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Most of you will probably find this to be a total newb question, but I am quick to admit that although my interest, knowledge, and love for wines is soaring exponentially, I am an absolute novice in this world. But I am truly enjoying the journey, and enjoying reading and learning from this forum as well. Anyhow...

As my sig indicates, my favorite wines (for now, anyhow Wink) are big bold Italian reds like Brunellos. I have definitelty grown a taste for powerful and dry reds, though I am experimenting with a lot of different things on the side as well (mostly all some sort of red varietal, as I'm just not a huge white-drinker. At least not yet). I've had a few killer Cali and Oregon Pinots recently, and have also had some great Argentinian wines, and some fantastic Napa Cabs as well. (We're talking in the $20-35 range here, nothing too fancy).

I know that a wine like a Brunello needs to be decanted, but my question is (other than if there is clearly sediment in it) when should a wine be decanted? Are there certain 'guidelines' for what types/age/price/etc of bottles should spend some time breathing?

Generally - and I'm not saying I'm right here, just how I've been doing it - I have been decanting most anything that I knew was real strong (like a Brunello or Rosso), or had been aged a bit, or I had paid a pretty penny for. However, recently I have had some wines that either were not very expensive, or were not the types I thought you 'normally' would decant and so I didn't, yet when I drank them I found their flavor was going through fantastic changes after spending some time in the glass and/or the bottle being open! For example, just the other day I had a Marquis Phillips Sarah's Blend (not more than $18 or so) and not a wine I would have thought to decant... yet, after spending some time in the glass, and even the next day when i finished it, I felt it was a lot different and surprisingly a lot better than it had been fresh. The thought hit me, "wow, maybe I should have decanted that a bit!".

And so, I thought I'd ask you all your thoughts on the topic. Other than the obvious ones, generally what types and what wines (price? varietal? age?) should spend some time breathing? And when is it clearly not needed, or even bad to?

I'm sure there isn't a 100% blanket answer that covers everything, as no generalization holds true across the board, but what're your thoughts on this? I'd love to know. Smile

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Here's a decanting follow-up question:
I've read in two different wine books that red Burgundy usually should NOT be decanted so that its bouquet is not lost. Would there be any other reason not to decant it?
Since red Burgundy is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes, should a non-burgundy Pinot Noir also not be decanted?
I'm not sure I've met a red wine that actually got worse with an hour of decanting, and most get better. I say, plan on decanting everything. Take a sip before you do so you can a) learn how it changes, and b) make sure it's not corked.

Any young red is sure to get better with some air time, especially Cab, Merlot and Syrah/Shiraz. Pinot is the one variety where my rule may not apply--many don't seem to improve much with air. But like I said, I have never known a decent red to be worse after an hour of decanting, including Pinot. Even the old Bordeaux I've had from the 60's and 70's has evolved nicely with an hour of air time, and did not fall apart as some writers had led me to believe. Give big young Cali cabs two hours.
Great advice from everyone.

I've started doing it the way you said pretty much, Redhawk, I give almost all bottles I drink a chance to breathe (as I drink primarily young reds). I find that the reason I enjoy that most is the learning process (it is fascinating to me how they change!) and also find that almost all my wines improve with it due to the type I am drawn to. I do what spo advised to me on another thread regarding approaching any bottle: taste them first, then continue to as they breathe. It not only improves most of my wines, but is fun to experience! Big Grin

Thanks for the advice, all.
I love Itallian reds and Bordeaus and find JS on the money. Every wine seems to do better in a decanter whether its a twlve year old brunello or barolo with sediment, to a younger Petrolo sangiovese or merlot Super Tuscan. My Biggest problem was relocating twice in the last 3 years and having to sell my collection. I've always stuck to 89 and above. Decanting lets you enjoy 84 and up. Sorry so long
Ok, since someone talked about Brunellos...I have an Italian friend who says he would let his Brunellos (about 8-10 years old) aerate in a decanter for all day before drinking it. How about that? Not really keen to try and risk ruining a bottle, but I know for sure than any Sangiovese tastes better the day after, left in a half empty bottle.
I don't decant unless it's from a producer I know makes big tannic wines. Alot of times I'll buy 3 to six bottles of something and I can't help myself so I try one young. Then I will decant. Dunn Howell Mountain for example. I had one of my 2003 bordeaux futures, a Moulin Haut Laroque that actually was a fruit bomb with a big nose that became more tannic and closed after it was opened for an hour.
whenever i open a bottle of red i immediately have a taste, then decant, .... then i wait about 45 to an hour then taste is surprising how good it can taste (compared to immediately drinking a glass) just by waiting...I don't know why i always do this ...but i do. There is a particular red from chile that i often buy that is a carmenere and it really doesn't taste good right out of the bottle but by decanting it and then tasting later makes all the difference. Not all reds need decanting, however. Try doing this with every red that you crack open at home. It has become a habit for me, is all....
Your two pence toss was a good bargain for me; brief article, yet valuable information. A decanter is on my to-purchase list this weekend.

"He causes the grass to grow for the earth, and vegetation for the labor of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man's heart glad." - Psalm 104:14-

[QUOTE]Originally posted by Swish-n-Spit:
If you are still checking for thoughts on decanting, I'll share one more from the "trade". Many in the profession will have their spin on your question -- and it's a good one -- but I'll toss my two pence in with the link:
I now decant most all reds, especially anything with more than a little age, not only to allow the wine to open but to remove the sediment that IMHO can ruin the last third of some bottles.

Most young wines also benefit from decanting, although you don't need to be careful about sediment in young wines. Several years ago my wife and I had dinner at The French Laundry in Napa, and ordered a young Dominus cab. I was surprised when the sommelier pulled the cork and literally dumped the wine into the decanter, as hard and fast as he could. He noticed my look of shock and explained that it was necessary to aerate such young, strong, tannic wine. I've come to believe he was right.

When serving older reds, I use a nice decanter for company or for special occasions, but usually I simply carefully pour the wine into a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, using a small flashlight to "candle" it (i.e., to see when the sediment starts to appear). I then pour the last ounce or so into my glass through a coffee filter or a plain white paper towel (which actually does a better job), and have that for myself. I then rinse the bottle with filtered water and pour the wine back into it (known as double decanting) and let it rest until serving time.

Does it help? Most definitely, in my experience anyway. As someone else said, I've never had a bottle go bad after decanting. OTOH, I rarely decant more than 30 minutes before dinner.

BTW, the idea of "letting the wine breathe" by simply pulling the cork and letting it sit on the table is truly the sign of a newbie -- it does next to nothing.
Quickly decant the old ones leaving sediment in bottle drink entire contents rather quickly.
Decant ones you put down for a few years (5-15) as need be (if your cellaring you know which ones), if sediment has stained bottle I use candle (aides in seeing and helps avoid sediment in neck) otherwise splash and drink or splash, breathe and drink.
New wines some need major time others none at all.
After reading my own answer
I'll certainly agree about the need to decant so as not to drink gritty sediment, I will add another view on whether decanting red wines improves their taste.

For an article on this, check :

Basically, this article talks about an experiment performed by some of the big names in wine (Mondavi, Zrali, others) 30 years ago. They took 3 big name bottles, and in blind tasting compared directly from the bottle, wine decanted then directly served, and wine decanted for an hour, then served). This was done with 3 different types of wine, and in each case - both the older and younger bottles - the wine poured directly from the bottle was the preferred wine.

I still decant, half the time for the fun of it, but there's the other side to think about - maybe it can make the wine worse!
I find everyones input on this subject quite interesting. I have NEVER decanted, not because I am against it but because I am very new at this lovely "hobby". I have been drinking wine for maybe 5-6 years now, mostly in the 20-30$ range, all red. If decanting helps make the wine better I most certainly would like to try it, but what type of decanter is best? Another question, what if you only want a glass or two, do you decant half the bottle?
As I said in my earlier post, when I open a wine that needs decanting, either because it has significant sediment (and I consider any visible sediment to be significant) or because it's quite young, I generally decant the wine into a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup, then dump the gunk left in the bottle down the sink, rinse the bottle and pour the wine back into it (the process is called double decanting).

I don't use a fancy decanter unless we have guests for dinner, and even then I prefer to double decant so they can see the label. Also, the decanter doesn't fit in the wine coaster too well.

Double decanting would be preferable if you intend to drink only half the bottle since the bottle can be recorked for short-term storage. Decanting half of the bottle would make little sense as it would leave the gunk in the bottle.
Although I am pretty new to wine (say 3 years), I always decant. Something I learned from living in Italy - most Italians decant their wines for at least a few hours before drinking, as it's like a rule of thumb (at least a rule I have been told since living in Italy for the past 2.75 years).

I have experimented the tasting before/after decanting and depending on the wine, you will notice a big difference in the nose and the taste - tones the tannins, opens the nose, etc.

And like someone else said, decanting in not just leaving the bottle open for a few hours, which really does nothing.
That's generally the preferred shape, based on the theory that the wine has more surface area exposed to air in a wide-bottomed decanter. However, I think that with most wines the simple act of decanting does the trick, and I usually just pour the wine back into the rinsed wine bottle (double decanting).

Don't put the wine back in the cellar unless you like to drink it that cold. I find that red wines are better closer to room temperature, 65 degrees or so.
Don't put the wine back in the cellar unless you like to drink it that cold. I find that red wines are better closer to room temperature, 65 degrees or so.

I'll gently disagree with you on this Doug. Since most folks don't have a 65° holding area for their decanted wines, I think it's perfectly reasonable for the wine to be returned to the cellar. It's either warm the wine from the cellar, or cool the wine from room temperature. Personally, I prefer to start cooler and see the wine progress as it warms, than vice versa.

Originally posted by PurpleHaze:I'll gently disagree with you on this Doug. Since most folks don't have a 65° holding area for their decanted wines, I think it's perfectly reasonable for the wine to be returned to the cellar. It's either warm the wine from the cellar, or cool the wine from room temperature. Personally, I prefer to start cooler and see the wine progress as it warms, than vice versa.

I suppose that depends on how long you intend to let the wine sit in the decanter, and the ambient temperature. In my experience, 30 minutes is enough for most wines, and few benefit from more than an hour or two. Decanting over night and that sort of thing is mostly a heap 'o toro caca.
Originally posted by PurpleHaze:I've always thought that if someone thought a wine needed more than a couple hours of airtime, it probably shouldn't have been opened in the first place.

Agreed! A corollary to that theory is that if the wine "improves" after it's been opened for 24 or 48 or 72 hours, as some of the child molesters claim, there was something horribly wrong with it in the first place.
Very interesting ya'll, thanks. I am a newb both here and to wine drinking. Have you heard of the 40 Year Old Virgin? Well, I'm the 50 year old wine novice, (really long story)drinking for about 3 years. I have been reading my butt off here at the forum for the last 2 days and have learned so much already.
After being enlightened on this issue of decanting I tried my first experiment last night with a Sangiovese. Decanting in the glass I drank my first right away, the second glass 45 minutes later and the third glass 30 minutes after that. Wow! what a difference. I have detected this change before, however I attributed taste difference to my taste buds changing with food consumption. I will be decanting from now on.

On a side note. I do not have the funds to buy higher priced wines so I would really appreaciate every one taking the time to add your under $20 wine selections to the appropriate thread. Thanks
Originally posted by Givati:
On a side note. I do not have the funds to buy higher priced wines so I would really appreaciate every one taking the time to add your under $20 wine selections to the appropriate thread. Thanks


Welcome to the board! Since you found the "Under $20" thread, you'll have better luck getting responses if you bump that thread with a request for recently tasted good wines vs asking people to search for the thread themselves.

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