Decant or Not

Reading today an article in Decanter April 2023 edition written by Kerin O’Keef page 18 a wine critic and author based in Italy. We have all had the wine conversation countless times to decant or not to decant. She falls into the hate decanting camp, especially when it comes to older wines. On impact, she says the wine loses aromas and flavours that can never be recovered. After years of being under cork the sudden explosion of oxygen creates the worst possible shock. She says and I quote. Decanting is like opening a novel on page 50, you lose the intro and never get the plot. All my life and I am 71 years young I have been useing decanters but alas no more. Thinking back only a few weeks ago I drank a Riecine Riserva 2015 it had been breathing for three hours and as I poured it into my glass with ever sip it got better and better. So maybe she has a point I will now not decant and see what results I get.


I’m firmly in the decant camp. I can recall pretty much every time I wished I hadn’t, but the number of times I wish I had - or even to decant longer - are so numerous I lose track. Maybe when wines get over 25 or so, but that isn’t the majority of wines we’re all drinking, right?

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Won’t you just start swirling in the sediment each time you pour if you are not careful?

For old wines i think a good long standup, pop cork and then then carefully decant in one go to another container (you can use a phone torch under the neck to check for the start of the sediment)

Then poor back in maybe once rinsed out if you must, but is she saying just poor each glass carefully from the bottle?

I guess it could work if really careful

I think that is what she is saying pour each glass with care.

I think for young-ish wines is worth decanting - like when you open a bottle that is much nicer the following day. Definitely a wine by wine thing whether to decant or not, but with more delicate Pinot or older wines I tend to much less.

I remember this debate came up early in lockdown following a Rioja zoom where the La Rioja Alta and CVNE representatives said they don’t decant as they enjoy how the wine develops in the glass as they drink it.

I can never decide whether to decant or not; sometimes I just think it’s fun and elegant to decant rather than for any other benefit.

I don’t decant. Well, the glass is my decanter - plenty of air there too - then I join the wine on its journey. Maybe it’s easier because it’s usually just me on the wine and I’m a slow drinker.


Interesting. I rarely decant, preferring to see how it evolves over hours or days (weeks in some cases eg sweet or oxidative wines). Of course this isn’t possible some situations, but I almost always see improvement with some time open. That said I’ll usually decant a port, especially a very old one, mainly to deal with the substantial sediment but also they can start off with an off stinky smell and/or heat. Horses for courses, do what works best for you.

I usually inspect the bottom of the bottle with a torch. If I see sediment I will decant, often into a jug and then back into the bottle. If no sediment I don’t normally bother. I don’t like the idea of each pour disturbing the sediment so that the last few glasses are gungey :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:


I’m with @JayKay here. If it’s likely to show a sediment I like to decant through a coffee filter paper into a decanter but that can be done pretty soon before serving. There are exceptions though - Musar for instance definitely needs a couple of hours airing first. Off the top of my head I would add… decent Madiran, Turasi or Ag de Vulture, Barolo that’s around the 10 year mark, up-market Priorat such as Mogador, that sort of thing. But cellar defenders - no; Pinots - not really.

But we all have our quirky habits I guess.

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Definitely don’t decant aged pinots and the like. Definitely decant if there is a lot of sediment, esp. vintage port.

The question really arises for categories other than these. Some wines can be seriously reductive on opening - these really need some oxygen before you can even see the character of the wine underneath. Other wines are dumb on opening - this may be due to being borderline corked, in which case oxygen won’t help. But some whites (for example) with bottle age show this (e.g. white rhones). Air does open them up. I could go on.

I guess if it is the sort of wine that changes, rather than fades in the glass, then don’t decant, and watch it change, as per the Rioja example above. But in my experience, you are more likely to find a wine whose most enjoyable glass was the last one. In which case, you just missed an opportunity.


Sometimes I shake, though. The other day I opened a really tannic Merlot from Aldi. On pouring a glass to try before a mate arrived I knew it tasted like it would be better the day after so I recorked and shook vigorously for a minute and left open. That’s a few hours of decanting saved and some vigorous exercise for the week.


For what its worth:

Decant young unready wines… they open up and are less harsh. Give them hours or overnight. But we shouldnt be drinking unready wines surely?

Decant wines with obvious sediment - especially fine sediment Burgundy because the ‘backwash’ from pouring the first glass will make all the sediment swirl up and the rest of the bottle is then muddy.

I currently have a 2006 Rioja Resrva in the deacnter from yesterday evening - its fabulous today (but would most likely have been better un-decanted).

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As I almost always drink my wines over 4 to 6 nights I generally don’t decant as such because they will be developing over a longish period anyway. However to slow that process a little I typically put half the bottle into a half bottle (very gently for older wines), cap that and put it in the fridge. then have the remaining half first but without decanting.


I used to only decant crusted and vintage port but as I haven’t drunk them in recent years the decanter hasn’t been in use.

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Is that the Fourrier shake? I’m pretty sure I learned of that here? Maybe @Olivercg who educated me? I employed it on the Mercia below a couple of weeks ago, I’m convinced it improved matters significantly - utterly delicious btw. Plenty of fizz even after 5 or 6 goes.


It’s just more effective than whisking the wine in the glass with a fork (something I’ve always done for over carbonated beers). Again: it depends a lot on the wine. Some carbonation, mild aromas and high tannin? Might work.

Would never use it for old wines except in extremely specific circumstances. For serious young wines, most definitely.

Musar… nearly always needs at least 24 hours open, usually 48. So yeah, decant the day before.

I’ve still never brought myself to do a full 24 hours in the decanter for a Musar, even though Jane herself told me to.

Might be useful to make a difference between decanting - for sediment - and to carafe a youthful wine for air in this thread.

I’ve moved towards an Audouze (open very early keep in the bottle) or double decant (pour back in the bottle) myself with keeping the wine very cool.

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