Think about the last bottle of red wine you opened. For that bottle to get into your hand, someone had to plant and harvest the grapes, press and squeeze the harvest, ferment and age the juice, and bottle and ship the final product. What if we told you that all that time—as well as the good money you spent on that bottle—might have gone to waste?
To enjoy a glass of wine the way the winemaker intended, you have to properly decant the vintage before enjoying it. All it takes is a container, a steady hand, and a little bit of extra time.
What is Wine Decanting?
Decanting is the process of pouring any liquid from one vessel into another without transferring any sediment. To decant wine, you simply uncork a bottle of wine and pour it slowly into a secondary pitcher.
Anyone who enjoys drinking wine—from a professional sommelier to a casual sipper—should decant their wines before drinking. Decanting improves wines in two ways: it removes any unwanted sediment from your wine glass and it introduces oxygen to the wine to improve its flavor profile.
What is a Wine Decanter?
A wine decanter is any pitcher, vessel, or tool that helps you decant your wine. Some are small and practical, others large and ornate. There are three popular types: glass, aerators, and DIY.
Glass decanters feature wide bases, exposing the wine to a greater surface area for easier access to oxygen. (They even double as beautiful centerpieces). The three most common types are standard (with a wide base and narrow top), swan, and snail.
Aerator Tools are small, bullet-shaped devices designed to quickly introduce oxygen to a glass of wine. Simply rest an aerator over a clean wine glass, pour your wine into the aerator, and the aerator will oxygenate the wine as it pours into the glass.
Anything can function like a standard decanter when you’re in a pinch. For the DIY option, pour your wine into any large vessel (like a measuring cup or an Erlenmeyer flask), especially one with a wide base.
Why Should I Decant My Wines?
Decanting is the key to improving the smell, flavor, and texture of your next glass of wine. Decanting improves every glass by:
To slow down a wine’s natural aging process, wines are bottled air-tight. Before a wine can be uncorked and enjoyed to its fullest potential, oxygen needs to re-enter the picture. Oxygen is responsible for:
- Boosting aromatics, the natural smells that come from wine. How something smells affects the flavors we perceive when tasting a wine. Decanting lets in oxygen, which allows the wine’s aromatics to express in more complex ways, deepening the flavors.
- Improving flavors through aeration. Once you decant your wine, trapped gasses escape, oxygen mixes with natural flavinoids, and new flavors get expressed.
- Removing tannins. Tannins are polyphenols, a kind of macromolecule common in wines, teas, and coffees that produce a bitter taste. Tannins help preserve and improve the flavor of your wine, but they can overcrowd as the wine ages. Oxygen breaks some of these tannins up, resulting in a less astringent flavor.
If naturally-occurring wine sediment makes its way into your mouth, it can feel like you took a bite out of the Sahara. Careful decanting removes sediment from the picture, making for a glass that’s pleasant to the last sip.
How Do I Decant My Wines?
Whether you’re decanting into a traditional vessel or your fanciest measuring glass, decanting is easy to complete in just a few steps.
- Settle any sediment: Sit your wine vertically upright for 24 hours before decanting. This will allow any sediment to sink to the bottom of the bottle, making it easier to avoid when you pour.
- Set your Flashlight: Using your phone or a flashlight, create a light source and face it upwards, so that as you pour, the light reflects on the neck of the bottle. This light will help you spot any sediment as you’re decanting.
- Open the Bottle: Corkscrew, battery-powered opener: any method you like.
- Pour slowly: Pour the wine slowly into the decanter. If you’re pouring a bubbly wine (like Champagne), tilt the decanter towards the wine bottle and pour the wine so it runs along the neck of the decanter into the base. This will keep the wine from losing carbonation.
- Avoid sediment: Keep the base of the wine bottle lower than its neck, to avoid sediment from creeping in. If you notice sediment as you pour, stop. Set the bottle vertically and allow the sediment to sink before completing the pour.
- Let it breathe: Let the decanted wine “breathe” in the decanter before enjoying it. Find the appropriate decanting time for any wine with the chart below.
Is It Possible to Over-Decant?
Yes. Over-decanting a wine can make it lose its freshness, aromatics, and flavors.
To avoid over-decanting your wine, find the sweet spot between an under- and an over-decanted wine using our chart.
Recommended Decanting Times by Wine
|Wine Type||Popular Examples||Decanting Time|
|Whites or Rosé||Pinot Grigio; Sauvignon Blanc; Chardonnay||15–20 minutes|
|Sparkling||Champagne; Prosecco||15–30 minutes|
|Light-bodied reds||Pinot Noir||20–30 mins.|
|Medium-bodied reds||Merlot; Zinfandel||30–60 mins.|
|Full-bodied reds||Malbec; Cabernet Sauvignon||1–2 hours|
|Older reds (5+ years)||(Age-Dependent)||~ 2 hours|
Find Wines Worth Decanting
Now that you’ve got decanting down, it’s time to find delicious wine bottles that are worth the extra decanting time.
At CompareWineClubs.com, we’ve found the best online wine clubs on the market. When you join a wine club, wine professionals hand select delicious reds, whites, and special varietals from around the globe and ship them right to your door. Check out our favorite clubs, below: