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Wine Advisor Express:
Wine Link: Decanting lesson

When winter and the holiday season arrive, questions about decanting wine almost invariably follow. Special occasions call for special wines ... festive meals suggest fancy service ... a frosty evening inspires a drop of Port ... and out comes the old decanter, ready to be dusted off for its annual appearance.

When should wines be decanted? Let's briefly summarize the pointers we shared last winter: Most of the time, it's simplest to skip the decanter and simply serve wine direct from bottle to glass. But decanting - pouring the wine from its commercial bottle into an attractive glass or crystal vessel (too fancy to be called a mere "pitcher") is always an option for stylish service; and in a few specific situations this procedure is not just optional but recommended.

Here are the three most common situations for decanting:

  1. An older wine has developed sediment in the bottle. It's advisable to separate the clear wine from the murky sediment by carefully pouring the wine into a clean container.
  2. You have a young wine that really needs aging, but you don't want to wait years to try it. Vigorously decanting the wine so it is quickly exposed to air is a much more effective way to let it "breathe" than merely pulling the cork in advance of serving.
  3. For a formal dinner when you're using fancy china and silverware, you decide that it would be more attractive to serve from a pretty decanter than the wine bottle.

In the second and third cases, there's not much to decanting. Just pull out the cork and pour the wine. But when you've got sediment to deal with, decanting becomes a minor art. Uncorking and pouring without stirring up the gunk in the bottom of the bottle isn't rocket science, but it requires a certain amount of care.

Decanting Which brings us to today's Web link: The good folks at Chateau Haut-Brion, the historic producer that makes one of the five "first growths" of Bordeaux, have added an instructive article on decanting to their content-rich Website.

"When serving the great wines of Bordeaux," it advises, "it is necessary to decant them first. Decanting benefits wines of all ages. It separates the clear wine from the sediment and aerates the wine, allowing it to breathe, thereby creating a slight oxidation."

In simple, direct language and clear illustrations, Haut-Brion offers a quick step-by-step guide to the decanting process. If you have a fast Internet connection, a three-minute QuickTime video is also available, narrated in perfect English by the Chateau's Madame la Duchesse de Mouchy.

To make it easy to find your way quickly to the decanting feature, the Chateau has set up a special link for Wine Advisor readers: Haut-Brion's site is also available in French, German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese; simply click to and select the language of your choice.

Wine Toon Calendar 2002:
A year of wine and laughter

Here's a way to please yourself and friends with a wine-related holiday "stocking stuffer" and support at the same time: You can't go wrong with our new Wine Toon Calendar! This monthly wall calendar, exclusive from, contains a chuckle-worthy collection of cartoonist Chuck Stoudt's zany wine 'toons ... plus dozens of favorite wine quotes for every season, AND more than 100 highlighted Wine Web Links, two every week!

Buy one for your wine cellar and another for your office ... and they make great gifts!

While supplies last, order the Wine Toon Calendar at It's only $11.99 (plus $2 shipping and handling for U.S. shipments, $4 for all other countries). Buy one for yourself, and more for your wine-loving friends, and you'll be all set for holiday giving.

And don't forget: Your purchase helps support and The 30 Second Wine Advisor!

This is Wine Advisor Express, daily edition of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, distributed Tuesdays through Fridays. For archives of previous articles, and to read more about wine, visit Wine Lovers' Page,

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Friday, Dec. 7, 2001
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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