Never Say Can’t…Unless It’s Decant.

I was recently having a bottle of wine with my family; a 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Supery Vineyards, where I used to work. Priced at about a $100,  it is one of my favorite wines.

Once allowed the opportunity to breath, it becomes smooth and velvety, exhibiting hints of dark berry currant and chocolate, my f-a-v-o-r-i-t-e characteristics in a heavy Cabernet Sauvignon. The key phrase in that last sentence though was “once allowed the opportunity to breath…” We opened it and immediately poured it into three glasses. Not even thinking, I took one and went through the 5 S’s of wine tasting (sight, swirl, smell, sip, and savor). I got to the point where I was going to try my first sip and got a rather unpleasant surprise.

Once that Cab Sav hit my palate my entire tongue tried to shrivel up and hide down my throat. It only took me a second to realize what had happened: the wine hadn’t been allowed to breath properly. You see, there is a term for when wine is allowed to breath, it’s called “volatilizing the esters.” This means that once oxygen hits the actual surface of the wine, since it hasn’t had any contact with oxygen before it went into fermentation, it allows the wine to release the aromas and it is what gives you that nice “nose.”

Air also softens the wine, especially for reds. The reason you use the decanter is because even once you pop the cork out of the bottle, the amount of air that can get in and react with the wine is practically negligible. The more surface area that is directly in contact with the air, the quicker the wine will breath.

The problem was we had no decanter. It may not seem that decanting a wine is really that important, but it is. It’s not just something for a wine snob to ramble on and on about and it’s also not for the rich wine collector who just buys decanters as art forms, which a lot of them are. It is an almost vital part to drinking any heavy red. We remedied the situation by using an old vase that we had cleaned out. Even a plastic pitcher would work if you have nothing else.

I wouldn’t decant most wines, lighter skinned red grapes like Shiraz and Pinot Noir or practically any white would lose a lot of the delicateness that is associated with them if they were decanted. But in the case of a $100 bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, decanting is definitely a good idea. Below are some nice, artistic decanters found at . No one said you can’t be wine savvy and fashionable at the same time.

Ryan Evans

Riedel Black Cornetto

Riedel Black Cornetto

Riedel Extreme

Riedel Extreme

Amadeo Lyra

Amadeo Lyra


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