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What Types of Italian Wine Need Decanting (And the Reasons to Do it)?

You’ve heard the term before and you know it has something to do with improving the flavour profile of your Italian wine. You may also know that decanting a wine means you give it time to reach its full potential, which means you don’t just drink the wine straight from the bottle.

But you don’t really know what decanting is, the true purpose behind it, and what wines need decanting in the first place.

That’s where this article comes in.

We’re going to explain the decanting process and look at some of the types of Italian wines that benefit from it. We’re also going to provide you with a few reasons to do it if you’re on the fence about the idea of having to wait a while before you can enjoy your wine.

What is Decanting?

The process of decanting involves slowly pouring the wine from your bottle and into another container. The key here is that you do this in such a way that you don’t disturb the sediment at the bottom the of the bottle. As such, the wine that ends up in the decanter should be completely free of sediment.

Typically, the wine is poured into a container that is shaped in such a way that its easy to pour the wine back out of the container again when its time to drink. The amount of time that you spend decanting the wine can vary. However, you’ll typically allow the wine to sit in the decanter for about four hours before consuming it.

What Types of Italian Wine Need Decanting?

Instead of digging into specific wines here, we’ll instead look at some of the overarching qualities a wine must have before it becomes a suitable candidate for decanting.

For the most part, almost any wine can be decanted. This means reds, whites, and even rosés can benefit from the process, even if you only do it for a few minutes to aerate the wine. However, the types of wines that typically need decanting are young and powerful red wines. The decanting process helps to make their tannins more intense, which allows them to have a greater impact when you drink. You can almost think of decanting as an artificial ageing process, in some ways, when it comes to these young reds. 

As such, good candidates for longer decanting include wines made with cabernet sauvignon and Bordeaux grapes. But as a very general rule of thumb, if it’s a young red wine, it can probably benefit from a few hours in a decanter.

So, we can see that decanting works for most types of Italian wine. But there is one specific type of wine that you should never decant:

Sparkling wines.

The whole appeal of sparkling wines is that they have a bounce to them that you don’t get with other types of wine. That bounce, or fizz, reduces over time as the wine is exposed to oxygen. As a result, decanting a sparkling wine for four hours will just leave you with a flat wine that loses all of its personality.

Have you ever left a glass of soda out overnight and found that it’s completely flat and unpalatable the morning after? It’s the exact same idea here. Air destroys the carbonation that leads to the fizz, so always drink your sparkling wines as soon after pouring as possible.

The Reasons to Decant

So, we’ve touched on a few of the reasons to decant a wine already. But here, we want to make clear why you would decant an Italian wine in the first place.

Reason #1 – Separating Sediment

Of course, the idea of consuming sediment isn’t the most appealing thing in the world, as anybody who’s experienced it can attest to. Sediment tends to taste unpleasant, which means it can alter the taste of the wine and give you a skewed idea of its quality. This is especially the case as you get closer to the end of the bottle. That last mouthful may end up so full of sediment that it destroys your enjoyment of the wine. Proper decanting eliminates that problem.

Interestingly, this also makes decanting a lifesaver when a cork disintegrates into the bottle. Through releasing the wine from any sediment, you also manage to take it away from the cork particles that would otherwise destroy its taste.

Reason #2 – Aeration

Oxygen and Italian wine have a bit of a love/hate relationship. Too much oxygen in a wine, especially over time, destroys its composition and makes the wine taste bad. This is why we often invest in unique ways to seal our wine bottles after opening them. However, oxygen is also key to helping a wine release its full flavour profile, particularly in the case of younger wines that haven’t reached maturity.

With decanting, you have what is essentially controlled oxygen exposure. The wine receives enough oxygen to release its flavours without receiving so much that it gets destroyed. In many cases, the shape of the decanter itself also plays a key role in ensuring the wine receives the correct amount of oxygen.

Furthermore, aeration also involves the release of gases that have built up in the bottle over time. In addition to letting a little oxygen in, you’re also letting go of other gases that affect the quality of the wine.

Reason #3 – It Gives You a Renewed Appreciation for the Wine

Decanting wine involves a set routine that allows you truly appreciate the wine that you’re about to drink. You must take care when pouring the drink into the decanter and the wait between when you pour and when you can finally drink helps to build anticipation for the wine. 

Some will argue that decanting means you’re showing proper reverence to the grape and the producer. While we perhaps won’t go that far, we will say that decanting allows you to develop a greater appreciation for the wine and its qualities. And what’s more, a decanter makes for a lovely centrepiece at any dinner party.

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