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Culinary Arts

What Is Decanting Wine? When, How, and Why to Decant Your Wine

Written by MasterClass

Feb 7, 2019 • 3 min read

When it comes to a new bottle of wine, there’s one important step between corkage and enjoying a glass: decanting.

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What Is Decanting Wine?

Decanting wine means slowly pouring the wine from its bottle into a different container, without disturbing the sediment at the bottom. Wine is often decanted into a glass vessel with an easy-pour neck; examples include the swan, cornett, duck, and standard decanters, which come in small, medium, and large sizes.

What Are the Benefits of Decanting Wine?

Decanting has three benefits:

  • Separates sediment from liquid. Decanting is first and foremost about separating wine from the sediments that settle at the bottom of the bottle. Older red wines and vintage ports contain the most sediment, while young white wines contain the least. Sediment is not harmful, but tastes unpleasant.
  • Enhances flavor through aeration. Aeration is the process of introducing oxygen to a liquid. This is also called allowing a wine to “breathe.” Aeration enhances a wine’s flavor by softening the tannins and releasing gases that have developed in the absence of oxygen. Decanting wine allows the flavors and aromas that were dormant while bottled to expand and breathe.
  • Saves wine in the event of a broken cork. Occasionally, a cork may break, scattering pieces of solid matter into the wine. While pouring, the cork will gather near the neck of the bottle as you decant into another vessel (sediment does the same). If the cork disintegrates, use a strainer while decanting to filter out the smaller bits.
A line of wine glasses with varying colors of wine

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Which Wines Do You Need to Decant?

From red wine to white wine and rosés, all wine can be decanted. In fact, nearly all wines benefit from decanting for even a few seconds, if only for the aeration. But young, strong red wines particularly need to be decanted because their tannins are more intense.

Decant the following wines:

Never Decant These Wines

The only wines that shouldn’t be decanted are sparkling wines, like Champagne. That’s because sparkling wines thrive most when they have their bounce, which decanting and aeration reduces (similar to how a soda goes flat when left out of the fridge for too long).

How to Decant Wine

Decanting wine requires a light hand and a little patience. If your bottle of wine has been stored horizontally, remove it from storage and sit it upright for a full day prior to decanting. This allows the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle.

  • Open your new bottle of wine.
  • Tilt the neck of the bottle toward the decanter. Keep the bottom of the bottle below an angle of 45 degrees to prevent the wine from gushing forth (and disturbing the sediment).
  • Pour the wine into the decanter at a steady pace. Look for any sediment that approaches the opening (shining a light or candle can help).
  • Stop decanting if you see any sediment approaching the neck of the bottle. Tilt the bottle back to upright, then start again.
  • Finish pouring the wine, leaving about half an ounce in the bottle with the sediment.

Decanting can be done up to four hours before you anticipate drinking the wine. There is little risk of over-decanting most wine, however try to enjoy or recork the wine within 18 hours.

How to Serve A Decanted Bottle of Wine

Even though your wine is now in a separate vessel, make sure to keep both the original bottle and cork (or screw top). If you’re serving the wine to guests, display the original bottle and cork alongside the decanter. The label will alert your guests as to what they’re drinking, and the cork is useful to keep in case you need to pour the wine back in the bottle and save it for later.