Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Science Behind Using a Red Wine Decanter

Cristoff Double Magnum Decanter
Cristoff Double Magnum
Decanters often intimidate the average wine drinker. In fact, most people don't even have a decanter in their home.  Even for the everyday red wine drinker, it is important to understand the role a quality decanter can have on your wine drinking experience.

Not all red wines need to be decanted. In fact, most table wines don't need the added step of using a decanter. But, when you want to enjoy a quality aged big bold red wine, a wine decanter will help open up a wine and shape your wine experience.

What does it mean to 'let the wine breath?'

The science behind using a red wine decanter lies in the need for the wine to breath. Breathing just relates to the necessity of wine to come in contact with oxygen. The oxygen allows the alcohol in the wine to dissipate in a process referred to as oxidation.

Excaliber Decanter
Excaliber Decanter
The oxidation (breathing) process of the wine is facilitated by exposing more of the wine to oxygen. Using a decanter increases the amount of surface area for the wine to spread out and speed up the breathing process. As you pour your favorite bottle into a decanter, more wine is coming in contact with oxygen causing the alcohol that has been pent up in the bottling process to disperse into the wine.
Swirling the wine in the decanter or in a glass will elevate this process as well. However, simply swirling in a glass will not allow the concentration of alcohol to equally disperse to the entire bottle, and may take a little longer for the full flavors and aromas to peak.

Why do we want the alcohol to disperse?

When you first open a bottle of wine with high alcohol content, you often experience a strong aroma of alcohol. This initial blast to your nose of alcohol is also experience on the palate and can overtake the true aromas and flavors of the wine. By allowing the wine to breath, and the alcohol to disperse properly, the fruit flavors and smells of the wine will become more apparent. Then, you are able to enjoy the true nature of the bottle as the winemaker intended.

What types of wine should be decanted?

Metrokane V1 The Worlds First Vacuum Decanter
Metrokane V1
The World's 1st
Vacuum Decanter
Like I mentioned earlier, not all wine needs to be decanted. Typically, red wines are the bottles that require a decanter for full enjoyment. Those high in alcohol or from a recent vintage will benefit from the use of a wine decanter. Decanters soften the youthfulness of a vintage recently bottled (within the last 2 years).  Younger wines usually don't have the time in the bottle for the flavors haven't developed. Decanting a recently bottled wine will help the flavors develop through the oxidation process.

The most common varietals requiring a decanter are big Bordeaux or a Shiraz. For the most part, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wines are fine without the decanter. Of course, decanting a Pinot Noir will develop the flavor profile fuller. So, feel free to decant any bottle of red wine you open. For a full look at all the decanter styles available, visit our shop and find the right decanter for your home. 


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