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How to Decant Wine According to a Sommelier

Whether you just got a decanter, or are looking to learn more, here’s a guide on when and what wines you should decant.

By George Steckel
Nov 26, 2021
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“I always recommend going back to taste,” Kristin Olszewski, the founder of Nomadica, says. “Whether you’re an expert or an occasional wine drinker, you have to trust your palate. Taste is one of our most innate sensibilities and I think the biggest joy of being a sommelier has been giving people the confidence to trust their own palate.”

Kristin has been a Sommelier for over 10 years and has been a Wine Director at some of the best restaurants in the country, including Husk, Osteria Mozza, and currently at Gigi’s. Of all the wine experts, Kristin was our first choice. The most important thing, she says, is to have fun with it. Decanting aerates the wine, allowing the bottle of wine to change over time, in turn providing you with different flavors to taste.

Which Wines to Decant

Decanting depends on the type of wine, but it isn’t just for red wine or older wines. Kristin loves decanting white wines and rosés (and you can even decant sparkling wines), as well. She notes that “if it’s a nice white or rosé, you get so many more aromatics and flavor, and the body becomes much more obvious if it has time to breathe.” If you are worried about your white or rosé becoming too warm, Kristin recommends putting the decanter on ice. A good rule to follow is that if you try a bottle of wine and it isn’t quite what you expected, then decant it. When decanting older wine be careful, as aeration can cause the flavors to fade more rapidly.

How to Pour Into Your Decanter

The age of your wine will determine how you should pour your wine into your decanter. If you have a young wine, or a white or rosé, you can just pour the bottle of wine directly into the decanter, with one hand holding the decanter, keeping it steady. However, if you have an older vintage, then there will most likely be sediment present, in which case you want to avoid that entering the decanter (and your wine glasses). Hold the decanter at an angle, and slowly pour the wine in. A favorite tip of Kristin’s is to hold a candle to the neck of the bottle as you pour. This will allow you to see the sediment as it starts to creep out and will give you a good indication of when to stop pouring.

“There is something so romantic about using the candle,” Kristin says. “It adds such a special touch and is so old school. It’s one of my favorite things to do as a sommelier.”

Let the Wine Sit

After pouring your wine into the decanter, Kristin’s general rule of thumb is to allow the wine to sit for 15 minutes. This will allow enough oxygen to penetrate the wine. Heartier reds can decant for more time, up to one hour, but Kristin believes in tasting as you go. “I feel like that’s part of the fun of wine,” she says, “you open a bottle and you get to watch it change over the course of drinking it.” She also notes that your wine is ready when you enjoy what you’re drinking. That can be 15 minutes, or it can be 30 minutes, it just depends on taste and the wine.

“Your palate should be the guide,” says Kristin “and if you have many of the same bottles, I love decanting one and then drinking one without being decanted. It’s such a fun way to see the difference a decanter makes. You have a wine where oxygen has made it taste better and one that hasn’t had time to breathe. I think experimentation is key and tasting side by side is fun. I love the idea of people drinking more wine."

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