Decanting Wine 101

Decanting Wine 101


The act of decanting a bottle of wine may sound simple- I mean, how complicated could it be to pour the contents of one wine bottle into another container? However, decanting is actually a sophisticated and valuable process when it comes to improving a bottle of wine. “Although today’s wines are made to drink upon purchase, I do recommend decanting because most wine, specifically hearty reds like Cabernet, Petite Sirah, young Bordeaux or Spanish Rioja, can benefit from aeration,” says Steve Pollack, our National Sales Director.


If you’re new to decanting and wondering how, when, and why to do it, here is a simple crash course in the art of wine decanting.

How Decanting Works

There are two fundamental reasons to decant a bottle of wine: to separate a wine from sediment that may have formed in the bottle, and to aerate a wine to make the aromas and flavors more vibrant before serving. Older red wines tend to naturally produce sediment as they age, as the color pigments and tannins will bond together and fall out of solution.


When it comes to decanting red wine, the most important thing is to make sure the sediment stays at the bottom of the bottle. The way a bottle of wine is stored will also play a big part in how and when you decant. If a bottle was stored horizontally, you should let it sit vertically for a few hours so the sediment has time to move to the bottom of the bottle without interfering with the decanted wine. “If you do have an older wine you have collected for many years, bring it upstairs from your cellar and leave it standing up in a dark corner of your kitchen for about two hours prior to serving,” Steve says. “This gives the sediment a chance to fall back to the bottom of the bottle.”

How to Decant Wine

Hold the decanter at a 45 degree angle and slowly pour just enough wine in the decanter to serve each person a glass. “I pour 2.5 ounces which is half a glass,” Steve shares. “It makes it easier to continue swirling in the glass, but also allows more air in the decanter than wine to continue aeration. Then as the bottle gets low, you will have an easier time not getting sediment in anyone’s glass. I always leave the last ounce in the bottle which generally is the sediment.”


Which Wines Should Be Decanted?

Contrary to popular belief, not all older wines need to be, or should be decanted. The age of a wine strongly impacts how well a wine will hold together inside of a decanter, so keep this in mind before decanting your favorite bottle of wine. The older a bottle of wine is, the less time you have to decant it, as the wine will quickly start to lose its flavor due to any exposure to air. A good rule of thumb is to decant any wines that are 20 years old or older for less than 30 minutes, while younger wines can safely decant for several hours. Before decanting a bottle of wine, make sure you do your research on that specific wine to avoid damaging the wine or losing any of the flavor.

Choosing a Decanter

Choosing the right wine decanter can make or break the experience, so it is important to know what kind of wine you have on your hands before choosing a vessel. Full-bodied red wines should be poured into a decanter with a wide base, while white and rose wines can be poured into a small, chilled decanter. Be sure to choose a decanter that is easy to fill, pour, and clean for a seamless decanting experience.

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