As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases with no additional costs for you.
I had once believed that you needed a fancy wine decanter to be able to decant wine. However, spending vacation time on wine farms and talking to winemakers, I learned that there are alternatives to using fancy decanters for decanting wine, including decanting wine in a bottle.
It is possible to decant wine in a bottle, although less effective than using a container that allows air to contact a bigger surface area of the wine. Bottle-decanted wine will dissipate all sulfites even though aromas will be less pronounced after using a decanter.
Let’s take a closer look at all the different ways you can decant wine in a bottle.
TIP: If you want to check out the best refrigerator for wine storage, I recommend trying out the Nutrichef (18 bottles) compressor refrigerator. You can find this refrigerator by clicking here (Amazon link).
Can You Decant Wine In A Bottle
It is possible to decant wine in a bottle. To use a vessel as a decanter, it needs to be made of glass, clean, and contaminant-free. Wine decants most effectively when it is in a container that allows a maximum surface area of wine to be exposed to oxygen.
Suppose you use a fairly narrow bottle, like an empty wine bottle, as a decanter. In that case, you will get the best results if you only fill the bottle halfway and keep it in a wine pouring basket (available on Amazon) so that you can give the wine more surface area to contact the air.
In his 2012 study, Yan Cui et al. examined 20 components in red wine and how each was affected by decanting into different size containers. The results showed that it was possible to decant wine in a bottle, but the results were less effective than those seen after using a purpose-made decanter.
What Can I Use If I Don’t Have A Decanter?
Any glass container you have available can be used as a decanter. In the past, I have used a carafe, vase, pint glasses, and even a mixing bowl as a decanter. My friend once used a goldfish bowl as a decanter, which also worked.
The concept to remember is that your goal is to give your wine a larger surface area so that it can be exposed to more oxygen while at the same time leaving the sediment in the bottle with careful pouring.
The most crucial factor you need to remember is that whatever container you use, ensure that the container is appropriately clean, or you can contaminate your wine. This is especially true if you are like my friend and use a goldfish bowl as a decanter.
An alternative to a decanter is a wine aerator like this one (available on Amazon). The purpose of the aerator is to increase the amount of oxygen that your wine is exposed to. Proper use of an aerator can reduce your wine decanting time by up to 50%.
One option that I suggest you avoid is using a blender to chop more air/oxygen into your wine. The bullet blender I tried did a superb job of adding a lot of oxygen into the wine very quickly, smoothing out the tannins.
However, the swirling blades somehow destroyed all the aromas of the wine at the same time. After blending my Cabernet Sauvignon for a minute, I could taste the alcohol and nothing else.
There were no other flavors or aromas in the wine. It was almost like having a glass of red vodka with only 12% alcohol. It was not the outcome I was expecting.
TIP: Wine Decanting is among wine lovers’ most discussed topics. These wines need to be decanted, and do this when you do not have a decanter. Wine decanters are often made of soft glass, so be careful when you clean them.
Can Any Bottle Be A Decanter?
In theory, any glass bottle can be a decanter as long as it is clean and allows a greater surface area of the wine to be exposed to Oxygen. The narrower the bottle, the less effective it will be as a decanter from the perspective of oxygenation.
Your narrower-necked bottle will still be effective at dissipating the sulfites, which happen easily as well as helping to separate the wine from the sediment which will stay behind in the wine bottle if you pour the wine carefully from the wine bottle into whatever you are using as your wine decanter.
If you have a series of bottles or glass vessels at your disposal, choose the one that will allow the wine to have the largest possible surface area so as to increase the wine’s exposure to the air.
Can I Decant Red Wine In The Bottle?
There is a way of decanting red wine in the bottle. It is what is more commonly known as allowing the wine to breathe. You do this by opening your bottle of red wine and setting it aside for 30 minutes or more before pouring.
This method of decanting red wine in the bottle is less effective than pouring the wine into a decanter. The reason is that a full bottle of wine has a minimal surface area of wine at the neck of the bottle. However, allowing red wine to breathe for 30 minutes will be sufficient to allow the sulfites to dissipate, which will already improve the flavors of the wine.
Another method of decanting red wine in the bottle is using the technique of double decanting. You start by carefully pouring the red wine into a glass jug or decanter, ensuring any residue remains in the bottle.
Set the jug/decanter to one side and rinse the sediment from the bottle using clean water. Finish by pouring the decanted wine back into the original bottle.
TIP: Do you want to build your own wine cellar? Check out these articles about wine cellars:
- The best materials for a wine cellar
- Factors that make a good cellar
- Estimated costs of building a wine cellar
Is A Decanter Really Necessary?
Depending on the establishment where you are dining, some sommeliers will insist on using a decanter and bringing the decanter to the table. I will be the first to admit that there is a pleasing aesthetic to having a decanter of red wine on the table during a fine dining experience.
However, in truth, a decanter is not really necessary. Any glass vessel that allows the wine to have a large surface area exposed to oxygen will work just as well. My experiences using a decanter have been somewhat stressful.
If you allow the last drops of wine to dry in the bottom of the decanter before rinsing it with clean water, the decanter becomes really difficult to clean with its wide base and narrow neck.
When I worked in a 4-star hotel during my college vacations, we did decant wine into a wide glass jug and then double-decant it into a carafe for the table. Both, the carafe and the jug, had wide necks making them far easier to clean.
This was vital during the hectic tourist season when we needed to clean up quickly to be in time for the next sitting. Washing decanters came with the risk of breakage, even more so when we were in a rush.
TIP: If you are interested in buying a wine decanter, I recommend purchasing these two top-quality decanters:
- USBOQO Wine Decanter (check it out on Amazon & read customer reviews)
- Iceberg Wine Decanter (check it out on Amazon & read customer reviews)
Can You Use An Empty Wine Bottle As A Decanter?
In theory, you can use an empty wine bottle as a decanter. However, you will get better results by double decanting and using a decanter or glass jug as a primary decanter before decanting the wine into the empty bottle.
Using an empty wine bottle as a decanter is also an excellent option when hosting a blind tasting. That way, blind tasters cannot access the original wine bottle’s shape or labels.
I was invited to a young-wine tasting at the Van Loveren wine estate by Nico Retief in the early 1990s when they selected wines for the annual South African Young Wines Show.
Van Loveren processes the grapes from each vineyard block separately so that I can taste four different Merlots and four different Cabernets from the same vintage. The winemaker decanted directly from the tanks into empty bottles for our tasting.
TIP: Check out this page for a complete list of wine products and accessories I love. You’ll find my recommendations for wine refrigerators, decanters, and aerators and the best place to buy wine online. Click here to see the complete listing.