- Publish Date: Oct 4, 2010
The First Pour
When, why and how to use a decanter.
Most wine drinkers have seen those sculptural, wide-based vessels called decanters. But are decanters really necessary, or are they just for showing off? It depends.
As wine is poured into a decanter--and sits in the wide basin with its large surface area--it interacts with the oxygen in the air. This causes changes in the wine’s 500-plus chemical compounds. That's a good thing if you're opening a young Bordeaux or California Cabernet, since those compounds need air for the wine to smell and taste at its best. Think of the wine like a flower--it smells better after it's opened up.
Older, collectible wines are usually decanted, but only to separate the wine from the sediment that forms in bottles as they age. No one likes a gritty wine.
Mostly, decanting is great for young, full-bodied reds--so keep the decanter in the cupboard for lighter, leaner reds since they usually don't need help opening up. However, if you're unsure if a bottle needs decanting, just ask at the store where you bought it.
You can find a decent decanter here, but if cost is a concern, just use a vessel you already have on hand, like a coffeepot or a water carafe. Elegant, no. Effective, yes.
If you have a similar wine trick of your own, share it with us below.