Why decant your wine?

Why do we decant our wine, and why is it necessary?

A bit of history

Romans pioneered the used glass decanters. After the fall of the Roman Empire, glass production became scarce causing the majority of decanters to be made of bronze, silver, gold, or earthenware.

The Venetians reintroduced glass decanters during the Renaissance period and pioneered the style of a long slender neck that opens to a wide body, increasing the exposed surface area of the wine, allowing it to react with air.

In the 1730s, British glass makers introduced the stopper to limit exposure to air. Since then, there has been little change to the basic design of the decanter.

Decanting process

Wine is poured into the decanter in order to separate a small volume of liquid, containing the sediment, from a larger volume of “clear” liquid, which is free of such. In the process, the sediment is left in the original vessel, and the clear liquid is transferred to the decanter. This is analogous to racking, but performed just before serving.

Decanters have been used for serving wines that have sediments in the original bottle. These sediments could be the result of a very old wine or one that was not filtered or clarified during the winemaking process. In most modern winemaking, the need to decant for this purpose has been significantly reduced, because many wines no longer produce a significant amount of sediment as they age.

How to decant a bottle of wine?

  • Stand your bottle upright at least 24 hours before you plan to drink it. This will allow any sediment that’s in the bottle to settle at the bottom.
  • Very slowly, with a steady hand, pour from the bottle into the decanter and keep an eye on the clarity of the wine as it leaves the bottle and enters the neck of the decanter. The older the wine, the more likely it is, that you’ll eventually see some sediment appearing and if, and when this occurs, stop pouring immediately. A funnel should be used so the sediment can be trapped before entering the decanter.
sediment inside the wine bottle

Aeration of the wine

Another reason for decanting wine is to aerate it, or allow it to “breathe”. The decanter is meant to mimic the effects of swirling the wine glass to stimulate the oxidation processes which triggers the release of more aromatic compounds. In addition it is thought to benefit the wine by smoothing some of the harsher aspects of the wine (like tannins or potential wine faults like mercaptans).

We strongly recommend to aerate your heavy tannins wines. This so the taste benefits from the oxygen in the wine.

But how long do you need to decant different kind of wines?

Here are some of our recommendations on how long you need to decant different kinds of wine.

White, Rosé wines, sparkling wines

15-20 minutes od decanting

Light bodied red wines:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Gamay
  • Beaujolais (Gamay)

20-30 minutes of decanting

Medium bodied red wines:

  • Grenache
  • Zinfandel
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Merlot
  • Malbec
  • Barbera
  • Sangiovese
  • Tempranillo

30-60 minutes of decanting

Full bodied red wines:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Nebbiolo
  • Petit Sirah
  • Siraz
  • Sirah
  • Mouvèdre
  • Sagrantino

60-120 minutes of decanting

Nearly all red wines benefit from decanting. There are two primary processes involved (oxidation and evaporation) that ultimately make red wines taste fruitier and smoother following decantation. After 60 minutes the tannins in red wines will soften and the wine will open up more.

If you have any questions about decanting just let us know in a comment below or send us a email.

18 thoughts on “Why decant your wine?

  1. I have not checked in here for a while as I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

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