Wine is probably the most intricate liquor known to man. There are a lot of factors to be considered when drinking wine, including the question, "does a wine decanter need a stopper?" This could be mundane to the untrained but to the seasoned drinker, the right tools can spell the difference in the quality, aroma, and flavors of your wine.
First off, consider if your red wine is old or young. Decanting a young red is different from decanting an old red. Wines older than 15 years old should not be decanted while younger reds can be decanted longer - at least 30 minutes.
Second, sulfur compounds. Sulfites are high in wines with a pH of less than pH 3.6, white wines, dessert wines, and wines stored in warm temperatures. But sulfites are not all that bad. They work to slow down chemical reactions so the wine can stay for longer. Sulfites in the wine can smell like a rotten egg but not too bad that decanting and chilling can fix.
Why Do I Not Need a Stopper for a Wine Decanter?
You don’t need a stopper for your wine decanter if you can finish your decanted wine in a single sitting. Decanting aims to aerate your wine, soften the tannins, and release the sulfites to make drinking more pleasurable.
When you buy a decanter, it is best if it comes with a stopper but if it does not, buying a separate stopper may not always be the solution.
Does a wine decanter need a stopper?
Yes, as the need to stop the aeration of the wine may arise unexpectedly. If you are expecting guests and some that you were expecting didn't make it, then you might end up with more decanted wine than you would want.
An airtight stopper can be used to preserve the shelf-life of decanted wine. However, don't think that a decanter with a stopper is foolproof. Drink this wine within 2-3 days before it loses its flavor and aroma.
Should a wine decanter have a stopper?
No. When buying a decanter, it does not need to have a stopper. If it comes with one, it can do wonders when you have to keep your wine in the decanter for a little longer. If not, you can always buy cork stoppers, though this can be tricky. Be sure to measure the inside diameter of the decanter to determine what size of cork stopper to buy.
Should I decant my wine? As pointed out before, wine taste is subjective. Your taste may be influenced by others but others' opinions don't have to be always right according to your taste.
As a general rule, you decant young red wines and some white wines.
You might be tempted to look for a decanter that will work for all wines. That's the case, isn't it? Unfortunately, it is not. Your best choice is to find a great all-purpose wine decanter. There are decanters for old wines, only to remove the sediments, not to aerate. There are also decanters for young wines. These are the wines with a huge bowl and a long neck that you can hold when swirling the wine.
Here are some tips to decant your wine and where wine stoppers apply.
1. Do not decant wines older than 15 years old
Because of their fragile state, wines older than 15 years old should not be decanted. In the same manner, old wines should only be swirled softly. The addition of the oxygen to old wines damages the wine. Instead, here are a few simple steps to serve an old wine.
Store it upside down for at least 24 hours before serving to settle the sediments.
Pour from the bottle with a steady hand, never abruptly.
The sediment usually moves to the curve just before the neck.
Stop pouring when sediments are already at the curve of the glass. A light can aid you here.
2. Decant young red wines and some white wines
Younger wines take a long time to be ready, at least 30 minutes. Following these steps can ensure that your wine is properly decanted.
Store your upside down for at least 24-36 hours before decanting to allow the sediments to settle.
Pour your wine in a decanter. We recommend one with a wide bowl for more surface area like this luxury wine decanter. Tip the decanter on its side and pour it on the side.
Pour slowly, allowing more air to come in contact with the wine as it is poured.
Swirl the wine inside the decanter by moving the decanter in small circular motions while holding it firmly to the counter.
If your decanter comes with a secure stopper like the wine decanter with aerator lid, you can hasten the decanting process by turning it upside down at least twice before removing the stopper and letting the decanted wine on the counter.
The wine taste is subjective so take a sip every 20-30 minutes or so after the first 30 minutes. This allows you to carefully note the changes at every interval. Your notes can be used as a reference when you drink a similar wine.
3. When Should I Use the Stopper?
Use only the stopper when the decanted wine will be exposed to air for extended periods of time. A stopper will be helpful to stop the aeration process in between pours.
After the wine is decanted, do not expect your wine to be the same quality if you decide to return it to the bottle or use a stopper on your decanter. This is because the tannins which act as a buffer from oxidation have already softened and are no longer able to do its job. Stopping your decanter, though, can help delay the inevitable degradation of the unfinished wine.
4. Should I return decanted wine to the bottle?
Older wines should be returned to the bottle since it can stay there for longer than the 2-3 days that it can stay in the decanter with an airtight stopper. However, that is not an easy feat. Decanted wine has oxygen in it and even in the bottle, the wine may still oxidize over time.
Because of this very dilemma innovators came up with products that will extend the shelf-life of decanted wine. One is to return the wine to an empty wine bottle then remove the air from the bottle with a wine bottle vacuum pump.
Another one is to use a product known as Private Preserve. This product uses non-toxic 100% inert gas that removes all the oxygen from the bottle, allowing the wine to preserve its aroma and flavor. All you have to do is to spray the inside of the bottle and recork it.
5. How Do I Know If My Wine is Stale?
Over time, even if you have an airtight stopper for your decanter, it will show changes in appearance. You will know if it has already oxidized and is therefore no longer fit for consumption. If the wine has shown some browning, it can no longer be drunk. The best way to check your suspected stale wine is to compare it with a glass of fresh wine.
So, we're back to the question: does a wine decanter need a stopper? To save your wine from becoming stale after sitting on the counter for an extended period of time, you need a stopper. An airtight stopper can delay the oxidation process, giving you more time to finish your decanted wine.
A stopper can also prevent your wine from getting contaminated. While bacteria are acceptably present in wine to facilitate the fermentation process, too much bacteria can result in the mousy smell of the wine. Once the wine is contaminated, it can no longer be undone, which is unfortunate.