Magazine article Sunset

Airing Differences: Decanting vs. Aerating: A Primer

Magazine article Sunset

Airing Differences: Decanting vs. Aerating: A Primer

Article excerpt

There are two reasons to pour a wine out of its bottle before you drink it; unfortunately, they often get mixed up. Aerating and decanting have very different effects, needed by entirely different wines.

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How are aerating and decanting different?

Aerating is pouring a young wine from the bottle into another container to "let it breathe." That container can be a decanter, but it doesn't need to be. A carafe, a pitcher, or even a good-size wineglass will do fine. Splashing the wine from the bottle mixes it with air, making it taste more "open" and "forward," its flavors more accessible. Aerating especially benefits young wines--both white and red--which can often seem tight and unyielding. I aerate most young wines I serve.

Decanting, intended for older wines, is different. It's the process of separating a wine from the sediment in it. So, strictly speaking, the only wines that need to be decanted are those with some sediment--older reds that were deeply colored when they were young: Cabernets and Merlots, for example, or vintage Ports. How old is "older"? A wine usually doesn't "throw" a sediment until it's a decade old or more.

What is sediment, anyway?

Sediment is mostly color molecules (with some tannin molecules) that have formed longer molecule chains over time and become heavy enough to drop out of solution. That's why the more deeply colored the wine was to begin with, the more likely it is to throw a sediment. The stuff isn't harmful in any way; it just tastes a little gritty and sticks to your teeth. …

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