How to decant wine: A Guide to the Art of the Decant

Decanting is quite a simple process when you know how it should be done. It doesn’t involve complex chemistry to understand what happens, and the result is something you can enjoy. Sometimes it even is a must to decant a wine.

What Wine to Decant

Wine Decanter

You might have heard about decanting before when you are in a situation where wines are present. It can sound a bit confusing, mysterious, or even intimidating at first. It can also make you curious about it in general:

  • What is wine decanting?
  • How to decant wine?
  • Which wines need decanting?
  • When to decant wine?

And other questions make you wonder about the world of Decanting and what it’s all about.

Let’s start with what wine to decant. Most (if not all) red wines actually can benefit a lot from decanting. Even young red wines might get better taste after decanting. And, of course, heavy and full-bodied red wines, like Grand Cru Bordeaux, Burgundy, Pinot Noir, or Syrah require it for sure. Generally, any wine with a notorious level of sediment and tannins is a good option for decantation.

Any wine that you want a better flavor or aroma for is the right choice for decantation. And it especially regards red wines. With some wines, decanting has less effect than with others, so keep that in mind. Experimenting yourself is the most important thing to discover which wines are best decanted and which not.

What is a Wine Decanter

A wine decanter is a vessel used for decanting. It’s quite a simple thing. A common decanter can be described as a vessel with a long and slender neck that opens to a wide body. There are many decanters different from that description. Its basic function is being the vessel where the clear wine is poured into. It can be used to aerate wine too, mimicking the effect of a swirling wine glass to stimulate the oxidation process, so the wine gets a better aroma and flavor.

As you see, a Wine decanter serves to decant wine, as its name implies. The most popular ones you can find anywhere are made from glass or crystal. Some decanters from bronze, silver, earthenware, or even gold can also be found but are not as popular. Common wine decanter can contain the equivalent of one standard bottle of wine.

There are many types of decanters. In general, they are made not only for wines. Decanters are also used for liquors, whiskey, dark rum, gin, and gold tequila, as a decanter can give a subtle boost in the flavor and aromas. As you probably know, there are numerous types of wine decanters. There are decanters with lots of different shapes and for different wines. Wine decanters are mainly for red wines, as people decant these the most.

Wine Decanter

Certain decanters are better for certain wines as they help to make their taste better thanks to specific features. Getting a decanter according to its shape might seem to be a purely aesthetic choice, and there are many forms. But the form of a decanter is very important for the decanting process. How wide the body is and how long the neck is, has different impacts on what effect the decanting will do to a wine. Decanters with a wide base are the best choice for full-bodied red wines. A narrow base is a better choice for lighter red or rosé wines. You get the idea.

The best wine decanters are the ones that are suited the best to the wine you want to decant. There’s no absolute decanter that works for every wine the best. Getting the appropriate one for the wine you’d like to decant will assure a good decanting that will enhance the flavors and aromas of your wine the most. Being practical to use is also what makes a good wine decanter. Moreover, a wine decanter can perform amazing design. However, if it’s hard to clean or to use, you’re better not having it.

Wine will stay good in a decanter for a few days, that’s if the decanter has an airtight seal. Other decanters might not have a seal or stopper at all. Leaving your wine in your decanter for a few days since it’s already poured in there might be something you could think. You have to remember that decanters are made for decanting and not for storing wine. Pouring only the amount you will drink that same day is the best choice, so you don’t leave any wine in the decanter.

How to Decant Wine

Decanting can be explained simply as pouring the contents from one vessel to another. But to understand what is decanting you must ask yourself another question: what are tannins in wine? Tannins are natural compounds found in many plants, seeds, woods, and fruits that have a bitter flavor. Tannins in wine can be explained as the sediments made of natural tannins that settle at the bottom of your wine. This sediment makes your wine taste unpleasant. When you decant wine you pour it from the bottle into another vessel looking to leave the sediment in the bottle and only pour a clear liquid without sediments into the vessel. This is done to obtain a more clear wine of better taste.

Wine Decanting

Decanting is also done to “aerate” a wine. Aeration is introducing oxygen to a liquid, also explained as allowing it to “breathe”. Aeration improves the flavor of some wines, allowing better aromas to open up too.

Of course, you must also know that too much decanting can also ruin a wine. When a wine is exposed to too much oxygen, oxidation may happen. That means that the aroma and flavor of your wine will dissipate. You don’t want that to happen, that’s why decanting must be done carefully to enhance your wine instead of ruining it. It doesn’t mean that you must be precise when decanting. Decanting can be easy, and to do it well, you just need to know what you’re doing.

You might think that Wine decanting requires a lot of time or maybe a lot of items. Indeed it is easy and pleasant if you know what you’re doing and how to do it. How to decant wine easily?

To decant a wine well you must begin by choosing a bottle of the wine you want to decant. The first thing is setting that bottle upright for 24 hours or more before decanting. Thus the sediments go to the bottom of the bottle, making the decanting process easier. Then choose a clear wine decanter to pour the wine therein. It must be clear so you can see the sediment without a problem. Then open a wine bottle and clean the neck. Then proceed to hold a light under the neck of the bottle. A flashlight is a low choice. Then proceed to pour the wine into the decanter slowly and steadily without stopping, as less wine there’s in the bottle pour more slowly. So the sediments stay at the bottom. Stop when you see the sediment reach the neck of the bottle.

The decanter is an important piece in the decanting process as that’s where you will pour the wine into. But it doesn’t have to be exactly a decanter. You can use whatever vessel you wish as long as it’s crystal clear and you can see through it. Of course, it would be better to use a decanter as these are made exactly for decanting. Unless if you don’t have one, any vessel with the characteristics told before will do.

If you want to see if you decanted the wine well, the first thing you can do is smelling and tasting the decanted wine: it should have a nice aroma and a nice flavor, not a bitter one. If your wine didn’t taste as well then you can try decanting another bottle, this time being more careful no to let any sediment get off the bottle.

Regular Decanting

How to do a regular decanting is a question with a simple answer. To do a regular decanting just pour the wine slowly into the decanter. Do it carefully without much splashing. A regular decanting helps to maintain old wine structure, texture, and color.

Shock Decanting

A shock decanting is another way to decant a wine. It can also be called quick splashy decanting. To do Shock Decanting you must pour the wine into a decanter sitting vertically, so it hits the bottom of the decanter with force swirling around the decanter.

A shock decanting is best for young tannic red wines that haven’t aged for too long.

Difference between aeration and decanting

A wine aerator is a device that exposes wine to air, more than while opening a wine bottle, and lets it breathe during the pouring. A Wine Aerator works as a way to provide great aeration to a wine. It makes the processes of oxidation and evaporation faster and providing better flavor and aroma for the wine.

wine aerator

You can’t decant wine an aerator, at least in the normal sense. An aerator is made for aerating wine, which means exposing the wine to oxygen while decanting is about getting wine free of sediment. Such are the differences between aeration and decanting. And actually, some the sediment of some wines can end up clogging some aerators. Younger wines won’t have as much sediment, so using an aerator won’t be a problem.

In the end, a Wine Aerator is to aerate your wine, nothing else. You will know you’ve decanted your wine well when it discovers the nuances of aroma and, in some cases, a better taste. The best wine aerators do this: they aerate well. Aerating enhances the flavor and the aroma of wines, and every wine can use at least a bit of aeration to provide a better flavor.

How to Decant Wine with a Wine Glass

Wine glasses have some features, for example, the shape of the bowl or size of the stem, and they dramatically affect the flavor of the wine served on them. It makes them unique and distinguishes them from any other glasses.

The best red wine glasses are the ones that will allow you to enjoy your red wine better. The reason for the variety of wine glasses is that different and especially good wines merely require special glass’ shapes. The wine glass’s shape that matches the wine, allows it to oxygen in due course and discovers it’s aroma and flavor.

To decant wine with the right wine glass you only need not let any sediment get out of the bottle. So, instead of a decanter, you will use your special wine glass pouring the wine directly into it carefully. You won’t be able to pour in as much as in a decanter but enough to fill a little bit less than half of your wine glass. Fill the glass and wait until wine aerates well and gets a better flavor and aroma.

wine glass with aeration

If you have done it well, your wine will have a deeper taste and discovers aroma. Decanting wine with a wine glass is like decanting it with a wine decanter. The difference is, that you can decant less than you would with a wine decanter. If you use a wine aerator, you should not wait for oxygenation.

How Long to Decant a Wine

How long to decant wine depends mainly on how much you should aerate it and, therefore, on the kind of wine. When it’s enough decanting? The first and the most important factor to consider is that too much aeration may dissipate the flavor and aroma of wines. But way too little won’t provide changes you can notice. The table below answers this question Besides that, it would be up to personal choice and preferences how much aeration your wine needs.

Light-Bodied Red Wines

Decanting time 20–30 minutes.

Medium-Bodied Red Wines

Decanting time 30-60 minutes.

Full-Bodied Red Wines

Decanting time 60 minutes and more.

  • Pinot Noir
  • Gamay aka Beaujolais
  • Zweigelt
  • Schiava
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Grenache
  • Merlot
  • Malbec
  • Barbera
  • Dolcetto
  • Tempranillo
  • Grenache/Garnacha
  • Valpolicella Blend
  • Carménère
  • Carignan
  • Mencía
  • Sangiovese
  • Negroamaro
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Nebbiolo
  • Petit Sirah
  • Monastrell aka Mourvèdre
  • Tannat
  • Zinfandel
  • Syrah/Shiraz
  • Merlot
  • Malbec

For other wines like white wines and others with delicate bouquets like champagne, decanting shouldn’t be considered at all. These wines won’t benefit as much from decanting as red wines would do. Some people prefer to decant white wines or rose because of a personal preference for the flavor and aroma they may obtain.For red wines, decanting can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Young red wines, that are under 8 years old, require at most 1 to 2 hours of decanting for optimal flavor and aroma. More mature red wines, those over 8 years old, require from 30 minutes to less according to their age. As these aren’t as strong in tannic acid as younger wines time for optimal decanting is less. Very old red wines require no aeration at all and can be served straight from the bottle.

How to Clean a Wine Decanter

How to clean a wine decanter is something everybody asks after decanting for the first time. Some decanters are easier to clean than others yet the methods are always the same. You don’t need expensive items or machines to clean your wine decanter: what you can find in your kitchen might be enough!

There are many methods to clean a wine decanter, from decanter cleaning beads to using vinegar and water. You can use the one you like the most to clean your wine decanter. Let’s start with the vinegar method. Rinse the decanter with warm water (let it soak a few minutes if there are any stains), then pour some vinegar and dilute with water and swirl the liquid around (or shake it). Then pour the vinegar out of the bottle (and rinse again with warm water if there is any vinegar smell). You can also use the method that involves decanter cleaning beads: pour hot water in the decanter, pour the cleaning beads and swirl. You can also use a powdered cleaner for glass. There are many other methods you can use too. Just remember to treat your decanter carefully not to break it when you’re cleaning it.

decanter cleaning balls

How to dry a decanter is also useful to learn. After finishing cleaning your wine decanter, you also need to dry it. If you can use microfiber towels to dry the exterior of your decanter do it, microfiber towels are soft and will dry your decanter well. You can also use paper towels to dry the exterior of your decanter, though they aren’t as soft. To dry the insides, you can turn the wine decanter upside down so the water gets out of the bottom. You can use drying racks strong enough to support the decanter for this.

Before storing your wine decanter be sure to see if you have cleaned it well and if it’s free of moisture or still needs some time drying off. See well and be sure that all stains are gone and your decanter is crystal clear. When you’re sure your decanter is well-cleaned then proceed to see if your decanter is entirely free of moisture before you store it. If it isn’t then let it dry a little more until the moisture goes away. Then you can place it in your wine storage-cabinet.

Why Decant Wine?

When you decant wine you get a liquid rid of sediment. After decanting red wine gets better taste than a not decanted one. So, decanting a wine makes it a way better one. That’s the most important aspect of wine decanting and what justifies doing it.

When you decant red wine you also let the liquid be in contact with oxygen what results in aeration. A lot of chemical reactions underlie the process of decanting. And at the same time, it’s so easy to do. Doing something so simple like pouring wine from the bottle to the decanter lets you enhance flavor and aroma.

A good decanting will increase the quality of your red wine. Decanting is something easy to do that will improve the wine you have without having to pay for a better one. Maybe you don’t have old red wine but decanting the one you have makes it taste better and enjoy it more.

Decanting is something necessary for everybody wanting to taste better wine. Besides, wine decanting is a pleasure. See how the rich-colored liquid flows from the bottle to the decanter and look forward to a delightful taste is a bit of experience!

Do We Decant White Wine?

A lot of people might ask: should I decant White wine? We assume to decant red wine, otherwise, with white wine, it’s quite different. Usually, white wine decanting isn’t as popular as decanting red wine. The cause of this is the lack of tannins in white wine that makes decanting less of a need. It doesn’t mean people don’t decant white wine, as some people do so.

You decant a white wine when it’s too hot or too cold to reach white wine serving temperature faster, which impacts the flavor. Of course, that’s not the only reason. Most wines benefit from a little aeration, and white ones are not the exception.

Generally, white wine doesn’t need to be decanted. But some white wines can be. Experimenting with a decanter and your white wines can be a way to see if you like decanted white wine more than the non-decanted one. There are no strict rules about it, and experimenting by yourself is the only way to see if you would like to decant white wine or not.

Enjoy Wine Decanting

Wine Decanting is something that can make the difference between a good wine and an excellent one. Knowing how to do it is an important skill to have that’s easy to learn. Wine Decanters are important tools for decanting and knowing how to use them is important too. Decanting will improve the flavor and aroma of your wine, making it better. More than that, a beautiful wine decanter will be a significant element of decoration, like unique wine glasses. So, decant wine, and enjoy it!

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