If you drink wine on a regular basis, I promise that a wine decanter is a good investment. It’s easy to end up with more kitchen accessories than cabinets, but a decanter serves a truly unique value that you won’t find in say, a banana slicer. Decanting wine involves the simple act of pouring wine from its original vessel, the bottle, to a container with more breathing room.
To help you find the best wine decanter for your needs, I’ve put together this wine decanter guide, along with some of my favorite wine decanter recommendations.
Why decant a wine?
By decanting the wine, you achieve two goals – increasing oxygen exposure and reducing sediment prior to serving.
Increasing the oxygen exposure improves taste by softening tannins, letting out any residual sulfur dioxide, releasing any sharp, volatile, or overly acidic aromas, and perhaps more importantly, letting the wine’s fruit and floral aromas shine. Tannins are structural components of wine that can make it feel overly astringent or mouth drying and decanting can help soften this experience. Simply put, decanting helps wine smell and taste better, elevating an otherwise average wine experience into a great one.
With some unfiltered or very old wines, decanting also helps reduce the amount of sediment in the wine. This has two beneficial effects – it improves the texture of the wine by removing gritty sediment and reduces the risk of the astringency of sediment particles altering the wine’s flavor.
How do I decant a wine?
Open the bottle of wine and pour it from the bottle into your decanting vessel. Most decanters have wide bases in order to stretch out the surface area of the wine, thereby increasing oxygen exposure. A general rule of thumb is that the larger the base of the decanter, the faster the wine will be ready to drink since the oxygen exposure is maximized.
If you’re decanting to remove sediment, the process is a little more complicated. You’ll want to carefully remove the bottle if it was stored horizontally and slowly tilt it vertically. If possible, let the bottle sit for a few days, or at least a few hours, vertically. When you’re ready to decant, remove the cork and hold a light under the neck of the bottle where it meets the shoulder of the bottle. As you pour, pay attention to the clarity of the wine and stop pouring the moment you notice the wine becomes cloudy with sediment, so the sediment doesn’t leave the bottle. If you don’t have a small light source for decanting, make sure you’re decanting in a well-lit room so you can see the sediment.
The amount of wine left in the bottle will vary, depending on the amount of sediment originally. By preparing the bottle and allowing it to sit vertically ahead of time for a few days, you will create the least amount of wasted wine.
How long should I decant wine?
Decanting time depends on the type of wine, taking anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours, with an average time of 45 minutes.
Most wines decant in 15 to 45-minutes, so if you’re having a dinner party, best to begin when you start cooking or about 45 minutes before your guests arrive. Looking to be a little more exact?
- Full-bodied wines (Tannat, Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon): decant for 1-2 hours
- Cheap wines: decant at least 20 minutes. For cheap wine, extreme aeration helps bring out the flavors and aromas so don’t be afraid to vigorously pour and swirl the wine.
- Old red wines: decant for 2 hours, depending on the style. Old Pinot Noir from Burgundy, for example, is a delicate wine and wouldn’t benefit from excessive decanting.
Should I decant red wines?
Yes, most red wines benefit from decanting. Big, red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, or Petite Sirah tend to be initially “tight” when opened and initially conceal their true aromas and flavors, so they’ll benefit from the chance to breath and open up.
Should I decant white wines?
Higher end white wines that have been extensively aged are great for decanting. They’re not as tight as most big tannic reds, but decanting can still bring out secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors. Most young, everyday white wines do not need to be decanted.
Should I decant sparkling wines?
Decanting sparkling wines is based on personal preference. A lot of people love the bubbles in sparkling wine, also known as the mousse. Decanting greatly reduces the amount of mousse present in a sparkling wine, especially if decanted for an extensive period of time. This can be helpful, if the bubbles are too pronounced in a young Champagne, or it can be disappointing if the wine drinker enjoys the carbonation and that little nose tickle. Recently, decanting Champagne has become increasingly trendy for older vintages because it helps the quintessential biscuit, bread, and yeast notes really stand out.
How do you know when a wine is done decanting?
This section could easily be titled “the art of decanting.” The easiest way to understand how decanting is changing the wine is to taste the wine and simultaneously ask yourself, “is there anything else to be gained by allowing more time to go on?” If the wine tastes tight or tart, let it keep breathing. If the wine tastes delicious, drink up whenever you’re ready.
Best wine decanters
The Le Chateau wine decanter has a classic design and a wide base that’s perfect for decanting red wine quickly due to maximum oxygen exposure. This decanter is made from lead-free crystal, which eliminates any risk of lead leeching into the wine after being exposed to alcohol. Although this isn’t a large risk because of the wine’s relatively brief encounter with the crystal, it’s still nice to completely eliminate that concern.
This decanter holds 32 ounces, which is the perfect size for standard 750ml bottle of wine. The Le Chateau wine decanter is great for full-bodied reds.
When you’re finished drinking, this decanter is sturdy enough for the dishwasher, but hand washing is recommended for long-term upkeep.
The BTäT Decanter has a classic, wide base design with a few accessories to help maintain product life. Its sleek, minimalist design is attractive for dinner parties where your decanter will likely be on full display. The BTäT Decanter is great for full-bodied reds that need that extra breathing room.
In addition to lead-free crystal and a large size (60 oz) that can accommodate almost all volumes of wine, this decanter also comes with cleaning beads that easily remove sediment from hard-to-reach places, a drying rack to safely and securely dry the decanter after use, and a cork stopper to keep dust or fruit fries out of your decanting wine. Hand-washing recommended.
If you’re looking for a different style of decanter and a slightly lower price point, this u-shaped decanter with two open ends will do the trick. To use, pour the wine into the large opening and delicately serve from the small opening, which helps to control pouring volume and speed. The large middle section easily holds a full bottle of wine and allows for plenty of breathing room.
This u-shaped decanter is hand-blown from lead-free crystal. The design is a great alternative from standard decanters and is guaranteed to be a conversation starter with guests at the dinner table. Hand-washing recommended.
What you like to drink can determine the best type of wine decanter for your needs. As the name implies, the Merlot Wine Decanter is great for Merlot and other medium and light bodied reds like Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, or Dolcetto. Riedel is a widely-known and respected wine stemware and glassware producer so you’re guaranteed quality. This decanter easily holds an entire bottle of wine which makes for easy preparation. Hand-washing recommended.
If you’re interested in learning more simple ways to improve your wine experience, check out my recommended wine resources. Curious about wine pairing? Hop on over to my wine pairing guide for vegan food and guide to vegan wine.