Why Decant a Bottle of Wine?

written by Josiah Kahiu 12th December 2017

Italian-trained oenologist (pronounced Eh-no-lo-jist – that’s a wine expert to you and me) Josiah Kahiu answers all your questions on wine.

What is the point of decanting a bottle of wine? Clifford Siloba, 25

Hi Clifford and thank you for what is probably one of the questions I get asked most. To start with, keep in mind that wine is a social drink and as a consequence, the act of opening, pouring and sharing it is all highly symbolic. Important wines are treated to a reverential ritual that indicates to the other drinkers that this is a wine of status.

The term decanting might sound posh but it is nothing more than pouring a bottle of wine into a jug that basically looks like a small flower vase. This is the decanter and its main purpose is to aerate the wine. Wines need to aerate for different reasons: in the case of young wines that are still at their “child phase” of development – meaning they can be closed to the nose and palate, air can help them to reach their full expression. As the wine is decanted, it absorbs oxygen, helping release the aromas and flavours. Wines that truly benefit from this are more full bodied wines that are high in tannicity such as Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The other reason for decanting wines is in the case of an aged wine like a French Bordeaux. Some red wines create sediment as they age but this is not a bad thing: it is merely the process of the colour pigments and tannins bonding together. These then leave a sediment in the bottle and pouring it straight to the glass can create a cloudy wine that is unpleasant to look at and can pass on a bitter and gritty feel.

In the end, decanting can be seen as a personal preference. If you have the time and have spent more than average on your bottle, why not experiment a little and try decanting? You may just find that the wine you are thought tasted one way has been given a whole new lease in life.


If you have a wine dilemma, send an email to kahiu@oenokenya.com Follow him on Instagram on @knife_and_wine

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