The Complete Guide to Decanting Wine

For those of you who have never decanted your wine before, whether you didn’t know why you should or which wines to decant, we’re here to provide some great wine decanting insights. Decanting improves texture, taste and finish—providing a more palatable wine. When you decant your wine, oxidation occurs. This process allows air to come in contact with the wine, thus releasing aromas and improving the flavor. This action of oxidation through using a decanter can be referred to as aeration. Aeration helps soften tannins—polyphenol that are naturally found in wine grapes and wood that can make your wine taste dry. Red wines especially are more abundant in tannins. Although, not all wines need to be decanted, and length of time for aeration depends on the type of wine you are drinking.

What Wines to Decant

Common red wines that are aerated in a decanter are Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and sometimes Merlot. Corks usually release small amounts of air, so decanting a younger, bolder red wine such as a 2012 Syrah (which can be high in tannins) is a good idea. Older bottles of wine—aged 10 to 15 years—should be decanted to remove any sediment that may have accumulated over time. You should slowly pour this wine into a decanter and slow down even more when you get to the bottom third of the bottle. Once you start to see sediment coming out of the bottle discontinue pouring. Majority of the time, you don’t need to decant white wines because they do not possess a lot of tannins.

How long to decant

Length of time depends on the type of wine, but pouring the bottle of wine into the decanter does the majority of the aeration work right then and there. For a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, or a Syrah you’ll want to decant for about 2 hours. If you choose to decant your Pinot Noir, don’t do so for more than 30 minutes. Like stated before, white wines don’t normally need to be aerated, but when they are, a common white wine to decant is a full-bodied Chardonnay. This white wine should decant for about 30 minutes. When you can smell the fruit flavors of your wine that’s when you know it is ready to be served. If you can’t decant your wine for any reason, try swirling it to allow more aeration.

Cleaning a Decanter

When cleaning your decanter most professionals recommend using a restaurant crystal glass cleaner (used by majority of bars and restaurants). Using a fragrance free soap is suitable as well. Rinse inside and out with warm water, then rinse with cold water to remove any stains or leftover wine. When finished cleaning, make sure to dry your decanter upside down.

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