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Photo by: Eliana Bonuti

Before you decant a wine, make sure it does need to be decanted

When you decant a wine, you expose it to oxygen and allow the wine to flourish. That said, not all wines need to be decanted. If you have a bottle that needs another year or two in the cellar, don’t pull it out before its time—decanting won’t help it open up and will only give the wine too much exposure. You also don’t need to decant wines that already taste great when you first open them, although some people do enjoy decanting such wines for aesthetic reasons, like sparkling wine or rosés.

Young red wines can be hard to tell which should be left in their original sealed state for a few years versus those that should be decanted. A good rule of thumb is this: the younger the wine (three years old or less), the more you need to aerate it before drinking. However, keep in mind that there are many exceptions to this rule: some young wines are made with minimal contact

Decanting an old wine is not the same as decanting a young wine

If you’re about to pour an old wine for enjoyment, you’ll have to decant it in a very different way from a young wine. The process is not difficult and can be done in the kitchen.

First, make sure your bottle of old wine is upright and undisturbed for at least three days, so that the sediment will settle on the bottom. Gently tip the bottle over, moving it in a circular motion. This helps the sediment break free from the sides of the bottle. Decanting this type of wine is all about separating the clear liquid from any sediment and stopping just before any cloudy material reaches the rim of your decanter (or glass).

It might feel counterintuitive: your first impulse with an old wine would be to expose it as much as possible to oxygen because it can often seem muted or closed off—but that approach may actually do more harm than good, allowing some undesirable chemical reactions to take place—so allow yourself time to learn what really works best for each individual bottle through subtle variations in technique and timing. Experimentation is key!

Great wine is not always a better candidate for decanting than an average wine

When you pour the wine into the decanter, you might notice some sediment floating around in there. It’s perfectly normal to see it, and it’s just a natural byproduct of the winemaking process. Don’t worry about that now.

What makes decanting different from simply pouring your wine is that when you pour your wine into a glass from the bottle, you tend to pour it down the side so that you don’t disturb anything at the bottom of your bottle. But taking this precaution often means that none of the air gets to interact with your wine while it pours; hence decanting exists! When we decant our wines, we carefully tip them over candlelight or even a flashlight and watch for any sediment at the bottom of our bottles. If none comes out, we then gently swirl our bottle over our light source until we are satisfied that any sediment has come out. If none came out, then neither will it make its way into your glass! And if some did come out, not to worry—it won’t hurt anybody!

You shouldn’t decant all wines

If you love wine, you want to give your guests the best experience possible. You also don’t need to spend an arm and a leg.

As a result, it can be tempting to buy older vintages of wine, thinking they’re the most likely to be “good.” However, if the wine is too old or has been improperly stored (i.e., in a hot basement), there may be little that decanting can do to bring back some of those lost aromas and flavors.

Also, keep in mind that while decanting helps young wines develop by exposing them to oxygen, not all young wines need this extra time before drinking.

Some actually benefit from being consumed right away and won’t fare well if left open for too long. This may cause them to lose their aroma and flavor much like an older wine that hasn’t been properly stored.

Not every wine you buy will come ready to drink

Not every wine you buy will come ready to drink. Some wines can be enjoyed after just a few minutes of decanting. Others, (especially older bottles) require a bit of attention beforehand – you need to let them breathe. It’s also to some extent a matter of personal preference; the wine will improve with time, but some people don’t like that process. With patience, the wine will open up and develop, becoming more complex and delicious over time. After the bottle is opened, it should rest for several days before serving. How long depends on the type of wine: red wines are generally aging better than white wines.

You should be drinking different varieties of wines at different temperatures

Even though we’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, wine bottles are often judged by their labels. For this reason, you should choose a bottle that makes an elegant statement on your table and in your hand. Luckily, there are plenty of options on the market to match any style or occasion (and budget).

There are exceptions to wines you can store in the fridge. Wines such as champagne and sparkling wine can stay in a fridge for a long time without going bad.

You should never be place red and port wines in the refrigerator until after you open them. To best enjoy these varietals, you should decant them and serve them at room temperature.

When it comes to serving temperature, there’s no one-size-fits-all rule.

The general rule of thumb is to serve reds at 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit and whites at 45 to 55 degrees. But don’t freak out if you’re drinking a cabernet sauvignon and it’s not being served at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It’ll still taste great.

It’s important to remember that ultimately there is no right or wrong temperature when serving wine. It’s all about what you like best!

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Victoria Munywoki.

Curating bespoke events since 201