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To Decant or not to Decant: A Beginner’s Guide to Decanting Wine

Have you ever noticed that your glass of wine tastes better the longer it’s been out of the bottle? Well you might not realise that this is largely to do with the wine coming in contact with the air.  Decanting has the same effect. Putting it simply, decanting is principally the method of pouring the contents of a wine bottle into another container, a decanter. People then may serve the wine straight from the decanter. Otherwise, it may go back into the original bottle for serving.

Many wine drinkers choose to decant their wine before drinking it. However, you shouldn’t decant all wines. In fact, various types of wine need decanting for different lengths of time. Here are some tips to help you ensure you always decant when you should, and not when you don’t.

What is decanting for?

Decanting is used for two reasons. Firstly, you can use the process to get rid of the sediment that may form at the bottom of your wine bottle. Although it is perfectly safe to drink this sediment, it isn’t always particularly pleasant to do so, and therefore many people choose to decant for this reason. The other reason is to allow air to touch the wine, as this can improve the taste.

How long should I be decanting for?

How long you decant your wine for depends on the type of wine you have. As a rough guide:

  • Zinfandel or Pinot Noir: 30 minutes

  • Malbec or Grenache Blend: 1 hour

  • Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo or Sangiovese: 2 hours

  • Syrah, Shiraz or Nebbiolo: 3 hours

Are there any wines I shouldn’t decant?

If you have any red wine older than 20 years, then you shouldn’t decant it. Or, if you do, it should only be done just before it is served. If you’ve left it to age, then you will have likely spent a significant amount on buy it. But excess decanting can cause it to taste like vinegar, a sure way to ruin what should be a wonderful wine.

Decanting can be a great way of making cheaper wines taste more expensive. However, you should always ensure that you are decanting for exactly the right amount of time. Doing so for too long may spoil the taste that you have been looking forward to.