A Guide to Decanting Wine

Why do we need to consider decanting our wines?

A decanter is used to give the wine some oxygen and let it breath before you pour it in your wine glass.  It is important to let the wine breath because it will give it the time to bring all the flavours and scents of the wine together and give you a better tasting experience of wine.  I always use the analogy that after being in a bottle for a few years, would you not want to stretch your legs?  To let wine, stretch out and relax in a bigger vessel to bring all the great qualities of the wine together.  Oxygen allows the wine to breath and brings the wine to life, and a decanter allows this to happen.

Decanting wine is a simple process – a bottle is opened and its contents are poured into a glass container to allow the wine to “breathe”. What makes it complicated is deciding which wines need it, and for how long. (Your average supermarket plonk does not need to be decanted).

Young man decanting red wine in cellar

Decanting is recommended for young wine – anything under five years old. Decanting a young red for at least 20 minutes will help dissipate the alcohol and balance the fruit and tannins. For a young white, such as a high-end burgundy, 10 minutes in a decanter will help to balance out the fruit and acidity.

If a bottle contains a lot of sediment, decanting can help to separate it from the wine. If a wine has been stored properly (on its side), you can see sediment along the sides and bottom of the bottle. The bottle should be stood upright for at least a day before it is opened and then the cork carefully removed with minimal movement so as not to disturb the sediment. Slowly and carefully pour the wine into a decanter under a good light and stop as soon as the sediment reaches the opening of the bottle. A trick is to use a coffee filter over a funnel to catch the larger particles of sediment before they go into the decanter.

Some wines can use hours in a decanter to really get the full benefits and some wines can benefit from being in the decanter for 20 minutes. 

Still life with a decanter of red wine, glasses and grapes. Black background.

As a suggestion for popular wines – 

Bordeauxbetween 15 and 30 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to decide when to pour as it is more interesting to smell and taste the evolution of the wine in the glass than just catch it at that elusive “perfect” moment.

Burgundybetween 10 and 20 minutes. As burgundy is the expression of just one grape – pinot noir – it will show many facets over the course of an hour, beginning as soon as the bottle is opened. In fact, many enjoy burgundy straight out of the bottle.

Rhônethe reds from northern Rhône, in France, don’t need decanting but those from southern Rhône do. As one moves south, there is a notice­able change in climate and more warmth means more alcohol in the wine. Ten to 15 minutes in the decanter will loosen up the flavours.

Overall, a red wine will benefit form aeriation to bring out the flavours and decanting is the best way to do this. If trying one of our reds, try decanting it to see the difference.

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