with opening very old ports or jeroboams-type formats but we will stick the basics here!
Aside from the technical benefits, are there other reasons to decant your wine?
Decanting your wine into a favourite vessel can also feel ceremonial, whether that’s a treasured ceramic jug from your child’s pottery class, or smart decanter, it can enrich the experience of sharing wine with family and friends around the dinner table.
As a wine-nut over the years I’ve received quite a few wine-related gifts, so I’ve accumulated a handful of decanters.
I especially enjoy the ritual of choosing the suitable vessel for serving BIB Wines for different occasions.
It may be my precious wedding present decanter for a Saturday night dinner party, filled with our fantastic Chateau Couronneau Bordeaux alongside a roast. Or a simple carafe, bought years ago in a supermarket in Sicily for a Thursday evening rosé in the garden with a friend - they equally bring me joy.
Are there different styles of decanters?
While writing this I went down a glorious rabbit hole into the world of Antique Georgian decanters, Art-Deco decanters, those from old Navy ships, comedy animal-shaped jugs, to prussian glass masterpieces that look like statues that I’d be terrified to ever use. For something a bit special, we particularly love the the Jancis Robinson x Richard Brendon decanters that make up part of their excellent glassware collection (see here).
So there is a fascinating history behind the decanter... You can even buy books about it.
Yet equally you can get a classic bistro-style carafe for a few pounds - so it doesn’t need to be expensive.
We'd love to hear your thoughts on decanting, and see the vessels you like to use. Share your images by email to email@example.com for a chance to be featured in our next newsletter.