The Art of Decanting: How To Decant Wine!

how to decant wine

Decanting wine is an age-old practice, often associated with luxury and sophistication. But what it really does is make the wine taste better!

The process involves pouring wine from its bottle into a separate container, or wine decanter, to improve the wine’s taste, aroma, and presentation.

Though it may appear daunting at first, decanting is simple once you know the steps involved. So in this article, we will explore the reasons for decanting, which wines benefit from the process, and the step-by-step method to decant like a pro.

Table of Contents

Why Decant Wine?

how to decant wine
  1. Aeration: Decanting exposes the wine to air, allowing it to “breathe.” This process enhances the wine’s aroma and flavor profile by releasing volatile compounds and softening harsh tannins. Aeration is particularly beneficial for young, full-bodied red wines, as it allows them to open up and become more expressive.
  2. Sediment Removal: Older wines, especially reds, often have sediment that accumulates over time. Decanting helps separate the sediment from the wine, resulting in a cleaner, smoother drinking experience.
  3. Presentation: Decanting adds an elegant touch to your wine service. A beautiful wine decanter can elevate the dining experience and create a sense of occasion.

Which Wines Benefit from Decanting?

  1. Young, full-bodied red wines: Wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Malbec often benefit from aeration. For a young wine, decanting can help soften tannins and reveal their complex flavors. 
  2. Older red wines: As wines age, they develop sediment, and their flavors evolve. Decanting wine helps remove sediment and can enhance the wine’s aromas and flavors.
  3. Some white wines: Although not as common, certain white wines like White Burgundy wines, Viognier, and aged Riesling can benefit from decanting. It can help open up their aromatic qualities and provide a smoother texture.

Step-by-Step Guide to Decanting Wine

how to decant wine
  1. Choose the right wine decanter: Select a clean, transparent decanter that allows for a wide surface area of wine to come into contact with air. This promotes better aeration.
  2. Prepare the wine: Allow the wine bottle to stand upright for a few hours before decanting. This allows the sediment to settle at the bottom, making it easier to separate.
  3. Remove the cork: Carefully remove the cork from the wine bottle, ensuring that no cork particles fall into the wine.
  4. Hold the bottle and wine decanter: Position the neck of the wine bottle against the decanter’s rim, holding the decanter at a slight angle.
  5. Pour wine slowly and steadily: Begin pouring the wine into the decanter slowly and steadily, without stopping. Ensure that the wine flows smoothly down the side of the decanter to maximize aeration.
  6. Monitor the sediment: As you pour, keep an eye on the neck and shoulder of the bottle for sediment. When you see sediment approaching the neck, stop pouring. Some wine will remain in the bottle with the sediment, but this is normal.
  7. Allow the wine to breathe: Depending on the wine, you may need to let it breathe for anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours before serving. Use your senses to determine when the wine is ready – when the aromas have opened up, and the flavors have softened.
  8. Serve and enjoy: Once the wine has had ample time to breathe, pour it into wine glasses and savor the enhanced flavors and aromas.

How Long Do You Have to Decant Wines?

red wine decanters

The duration for decanting wine depends on the type, age, and individual characteristics of the wine. Here are some general guidelines to help you determine the appropriate decanting time:

  1. Young, full-bodied red wines: Young wines usually need more time to aerate and soften their tannins. Decanting for 1-2 hours is often ideal, but some wines may require up to 3 hours to fully open up.
  2. Medium-bodied red wines: Wines like Merlot and Pinot Noir generally need less time to aerate compared to a full-bodied red wine. Decanting wine for 30 minutes to 1 hour is typically sufficient.
  3. Light-bodied red wines: These wines, such as Beaujolais and some Pinot Noirs, are typically ready to drink without decanting. However, if you choose to decant them, 15-30 minutes should be enough.
  4. Older red wines: Aged red wines may require only a short decanting time, around 30 minutes to an hour, to remove sediment and revive their flavors. However, be cautious, as older wines can lose their vitality quickly after being exposed to air.
  5. White wines: Decanting white wines is less common, but some full-bodied, oaky, or aged white wines, like Chardonnay, Viognier, and Riesling, may benefit from aeration. Decanting for 15-30 minutes is generally sufficient.
  6. Dessert wines and fortified wines: These wines, such as Port, Sherry, and Sauternes, usually don’t require decanting. However, older vintage Ports may need to be decanted to remove sediment, and 30 minutes to an hour is usually adequate.

Remember that these guidelines are not set in stone, as each wine is unique. Use your senses to determine the appropriate decanting time. Smell and taste the wine periodically to assess whether it has reached its peak aroma and flavor profile.

And if you’re uncertain, it’s better to err on the side of caution and decant for a shorter period, as you can always give the wine more time to breathe if needed.

How Do You Decant Wine Without a Decanter?

aerator v decant wine red wine decanters

If you don’t have a wine decanter, you can still decant wine using alternative methods. Here are some options to decant wine without a decanter:

  1. Stand the Bottle Upright: To prepare for decanting your wine, it’s best to place the bottle upright the day before. This allows any sediment in the wine to fall to the bottom of the bottle naturally due to gravity.
  2. Use a clean, wide-mouthed pitcher or vase: Choose a vessel with a wide opening that allows for good aeration. Make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and free of any residue or odors. Follow the same decanting process as you would with a wine decanter, carefully pouring the wine into the pitcher or vase, allowing it to breathe, and serving when ready.
  3. Pour wine into a large glass or wine glass: If you don’t have a suitable pitcher or vase, you can use a large wine glass or any glass with a wide opening. Pour the wine gently into the glass, and swirl it carefully to promote aeration. This method may not be as effective as using a proper wine decanter or pitcher, but it will still help the wine breathe to some extent.
  4. The “double-pour” method: If you don’t have an appropriate container for decanting wine, you can still aerate the wine by pouring it between two glasses. Pour the wine from the bottle into a glass, then carefully pour it into another glass, ensuring the wine flows smoothly down the side. Repeat this process a few times to increase aeration.
  5. Half-bottle decanting: If you’ve consumed half a bottle of wine and want to decant the remaining portion, you can use the empty half of the bottle as a makeshift decanter. Pour the remaining wine from one half of the bottle to the other, allowing it to flow smoothly down the side. Repeat this process a few times to increase aeration.

These methods may not provide the same level of aeration or elegance as traditional wine decanters, but they can still help enhance the wine’s aroma and flavor profile. Remember to monitor the decanting process carefully, as over-aeration can cause the wine to lose its vitality.

Do You Decant Wine in Bottle or Glass?

However, if you don’t have a wine decanter, you can still aerate wine directly in the glass using a few alternative techniques:

  1. Swirling: Gently swirl the wine in the glass to increase its exposure to air. This will help release the wine’s aromas and soften its flavors. Be careful not to spill the wine while swirling.
  2. Double-pouring: As mentioned earlier, you can pour the wine between two glasses several times to increase aeration. This method allows more air to come into contact with the wine, enhancing its flavors and aromas.

While these methods can be effective in promoting aeration, they may not provide the same level of elegance, sediment removal, or aeration that a decanter or other dedicated container would offer.

Do You Pour Wine Back in the Bottle after Decanting?

Once you have decanted the wine, it is not recommended to pour it back into the bottle. Decanting is done for two main purposes: to aerate the wine and to remove sediment. Pouring the wine back into the bottle would negate the aeration benefits and could reintroduce sediment into the wine.

However, if you want to pour the wine back into the bottle after decanting just make sure to clean the bottle of all sediments first and make some its completely dry. And use a funnel to pour it back.


Decanting wine is a simple yet effective way to elevate your wine-drinking experience. By understanding the reasons for decanting and following the step-by-step guide, you can easily incorporate this age-old tradition into your wine service. So, grab a wine decanter and enjoy the improved taste and aroma that this process offers.

However, if you want to pour the wine back into the bottle after decanting just make sure to clean the bottle of all sediments first and make some its completely dry. And use a funnel to pour it back.

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