{how to} Decanting, a quick and painless guide

By Andrew Stiles, Reel Pour, Cinema Sommelier

If wine is a movie, then a decanter is like the theater, it just improves the experience. Aerating the wine is like having popcorn and a comfy seat. Widening the surface area of the wine is like widening the screen you watch it on. Of course, I prefer to have friends around at both so I can talk about it and share the experience of both with them. I cannot recommend this enough. Okay, back to the point, What is a decanter? Decanting is the term used when pouring wine from one bottle into another container, usually fancy and impressive looking. There are many different kinds of decanters, everything from a super wide vase looking thing to a glass container that looks like tree roots which I saw at the *San Francisco Museum of Modern Art(*SFMOMA*) earlier this year. But in a pinch a pancake mixing bowl that’s been properly cleaned also works just fine if you are willing to be cheap about it.

Really, it’s true… I’m serious!

The idea of a decanter is three fold. the first is to infuse the wine with a bit of air also known as aeration. Air “opens up” a wine. Infusing it with air does a couple of things, but mostly it causes more of the flavors to come forward. it’s basically speeding up the process that would happen anyway. With me usually the wine is devoured in my group of friends before the wine is truly at it’s tasting peak. So instead, you can decant it to speed up that process. Just pour the wine against the side of a decanter where the wine spreads out to a more thin sheen as it then cascades into the bottom, churning the wine as it collects in the bottom and then collecting into a pool with a larger surface area than you would have in the bottle itself (just a small hole where the cork would be). Don’t worry too much about being delicate the point is to get as much air into it as possible. I also like to swirl it in the decanter at this point, just like I would in the glass. After letting it sit for a few minutes, you can then pour it into a glass repeating the process. Then of course it’s up to you to swirl your wine in the glass letting more air touch the wine. or you could just drink the wine because all this waiting is drying out your mouth… I understand completely.


The 2nd reason for decanting a bottle of wine is that in some older wines (mainly red wines) natural sediment sometimes forms in the bottle as the wine ages, usually more than 10 years from when it was bottled. The older the bottle the more sediment and the thicker it is. This sediment isn’t hurtful to the wine but it is usually bitter in taste and not really something you want included in your wine as it rolls across your tongue. To separate it, just hold a light source to the bottle as your pour it and you should be able to see if there is sediment fairly quickly. Some decanters come with a little mesh basket that you can pour the wine thru, or if you are really anal you can use a coffee filter. But if you don’t have either of those, don’t despair just grab a flashlight, shine it at the bottle and just watch for the sediment as you pour, stop pouring before it leaves the bottle. It takes a little practice and a little patience but it makes for a better tasting wine. If you have the time and you know the bottle has sediment in it, leave the bottle standing up for a day or two and let the sediment settle and fall to the bottom of the bottle so when you open it and pour it slowly it won’t churn into the rest of the bottle therefore making it easier to keep it out of the decanter.

The 3rd reason for using a decanter is showmanship. it’s fun, it looks
interesting, and it gives you a little something to explain to your guests at the next dinner party when you break out the wine. Like velvet ropes and a snack bar by your TV. Plus it shows off your  personal taste (just like those vintage movie posters) even if it is a glass mixing bowl that held pancake batter 7 hours ago…

Check out our Radio Style Podcast called Reel Pour where we pair wine and movies together and talk about both. More information and previous shows can be found at or you can always find us on itunes.

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May your Wine and your Movies, be moving, complex, sometimes sexy, and make you smile relentlessly when they’re done.

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