Senior Food Editor Julia Rutland decodes the mystery behind decanting and shares her tips for getting the best flavor.

By Julia Rutland
September 29, 2011
Aerate your wine in a stylish decanter like this Riedel Escargot Decanter  ($170).

Decanting a wine simply means pouring it from the bottle into a carafe or other vessel. This is done to aerate the wine and remove sediment. Young, full bodied red wines “open up” during decanting, releasing their aromas on contact with oxygen. Look for decanters that have broad bottoms, designed to maximize the wine’s surface area and air exposure. Large, balloon-shaped wine glasses also aerate wine, as does swirling the glass. Decant recently bottled wines at least 30 minutes before drinking, or ask the expert at the wine shop if the bottle you are buying needs decanting because each vintage is different.

Older (10 years plus) or unfiltered wines often benefit from decanting to remove sediment. First, stand the bottle upright to allow sediment to fall, then pour slowly into the decanter, stopping when sediment approaches the bottle top. (If the bottle glass is dark, aim a flashlight at the neck.) Aged wines can often be decanted immediately before pouring into glasses, and don’t benefit from additional aeration because too much will cause older wines to taste flat.