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“Double Decanting” – what it is, when to do it and why

Posted on 5th February 2018 by JN Wine


“Double Decanting” – what it is, when to do it and why

As wine merchants, we are asked regularly “should I decant this wine?”, “How long does this wine need decanted for?” and various other queries about the age old tradition of transferring your wine from bottle to decanter before serving.

Decanting serves two key purposes; one is to remove the sediment from an old or unfiltered wine. While the sediment won’t do you any harm, it can make for a rather unpleasant surprise, when you get a mouthful of grape sediment – it also makes a real mess of your teeth. Secondly, decanting wine allows the wine to “breath” – come in to contact with oxygen, which can soften the tannins and allow the aromas to develop.  But what is “Double Decanting”? In this blog, we will aim to answer that question, and help you decide when you should double decant and why.

So, what is double decanting? It’s actually very simple; you decant your bottle of wine into a decanter, rinse the bottle with clean water (only necessary if the bottle has sediment inside) and then decant the wine back into the bottle for serving. This can be done immediately if you wish, or you can allow the wine to breath in the decanter for an hour or so before the second decant.

But what is the point in all this? Well, there are both practical and ascetic reasons to double decant your wines. From a “keeping up appearances” point of view, everyone loves to show off the bottle of Bordeaux or Barolo that you’ve been keeping for a special occasion. Double decanting allows you to serve the wine from its original bottle, while still removing sediment and allowing the wine to breath. Also, double decanting your wine very quickly, if your pressed for time, will almost help to “speed up” the breathing process of a big red, which can be helpful if you have underestimated your dinner party’s capacity for aperitifs or bubbles in advance of dinner.

Obviously, not all wines need to be double decanted. Bubbles, Light whites, like Italian Pinot Grigio or delicate reds, such as older Red Burgundy will not benefit from decanting, single or double; in fact, it could be detrimental to the wine. There are some wines though, which it works a treat for;

 

  • Young, Red Bordeaux (Claret)
  • Barolo, Barberesco or Brunello
  • Rich, Full-bodied Reds from the Southern Rhone
  • Australian Cabernet or Shiraz
  • Rioja and Ribera del Duero reds
  • White Burgundy
  • White Rhone, such as Condrieu
  • Chianti Classico
  • Super-Tuscans

 

An easy rule of thumb; if it’s young and unfiltered, decanting will not do the wine any harm. Trust your instincts; decant when you want, serve when you want. All that matter is that you enjoy your hard earned glass of wine. Cheers!


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