Decanting a bottle of wine can feel like a magic trick involving a swirling sleight of hand that transforms a wine that hasn’t had a lot of time in the bottle into one you can’t stop pouring into your glass! I’m a big believer in the value of decanting wines — especially young wines. And when I say young, I mean wines bottled in 2017 and up.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Let’s cover some basics about decanting:
Decanting is pouring wine from one vessel to another. Most of the time, it’s pouring a wine from the bottle into a decanter that is perfectly shaped to allow for the exposure of oxygen to the wine. But essentially, whenever you pour wine into a wine glass and swirl it around, you’re technically decanting it.
There are two main reasons people use a decanter — however, my buddy, Meredith, has a third reason, which I’ll cover last. But the two main reasons are to separate the actual wine from sediments and solids that have formed in the wines during aging, and the second reason — which is the one that pertains to younger vintages —helps to release various compounds that get trapped inside the wine bottle and haven’t had time to settle. Plus, the instant exposure to oxygen literally helps the wine “open up” and express all kinds of amazing things it will likely express with more time in the bottle.
In California, we tend to drink our wines young, and so decanting has very little to do with separating sediments at the bottom of a bottle that’s been resting on its side for a decade or two. But a young wine can often present some aromatic anomalies — such as a funky smell when you first pull the cork or unscrew the cap. That aroma indicates the presence of hydrogen sulfide. But 30-minutes to an hour in a decanter allows for the escape of those volatile compounds so the true character of the wine can gradually be discovered.
I find that every time I get a hit on the nose of a younger wine, it’s only fair and right for me to let it open up — either in my glass or in a decanter. Sometimes when we’re tasting wines for the Crush Collection, I’ll revise a wine after it’s had a chance to sit in my glass, and so many times, I’m happy I did! Every wine has something to share with me, and the least I can do is invite it out of the bottle in a way that gives it the best chance to offer me something I’m excited to experience!
Now for that third reason.
Meredith is all about presentation, and she’s right when she says that decanting can add that special touch when serving wine. There are so many kinds of beautiful decanters out there — I have one that’s shaped like a duck with a long neck that has been a big hit at gatherings. But lately, my favorite decanter is this very basic beaker decanted with a punt in the bottom — just like a wine bottle — which makes it so easy to swirl and pour.
In our December 2020 Crush Collection Tasting Video, I suggest decanting the Sessi GSM, and I promise you, if you take my advice, that wine will steal the show!