What's the difference between Aerating and Decanting?

Posted by Wine Gourmet on

Aerate or Decant? That is the question.

Have you ever wondered why some people choose to aerate or decant their wine and why? It all comes down to tannins. Not only is it a naturally occurring polyphenol compound found in plant tissues, like that of a grape’s skin but also a natural antioxidant that protects wine as it ages. The main downside though… it tends to give some of us a nasty headache if we don’t soften those tannins.

Let’s first discuss what tannins are. During the winemaking process, when the grape juice soaks alongside the grape skins, they release this polyphenol compound. The longer the juice soaks along side the skins, results in higher tannin content of the wine. Now, how do you know when a wine has more tannins than another simply by taste? Wines that are more tannic can leave a drying feeling in your mouth similar to licking a leather couch. This is what sommeliers use this to determine the amount of tannins in a wine they taste. Since red wines tend to soak alongside the grape skins for an extended period of time to achieve their color, their tannin content is typically higher than that of white wines, which have little or no contact with the skin.

Now that we have explained tannins; let’s talk about why they matter. When winemakers bottle their product, it is finished with an airtight seal to keep the wine in its intended state and flavor composition, which also seals in the tannins. Throughout the aging process, the tannins in wine begin to break down resulting in a smoother palate; this is why older wines can be so sought after but come with a hefty price tag. Aerating and decanting come into play here. There’s a discernible difference between the two and a small set of standards for knowing when to use each.

The purpose of aerating or decanting a wine is to increase the surface area of the wine allowing it to have more direct contact with air, thus softening those harsh tannins. The difference between the two is fairly simple: Aeration quite literally means adding or circulating air through a liquid or substance, and decanting is the process of pouring a liquid from one container to another without disturbing the sediment.

 When aerating, the wine is poured through the aerator (which can be free standing or attached to the finish of the bottle) allowing it to have contact with small bubbles of air, quickly mimicking the aging process and breaking down those harsh tannins. Aerating is customarily used for young wines that haven’t had a chance to age themselves and is the quicker of the two methods. If time is of the essence, aerating is your best option! 

Now for those of you with a bit more time on your hands or an older vintage, decanting is the preferred method. Taking into account the age of your wine, wines 10 years or older overtime produce a small amount of sediment that sinks to the bottom of the wine and must be removed. When decanting a full bottle of wine, it is poured into the decanter slowly to ensure the sediment is left behind in the bottle. These wines will not benefit from aeration as they are already fully developed and aerating would not filter out the unwanted sediment. Bottles in excess of 10 years in age should be decanted off the sediment just prior to serving because the more an old wine is exposed to air, the sooner it will fade. So remember, grab an aerator for those young, harsh reds or on a time restraint  and be sure to pull out your decanter for a leisurely dinner or when you finally decide to crack open that vintage you’ve been waiting to taste.

In a world full of impatient individuals, how many of you want to wait for your wine to decant? As soon as that cork pops, we’re ready for a glass… or three. Those who enjoy the traditional method of decanting possess a patience the rest of us do not, but thanks to the VinOstream from Cork Pops you can now aerate and dispense your wines with one, simple tool. The VinOstream first creates an airtight seal around the finish of the bottle with a soft rubber stopper and then draws up wine from the bottle and dispenses it into the glass. As the wine is drawn up into the VinOstream arates the wine, exposing liquid to air in order to achieve softened flavors and enhanced aromas. Next time you pick up a young red wine, take a sip, then run it through the aerator and notice the difference in taste.

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