Which wine goes into a carafe?

Not to be confused with decanting, carafing is designed to aerate the wine. Carafing mainly concerns red wines, especially young ones. Less common in practice, the action is also beneficial for white wines. Decanting, on the other hand, is a process reserved for older wines or wines for ageing, for which a different decanter is used.

Should all wines be carafed?

No, not all wines can be carafed; some can be decanted (old wines). Carafing is best reserved for aeration of young red wines, and some tannic red wines. While it's common to serve white wine straight from the bottle, it also benefits from being carafed. This generally requires less aeration than red wine.

The process of carafing consists in hastening the oxygenation of the wine to release its bouquet of aromas, soften its tannins, reduce acidity and remove the odors of reduction during tasting. Younger wines will then offer more roundness on the palate, more distinct aromas and softer tannins.

In oenology, there are no absolute rules. Wine is a living substance. This is why some young red wines offer a lovely roundness right out of the bottle. They don't necessarily need to be oxygenated in a caraf; a few minutes in a glass is enough.

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Aveine's details

A wine is generally said to be "young" when it is less than five years old. A wine is said to be old when it is 15 to 20 years old. However, all wines age differently. And these indications are not absolute values !

Which wine should be carafed?

A distinction must be made between carafing and decanting (separating the sediment from the wine). To do this, two types of carafes are used.

Choose a decanting carafe for your ageing bottles and old vintages. Aeration carafes are too aggressive for older wines, which need to be handled delicately before tasting. it is therefore essential to choose the right carafes.

Should white wine be carafed?

Airing a wine before tasting, whether white or red, is always beneficial, provided of course that the opening time and serving temperature are respected. This is not a compulsory action, young or full-bodied white wines always benefit from decanting.

Champagne and carafing: yes or no?

Carafing champagne: what a funny idea! The risk of carafing a sparkling wine? That it loses its bubbles, and therefore all its sparkle. However, it's not the bubbles that make a champagne, but its aromas! It is therefore possible to caraf champagne to reveal its aromas, provided certain precautions are taken. :

  • use a special carafe for champagne,
  • monitor oxygenation time (a short time),
  • reserve this operation for certain sparkling wines (winey, expressive champagnes),
  • place empty carafes in the fridge to chill,
  • decant the wine - yes, champagne is wine! - by gently pouring it down the side of the bottle.

How do you know when to carafe a wine? 3 Aveine's tips

  • Smell the wine when you open it.
  • Look for the vintage date on the bottle label. How old is it? Is it (too) young?
  • Taste the wine after opening the bottle. Does it lack taste? Are its aromas timid? Is there acidity? Are the tannins hard?
And if you smell a cork, you'll have to open a new bottle...

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Aveine's advice

Instead of carafing a wine, use a wine aerator. This accessory provides perfect oxygenation of your bottle and saves you time. Enjoy the aromas of your Bordeaux, Burgundy and Côtes-du-Rhône within minutes of opening, and indulge in more spontaneous tasting of your vintages.

Other questions to explore about carafing a wine...