How to Decant Wine

Last Updated on January 18, 2023 | 0 Comments
how to decant wine

If you are thinking about how to decant wine, you might wonder if a wine decanter is just a fancy container; but it has more purpose than just looking pretty. Wine is decanted for two basic reasons: to mellow and balance the flavor, and to remove sediment before serving. 

When it comes to how to decant wine, most wines can benefit from the process. While there are some slightly different processes to consider for different types of wine, the overall process is simple and effective.

Below are some simple tips on how to decant wine.

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How to Decant Wine

The process of how to decant wine takes some planning. You can always learn expert tips from a sommelier or during a live virtual wine tasting; otherwise, the steps are fairly easy to follow.

If the wine has been stored on its side, set it upright. Let it sit for 12 to 24 hours to allow the sediment to settle to the bottom of the bottle.

Anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours before you plan to drink the wine — depending on variety — open the bottle and wipe the neck to keep cork crumbs out of the wine. Slowly pour the wine into the decanter, watching the neck of the bottle as you pour. When you see the wine start to turn cloudy, stop pouring. This is the sediment and you don’t want that in your drink.

According to Wine Folly, full-bodied red wines like petit sirah or cabernet sauvignon should sit up to two hours after decanting before you drink them. As these red wines oxidize, the tannins mellow, making them smoother to drink. For lighter-bodied red wines, white wines, sparkling wines and rosés, wait time should be around 20-30 minutes.

For best taste, drink the decanted wine within 18 hours of opening the bottle.

a sommelier can teach you how to decant wine
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How to Use a Wine Decanter

Decanters come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all have two things in common: they are made of glass or crystal, and they are larger on the bottom than the top. Glass doesn’t react with wine like metal or plastic would, and the larger bowl of the decanter allows the wine to interact with more air to help tame the tannins. 

When it comes to how to use a wine decanter, it’s a slow process, but sometimes you need to speed it up. If you find yourself with a bottle of two-year-old red wine that you want to drink right away, you can do a maneuver called shock decanting. This involves opening the wine and turning the bottle completely upside down, allowing the wine to slosh out into the decanter and splash off the bottom. This gives the wine a good mixing with air and, while slow decanting is best, this helps mellow a young wine in a pinch. 

pouring red wine into a decanter
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How Long to Decant Wine

When you are planning how to decant wine for a dinner party, you will want to give yourself enough time to do it right. Allow the wine to sit for at least 12 hours before decanting, and give yourself enough time to complete the process. As noted above, wines should be decanted for anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours before you intend to drink them, depending on the type of wine.

When you are thinking about how long to decant wine, consider how much you and your guests are likely to drink in an evening. If there is any wine leftover in the decanter, it’s a good idea to finish it up within 18 hours.

how to decant white wine
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How to Clean a Wine Decanter

Decanters come in all kinds of beautiful designs and some of them can be on the pricey side. Part of knowing how to decant wine is learning how to clean a wine decanter properly. Rinse the decanter out as soon as you finish the wine to reduce staining, then add an ounce of white vinegar and some hot water. Swish the mixture around the decanter and then set it aside. After 10 minutes, pour out the vinegar mixture and scrub the decanter with a brush. 

Stains can be removed by pouring in some salt and filling the decanter with crushed ice. Swirl the mixture around the container and then rinse. You can also buy stainless steel cleaning beads for decanters. One thing is certain; don’t use soap in a wine decanter. Soap leaves a residue and can affect the taste of the wine the next time you use it.

decanter of red wine on outdoor dining table
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How to Decant Wine Without a Decanter

Another thing that is important to know about how to decant wine is how to decant wine without a decanter. If you have a wine aerator, you can use that, but you can also use a blender.

Pour the wine into the blender, making sure to stop before the sediment comes out of the neck of the bottle. Whirl the wine for a few seconds to add air. Another method of how to decant wine is to pour it into a clear glass container and then carefully pour it back into the bottle. Make sure to leave the sediment at the bottom of the container.

glasses of wine on an outdoor table with grapes and cheese
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Wine decanters are so much more than pretty decorations. When you learn how to decant wine, you are on your way to a greater appreciation of the subtle nuances between different varieties and flavors.

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