Decanting Wine: How Long Should You Do It?
If you’re a wine lover, chances are you’ve heard of decanting. But, how long do you need to decant a bottle of wine? And, which wines require decanting in the first place? Decanting wine is the process of separating the sediment from the liquid, which helps improve its flavor and aroma. In this article, we’ll guide you through the different types of wine and their recommended decanting times.
Decanting Red Wine
Most red wines benefit from decanting, but the time required can vary depending on the type of wine and its age. A younger wine with high tannin content may require a longer decanting time than an older wine with a softer structure. Here are some general guidelines for decanting popular red wines:
- Zinfandel: 30 minutes
- Pinot Noir: 30 minutes (e.g. red Bourgogne)
- Malbec: 1 hour
- Grenache/Garnacha Blend: 1 hour (e.g. Côtes du Rhône, Priorat, GSM)
- Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot: 2 hours (e.g. Bordeaux)
- Syrah/Shiraz (e.g. Australia): 2-3 hours
- Tempranillo: 2 hours (e.g. Rioja, Ribera del Deuro)
- Sangiovese: 2 hours (e.g. Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti)
- Vintage Port & Madeira: 2 hours
- Mourvèdre/Monastrell: 2–3 hours (e.g. Bandol)
- Nebbiolo: 3+ hours (e.g. Barolo, Barbaresco)
It’s important to note that these are just general guidelines. The actual decanting time may vary depending on the vintage and producer. It’s best to taste a small sample periodically to see if the tannins have smoothed out and the aromas are more present.
Decanting White Wine
Most white wines don’t need to be decanted, especially if they are highly aromatic. In fact, decanting may negatively impact the wine’s flavour. However, if you come across a white wine that tastes funky, like steamed mushrooms, decanting can help fix this issue. Full-bodied white wines from cooler climates, such as white Bourgogne (e.g. Chardonnay), may benefit from decanting for about 30 minutes.
If you feel like the bubbles in Champagne take away from the flavor, try serving it in a coupe glass or a globe-style aromatic glass, such as a Burgundy glass.
Tips for Decanting Wine
The following tips can help you decant wine like a pro:
- The younger and more tannic the wine, the longer you’ll need to decant.
- Double decanting quickly decants a “closed” red wine. Just pour the wine from the decanter back into the bottle and repeat as needed.
- Swirl your decanter to enhance aeration.
- Wine aerators are faster than decanters, but they are not advisable for aged wines.
- Use a stainless steel filter to stop particles from getting into the wine.
- Do not heat the wine when you decant it. Wine is sensitive to temperature.
- Most red wines last just 12-18 hours after being decanted.
How to Tell If Your Wine Is Ready
Taste your wine to see if it’s ready to be decanted. If the wine has very little fruit, overly tannic, or hard to identify aromas, it’s “closed” and needs decanting. Decant for the recommended time and taste it again. If the wine hasn’t changed much, keep waiting for another 30 minutes to an hour. When the wine is ready, it will be noticeably more pleasant and aromatic, and you should be able to smell fruit flavors. If it’s still not ready, try swirling it, double-decanting, or aerating it.
How Long Is Too Long?
Decanting introduces oxygen to the wine, which releases aromas and flavors but also increases the rate at which chemical reactions occur, causing the wine to degrade. When the wine degrades, the chemical reactions cause high levels of acetic acid, which is the same acid in vinegar. If you smell vinegar, it’s been too long. It’s important to keep in mind that not all wines require decanting, and the decanting time can vary depending on the type of wine and its age. However, by following these guidelines, you can enjoy a perfectly decanted wine every time.