Wine Talk

Snooth User: thepenas

To decant or not to decant...that is the question....???

Posted by thepenas, Jan 13, 2010.

Need your help, I have a couple of 1994 Estancia Meritage Alexander Valley and would like to drink one this weekend. The question is if you think I need to decant this bottle and if so for how long?

Thanks in advance...


Reply by napagirl68, Jan 13, 2010.

Yes, decant. I believe all reds, at least, can benefit. I would not use a Venturi or other aerator, but rather pour into a decanter 1-2 hrs. before serving. Then pour into glasses at the table.

I am curious to others agree? We tend to do as we are taught....

Reply by dmcker, Jan 13, 2010.

Why would you want to decant? I assume it hasn't thrown much sediment. I'm generally on the far side of the pendulum swing regarding lack of need for wine gimcrackery, including unneeded decants. You are opening the wine up more quickly but also bruising it through a form of induced bottle shock. I've found the wine unfolds better and more fully over time if you let it breathe for a couple hours before pouring, then let it breath in the glasses as the bottle depletes over the next hour or more. I used to decant far more frequently but conducted a number of controlled experiments (well as much as they could be after we'd all had a bit of wine) through the '90s that brought me around to this conclusion.

I still do decant when I want to taste very young wines that I'd ordinarily lay down for several years, and with very old bottles (esp. vintage port) that has thrown gobs of sediment. Even then I'm careful about how I do it. In any event your Estancia doesn't fall in either of those categories. Let it stand for a couple of days before opening, then be gentle and give it time as you do, I say...

Reply by sjilykily, Jan 13, 2010.

it's nice

Reply by Gantt Hickman, Jan 13, 2010.

I agree with dmcker, I think that a red is best enjoyed as the bottle opens up from glass to glass. What I like to do is make notes on how it changes from the first pour to the last and those in between. Agree the younger it is the more likely it needs a good decanting but I don't think this falls in your boat with a '94.


Reply by chadrich, Jan 13, 2010.

I rarely decant unless (as dmcker notes) there's a need to deal with sediment. Or if I know I'm drinking something earlier than I know I should and expect it to be extremely closed and tight without the benefit of a lot of aeration. Plus the hassle of washing the decant afterward is such a b&%$#.

Reply by dirkwdeyoung, Jan 13, 2010.

I decant if an old broken cork passes into the bottle and if it is an old bottle with sediment. The reason I do this is because it allows for a single pour, instead of rocking the bottle back and forth and stirring the sediment. I never decant in order to "improve" wine. Ideally you should hold the bottle above a candle just below the neck, this will add light to the wine so you can see exactly when you are getting down to the sediment layer. In the case of a broken cork, use a tea strainer to prevent the cork bits from getting into the decanter.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Jan 13, 2010.

I decant almost all older wines, but for different reasons. Many need air to unwind, Bordeaux and Barolo in particular. Others need to be poured off the sediment, so I can drink most of the wine nice and clear. The difference here is when the wine is decanted. For a 1994 California Cabernet of this caliber I would expect this wine to need only 15 to 30 minutes to open up so I would decant just before service. In any case, with a wine I am not familiar with I always err on the side of caution. It's more enjoyable to watch a wine open up and unfold than to lament missing the fireworks.

Reply by VegasOenophile, Jan 13, 2010.

I think a CA wine of that age shouldn't need decanting, but perhaps once you open it, you'll know. Take a taste and if it's still tight, tannic and so on, then either decant it for at least 30 minutes, or leave the bottle open for 45-60 minutes. I find older CA wines are in their prime and don't need much extra help with introduction to air.

Reply by thepenas, Jan 14, 2010.

Thanks all for your comments...more confused then when I started but, with more information to make a decision :) I have 4 bottles of this wine so I will have to see what works best :)

Reply by dmcker, Jan 14, 2010.

First two, one decant and one no decant, with treatment the same otherwise, one would think. Then go with what you like better for the other two. Let us know what you find works for you, if you're able...

Reply by napagirl68, Jan 14, 2010.

WOW! I absolutely LOVE reading all the responses! I do not consider myself an expert by any means, but have come to do what I have been "taught" and "learned".

This morning, in our group meeting (we are scientists), I brought up the decanting subject very casually. What a sh*& storm it brought on!! No one could agree, and all had VERY firm opinions. This is what I ended up with personally... this is my own thing, so do what you want!

I always CAREFULLY decant reds.. I am one who believes a bit of oxygen helps the flavor, even if the tannins have been leveled out.

If you are dealing with an aged bottle, look for sediment at the top or side. Place the bottle upright for a day or two to help the sediment settle toward the bottom. About an hour before serving, CAREFULLY pour into a decanter, making sure to avoid pouring sediment. You may have to leave an inch or so of wine a the bottom of the bottle which is full of sediment.

If you have no sediment evident on the inside of your bottle, and it is not "young", open it an hour or so beforehand and TASTE IT!! You can tell if it will need decanting. There is NO harm with opening it an hour or two before. If it tastes great, tannins have mellowed, no massive sediment, then ok to just pour from bottle into glass.

But I am still a decanting gal for bordeaux/cabs....

Reply by Gantt Hickman, Jan 14, 2010.

Looks like Napagirl has got it figured out. At least what she likes and that is the fun of wine. Keep it up.... I too, love reading these responses from everyone. Very informative stuff.


Reply by amour, Jan 21, 2010.

Decanting is done to be able to serve wine clear and bright.
Any bits of sediment would be left in the bottom
of the bottle and not in the glass.
The sediment which is mainly dead colouring matter
in red wine, will have a negative impact on the taste
of the wine.

Decanting can also be used to aerate the wine.
Young wines possibly need a lot of breathing time.
They definitely can take it. Older wines need less,
very old wines scarcely do need any.
This is a troublesome area.

As I understand it, if the wine is good (fine wine)
that is, from a good vineyard, a fine vintage year,
well made, and the storage conditions have
been secure and sound, and there is no cork
deterioration, the wine will emerge from the
bottle stable and readily drinkable on the drawing
of the cork.
The age of the wine matters not in those
circumstances. A good sound wine from 5-50
years old would be unlikely to crack up shortly after
the cork is pulled and it is decanted.

Reply by amour, Jan 21, 2010.

I would think that wines that need decanting would be:
mature claret and vintage port, also young claret
in some cases. Burgundies (mature, red) should
be decanted.

Wines without sediment rarely (if ever) need decanting,
also very young red wines, red table wines, young white wines,
sherry, roses,champagne, ruby and tawny wood ports,
less expensive madeira.

Old white wines (if there is a powdery sediment),
sort of tasteless harmless white crystals, will be good
candidates for decanting.

Thank you.

Back to Categories

Popular Topics

  • posts

Top Contributors This Month

259386 Snooth User: zufrieden
3 posts
481309 Snooth User: chriscage
2 posts
847804 Snooth User: EMark
2 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network