Do You Really Need To Decant Your Wine?

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If you’re just getting into wine, you probably hear about processes you’re not familiar with, like decanting and aeration. But do you need to bother with that stuff? Fear not, future wine snob this is all you need to know.

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First, though: what is decanting? I spoke with my friend Tia Eshou, a Certified Specialist of Spirits and sommelier-in-training who works for a leading wine and spirit distributor, to find out. Decanting, as Eshou explains, is done to remove sediment from the wine and gives it an opportunity to aerate, or breathe, and allows the wine to “open up.” Basically, you’re introducing air into the liquid, which triggers oxidation and evaporation, and can provide more flavor in terms of taste and smell. It often helps break down a little bit of the wine’s acidity as well, and remove some of the stinky sulfites for a smoother taste.

Okay, but do you need to do it with every bottle (or box) you open up? Not really, says Eshou. For starters, it’s usually only needed for nicer, more expensive wines (at least $50 and up per bottle), some older red wines, or wines with high tannins. If you’re buying white wine or supermarket wine that’s only a couple years old, it’s not necessary. Eshou explains that most affordable wines are usually designed to be drunk as is. You pop the cork and you’re ready to unwind. That said, a little aeration is always a good thing when it comes to wine, cheap or not (especially if it’s really cheap stuff with a not-so-great flavor). But you don’t need to buy a fancy aeration device or decanter, says Eshou. You can just swirl it your glass for a little bit before you take your first sip. What’s more important for improving the taste of the cheaper stuff, according to Eshou, is that you drink it at the right temperature. White wines should be chilled to 55 degrees Fahrenheit or so, and reds should be just above feeling cold and just below room temperature at around 65-ish.

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“What if you want to try it out on cheap wine anyway?” I asked jokingly. Eshou laughed and said there’s no harm in it. She explained that I might get some different flavors and aromas than I had before, so it might be worth it. In the end, you might end up liking the way it changes the flavor of a cheaper wine. If so, then it’s worth your while to decant it each time. Otherwise, just give a few swirls and enjoy as is.

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