Decanting – What to look for


Decanting is both a science and an art.

It is a science because if a wine needs decanting and you do not do that, you will be tasting a “brick wall”. All you will “enjoy” is a solid core of structure. Especially if the red is cool or cold straight out of a wine fridge. When something is cold, its flavours are further locked in. What, instead, will be accentuated will be tannins and acidity.

Decanting becomes an art when, although a wine needs decanting, the precise time needed cannot be exactly determined. Only tasting the wine progressively can tell you that. In such a situation, I remember the wise words of Anthony Barton:

“Always under decant rather than over decant”.

The logic is simple. If you under decant, we can wait for the wine to further open up.

On the other hand, if a wine has been over decanted, it’s too late. (Unless you have a time machine to go back in time).

Last week, in Shanghai, a friend brought a bottle of Chateau Montrose 2005.

We enjoyed it – but still much too young – two hours after it was decanted.

The fruit and tannins – like a piece of silk – were integrated and threaded seamlessly together. Another hour later – decanted for three hours by now – the wine was still unfurling its personality.

Decanting is not just for old wines but also for ultra young ones.

I remember Christian Moueix saying to me once:

“Young wines have to be decanted for them to blossom”.

‘Always under decant rather than over decant,’ Anthony Barton with wife Eva and, standing, their grand-daughter Melanie and daughter Lilian Barton Sartorius.

Fragile Wines

Not all wines need decanting.

One time, at Chateau Beychevelle, several of us were in the tasting room, including Managing Director/Chief Winemaker Philippe Blanc, consultants Jacques Boissenot, and his son Eric.

Jacques Boissenot (10 September 1938 – 2 September 2014) was named “Winemaker of the Decade” by Chinese Bordeaux Guide in 2010. He was described by the Wine Spectator as “Bordeaux’s Secret Winemaking Weapon”.

The vintage is renowned for the severe spring frost. As a result something like 30%, perhaps more, of the crop was lost. What survived was the strongest of the fittest. That said, 1991 remains a light – if thoroughly enjoyable – vintage.

Blanc had decanted a bottle and then served another bottle fresh.

We were all in unanimous agreement that the un-decanted bottle was the better wine.

So, if a wine is fragile, it may not need any decanting whatsoever.

In 2010, my publication (since discontinued) named Jacques Boissenot “Winemaker of the Decade”.

Read about this from by Jane Anson, one of the most knowledgeable persons on Bordeaux, at

Wishing you A Very Good Weekend & Happy Mid-Autumn!

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