How can I tell if wine needs to be decanted?

Dear Wine Ladies,

When it comes to decanting wines, how does one know whether it’s necessary or not?
I’ve also noticed there are different styles of decanters, is this just a question of taste? Excuse the pun.


Detroit, MI

Dear Connor,

Well said, and great question. Wines are usually decanted to either separate the sediment that has collected at the bottom of the bottle from the wine, or to allow a wine to breathe and soften the tannins. The older, full bodied wines are most likely to have sediment which you can see if you tilt the bottle slightly and hold up to the light. Better to exercise a little caution with these wines, as some in particular can be quite delicate such as Pinot Noirs. These delicate aged wines when decanted, are more likely to lose their appeal more quickly than sturdier wines. We recommend decanting them just prior to serving.

When it comes to wines that need a little help wrestling the strong tannins, these are most likely to be youthful, strong wines such as Cabernet Sauvignons, Bordeaux, big Italian wines like Barolos and Brunellos, some shiraz and big bodied wines from the northern Rhone. When decanting these wines, you can actually be a little reckless and assertive – let those aromatics break free!

Regarding the different styles of decanters available, ones personal taste is definitely a factor however the wine which is to be decanted is also important.
For the older, more delicate wines, decanters with a narrow neck are most suitable as they limit the amount of air available to interact with the wine. Conversely a broad based decanter, which allows a greater air to wine ratio is perfect for those younger, assertive wines with greater tannins.

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