Wine 101: Decanting Young Reds

Face it – fall’s right around the corner! As the temps start to creep lower, my wine-drinking preferences shift from pink/white/bubbly wine, back to bigger, heartier reds to take the chill off.

But if you find the rough, grippy tannins in some young reds to be a bit overpowering – especially if it’s a mid-range or higher wine with some aging potential – fret not. Rather, to help mellow out the tannins in younger, heavy reds, try decanting – even if it's just for a short period of time.

Typically, older wines are decanted slowly and carefully to separate the wine from the sediment that has built up in the bottle over many years. With younger wines that’s not an issue – those deposits haven’t had the chance to build up. Don’t fuss over decanting technique with young wines. The whole point is to aerate the wine – to loosen its firm tannins – so a bit of a rough ride from the bottle to the decanter might not be such a bad thing.

Don’t have a decanter? No problem. Your decanter could be a pitcher you’d use for juice, or some similar receptacle. Before I got geeky and started amassing decanters, I’d use a bowl if I needed to. (Not really recommended – try getting leftover wine from a bowl back into a bottle.)

You could also keep it really simple and just pour yourself a glass of your younger red and leave it on the counter for a bit to get the ball rolling. Aerating the wine means bringing as much of the wine in contact with oxygen – the more surface contact a wine has with oxygen, the faster it’ll start to loosen its tannic grip. (It’s one of the reasons many decanters have a very wide base.

Even half an hour of aerating is enough to start loosening up the tannins, and can make a big difference in the taste and feel of a young red. Give it a try!


Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.

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