How Long (and How Often) to Decant Your Wine
Wine can be a fragile thing. One wrong move and the entire flavor profile of the bottle can go south in a real hurry. Some wines are so sensitive that you cannot even drink them immediately after popping the cork. These wines are the sort that need to undergo an additional process known as decanting.
You might have heard of this process and even seen the fancy crystal decanters in some shops. The wines that require decanting before consumption are the sorts that are held in fairly high esteem by many; however, newcomers to the world of wine might have some questions.
The decanting process is just as sensitive as the wine you are trying to drink and has certain procedures that must be followed. A failed decanting can negatively impact the flavor and quality of the wine itself. With this article, we hope to guide how long and how often your wine needs to be decanted.
Which Wines Need Decanting?
The first question we need to address is which types of wine need decanting. Not every type will need to go through the process since it is designed to enhance the profiles of specific wines. However, this process does not apply to white wines. To date, there are no white wines that actually require decanting and can therefore be enjoyed right out of the bottle.
However, the various types of red wines in the world are a different story. There are very few red wines that do not need to be decanted before consumption. The age of the wine can also impact how the decanting process works. That said, the color of the wine is not the sole factor that affects the decanting process for each wine. There are so many different vineyards that produce their wines, and each of them requires a different decanting process.
The main point to take away here is that red wine that has aged to some degree is the wine you will need to decant. Of course, there remains the central question of how long these wines will need to breathe. So, before you break out your decanter, read on to understand the full value of decanting wine.
How Long Should Wine Be Decanted?
There is no simple answer to this question, as every wine has its process depending on the age and vineyard. Certain wine brands offer some guidance into how long their individual bottles of wine need to be decanted. For most, it is a matter of being thorough when the decanting process is underway to ensure that several factors meet the level of quality you expect. According to the manufacturers, the following wines should be decanted for a specific amount of time.
- Zinfandel: This Croatian red wine should be decanted for 30 minutes.
- Pinot Noir: This French red wine should be decanted for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Malbec: This Argentinian red wine should be decanted for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Cabernet Franc: This French red wine should be decanted for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Merlot: This French red wine should be decanted for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Barbera: This Italian red wine should be decanted for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Tempranillo: This Spanish red wine should be decanted for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Grenache: This Spanish red wine should be decanted for 30 to 60 minutes.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: This French red wine should be decanted for 2 hours.
- Shiraz: This Iranian red wine should be decanted for 2 hours.
- Barolo: This Italian red wine should be decanted for 3 hours.
Obviously, these wines do not encompass the entire range of available bottles in the world. However, there are far too many wines to list every one and list their individual decanting times. Understanding the reason behind decanting can be an important part of knowing how long you need to decant a wine. Decanting is done to improve upon any potential issues the wine might have if consumed directly out of the bottle.
You also need to time when you begin decanting wines before the intended serve time. Since some wines need more time than others, you need to make sure the process begins within that timeframe before the meal or event you are serving it. However, the age of your wine also affects how long the decanting should last. Older wines should be decanted for less time than younger ones since the latter are more fragile than the former.
Why Decant Wine?
No matter how intensive the production process, wine will never be perfect 100% of the time. In fact, there are many issues with wine that can only be solved via decanting. This is not to say that the wines themselves lack quality but simply deal with the unfortunate byproducts associated with the creation of the wine itself.
For example, one of the biggest issues you might find in a bottle of wine is that there is sediment leftover from the fermentation process. However, it is more likely that you will find sediment in a bottle of vintage red wines and ports that naturally build up sediment as they age.
For this reason, the older wines need to be decanted before they are enjoyed. No one wants to accidentally swallow sediment while enjoying a glass of the vintage wine they have spent so much money to acquire. The decanting process can help clear the sediment out of the wine so you can enjoy it properly. It is also a more involved method to ensure that the decanting is complete.
If a bottle of wine has aged at least five years, you will want to decant it using the following procedure:
- Allow the bottle to sit upright for at least 24 hours before the intended consumption date. Doing so will allow the sediment to come to rest at the bottom of the bottle and ease the decanting process.
- Uncork the bottle and ensure that the neck of the bottle is clean. Once clean, use a light source to shine under the bottle’s neck. With the light shining continuously through the bottle, you will be able to begin the process of decanting.
- Begin pouring the wine into your decanter or a clear vessel that you can use to pour the wine into glasses when it is time to serve. Make sure you pour the wine slowly into the decanter vessel with a steady hand and slow down further once you have emptied half the bottle.
- If you begin to see sediment in the neck of the bottle during the transfer process, stop immediately. The sediment itself might be difficult to spot if you look for a clump of material moving through the bottle. Keep an eye out for clouding or dust-like particles as that will be a prevalent form of sediment.
Whatever liquid is left will be full of sediment and should be discarded with the bottle.
Clearing out the sediment is only one component of the decanting process. The flavor profile of a wine is locked away and needs to go through a little more development before being consumed. To finalize this process, oxygen is required to aerate the wine and allow all of the tannins to round out the drink’s flavor. Oxidation ensures that the wine has the complete and full-bodied flavor profile expected from your drink.
Aeration also enables the process of evaporation, which can enhance the fundamental flavors of a wine and ensure that they meet the reputation they are known for, while also removing more harmful compounds found in wine. For example, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide are extremely common in red wines. They need to be purged to preserve the flavor and mitigate any harmful effects that might plague the drink. It allows you to balance out the wine when too many chemicals bring down the wine’s profile and remove impurities that turn the flavor into something less than enjoyable.
How Often Should Wine Be Decanted?
As we stated, every wine that needs decanting will have specific timeframes depending on the age and producer of the bottle. However, you might want a little more insight into how often you need to decant wine if you plan on saving some for another date.
So, you might be wondering if you will need to re-decant the leftover wine when that time comes. The issue is that there are limitations to how long you can store wine after opening it for the first time. Wine has a remarkably small shelf-life after popping the cork, so you would only have so much time before you either need to polish off the bottle or throw it out.
As we said before, the older wine gets, the more sediment it builds back up, and the more certain compounds grow in concentration. It usually takes around five years for significant levels to rise and cause an issue in the wine. So, in theory, you would only need to realistically re-decant a bottle of wine if it has been sitting for at least that long between servings.
However, most wine that has been opened will not last that long after the initial serving as too many outside elements are being introduced to what was previously a sealed environment. As a result, the wine will expire much quicker than it would have while still sealed. Even fine wines can only sit for so long before it turns or expires, rendering them unpotable.
So, the simplest answer is that you should only have to decant the wine once or twice. It is advisable to re-decant the wine between servings to ensure certain compounds burn out. However, this will require you to store the leftovers in a sealed container to slow the progress of the wine’s deterioration.
Share a (Decanted) Glass With Us
The enjoyment of wine is not something so easily accomplished. Some wine requires more preparation than simply popping the cork and pouring the glass. Decanting is a widespread occurrence in wine drinking, and there are many decanters available for purchase. Even luxurious crystal decanters are available for those with a taste for finer things.
However, the shell is ultimately irrelevant to the overall point of decanting being the preparation of fine wines for consumption. You will need to decant your wine to ensure maximum flavor, minimal excess compounds, and to observe the wondrous transformation of a long-sealed beverage into a clear refreshment.
Wine can be a unifying force for those willing to exhibit the patience necessary to enjoy it properly. We at the Wine Diarist are committed to expanding knowledge and understanding when it comes to the wondrous world of wine. Everything from how it should be stored to how it should be prepared is a key in deepening our understanding of this near-legendary drink. Wine has been enjoyed for centuries before and will continue to be enjoyed for centuries to come.
If you have further questions about wine, please feel free to browse our website for our collected works on wine and its enjoyment.
For example, if you’ve ever heard that a wine is “jammy,” but don’t know what it means, we have a whole article about it right over here. It includes information about what a jammy wine is, how it is made, and what to look for in one.
Or perhaps, you’re wondering what additives are found in wine nowadays, or how you can avoid wines with unwanted preservatives and additives. Fortunately for you, we’ve written an article about that, as well. You can find that article over on this page.
However, we know that we might not have addressed every question you might have about wine. The world of wine is incredibly vast, so much so that we may not yet have covered exactly what you are looking for. So please, feel free to leave a comment on our page asking about what you want to know so we can address it in our next post. Until then, we raise a toast to your health and happiness. Cheers to you!
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