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Double decanting: When should you do it? – ask Decanter

Double decanting is the process of decanting a wine twice; often the first into a decanter, and then back into the original – but now clean – bottle. But why do it? See below...

Stefan Neumann MS, head sommelier at Dinner by Heston in London, and a judge for the Decanter World Wine Awards, says there are three main reasons for double decanting wine:

  • Opening up a closed, or shy, wine in a short period of time.
  • Removing a large amount of sediment.
  • Preparing wine for a large group of people in advance.

Which wines are suited for double decanting?

‘Rich concentrated, full-on reds with high levels of tannins and extract, like young Barolo or Barbarescos, young Napa Cabernets, or young bold Southern Rhône blends or intense youthful Malbec with substantial Oak ageing,’ said Neumann.

‘I wouldn’t generally do it to a fragrant [or] delicate structure wine, like fruit-forward Pinot Noir.’

let wine breathe

Double decanting wines at the Bordeaux Fine Wine Encounter 2017. Credit: Decanter.

Margaret Rand wrote in Decanter magazine ‘many in Bordeaux double-decant, serving the wine in the original bottle minus the deposit.’

Wines are also often double decanted for masterclasses at Decanter Fine Wine Encounters, depending upon vintage age and style.

‘It’s good for the young vintages to do this, for more aeration,’ said Pierre Grafeule, director of Léoville Las Cases, in his masterclass at the 2017 Bordeaux Fine Wine Encounter.

‘It’s definitely better to double decant if you can – give it at least one hour.’

See also:

Video: Decanting red wine

How to let a wine ‘breathe’, and when 

Think about vintages

lynch-bages wines, old vintages, bordeaux

Old vintages of Château Lynch-Bages lined up for tasting attended by Jane Anson at Cafe Lavinal in Pauillac in 2017. Credit: Marina Cazes.

‘Wines which are matured and going through a little dip in their ageing so are not particular showy or expressive in the glass and need a little help to wake up,’ said Neumann.

Watch out for particularly old vintages, though.

‘I find older claret sometimes suitable, but only double decant them if under time pressure,’ said Neumann.

‘Generally I avoid it, because I think it’s more beautiful to see them developing in the glass than pushing then so hard by giving them too much air so they fall apart.’

What about white wines?

‘Some whites like older Rhône or white Bordeaux can greatly improve,’ said Neumann.

‘But with lightly structured whites, there’s normally no gain.’

Neumann’s final piece of advice: ‘Last but not least, always trust your senses. If in doubt, don’t double decant.’

Got a question for Decanter’s experts? Email us: editor@decanter.com or on social media with #askDecanter.

Find more wine questions answered here.

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