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When I was first introduced to the world of wine, I thought using a decanter was reserved for expensive ancient wine. Once I learned a little more about wine, I realized how much decanting improved the taste of my wine. But how long should I decant my wine without the risk of ruining it? I set about finding the answer.
Decant white wine, rosé, light-bodied red, and older wines in a narrow decanter for 20 – 30 minutes. Decant Medium-bodied red wines in a medium-base decanter for 30 – 60 minutes. Decant full-bodied red wines into a wide-base decanter for 1 – 2 hours.
Let’s take a closer look at the decanting times for different specific wines so that you can enjoy your next glass of wine at its best.
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How Long To Decant Wine Before Serving / Drinking
When deciding the amount of time you need to decant wine before serving or drinking, we need to consider carefully the type of wine we want to decant and why we want to decant it in the first place.
Regarding red wines, most reds benefit from spending time in the decanter. The more robust the red wine with the higher level of tannins, the more that specific wine will benefit from spending additional time in the decanter before serving.
Older wines and lighter-bodied wines such as whites and rosés need very little decanting as the aromas in these wines are delicate, and decanting for too long will cause the wine to lose its aroma.
The same goes for sparkling wines; in the very rare instances when a sparkling wine does require some degree of decanting to improve its aroma, the time in the decanter needs to be kept to an absolute minimum, plus you need to choose your decanter very carefully to preserve the sparkle during the decanting process.
Paul Kilmartin’s 2009 research article examined the effect of antioxidant polyphenols on a wine’s ability to absorb oxygen and change aromas. White wine and rosé contain fewer polyphenols and, therefore, absorb oxygen faster.
So, when we look at specific decanting times for white wine, rosé, or older wines, these usually require no more than approximately 20 minutes in the decanter for any sulfur dioxide and any wine reduction to evaporate so that the aromas can come through.
Regarding red wines, your decanting time can vary between 30 minutes and 2 hours to get the tannins down to pleasant levels. When it comes to red wines, there are two processes taking place your tannins are being reduced while the aromas of the wine are being elevated.
Ideally, I try only to serve my red wine once the fruity aromas exceed the tannin so that the tannins are not too distracting while tasting.
Because that is the danger of over-decanting delicate white wines and them losing their aromas, what I found helps the most is I only decant a small amount of wine at a time so that the wine that remains in the decanter has less of a chance of losing its aromas while I’m enjoying the first glass.
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How Long To Decant Sparkling Wine Before Serving / Drinking
It might seem counter-intuitive to decant your sparkling wine because pouring it into the decanter can quickly cause it to lose its sparkle.
The only reason I have ever felt the need to decant a sparkling wine is when there’s been some degree of reduction that needs to be evaporated off or if I can detect sulfides on the nose.
When I decant a sparkling wine, I do so very carefully to minimize the loss of any sparkle. Once my sparkling wine has been decanted, I will only leave it in the decanter for a maximum of between 10 and 15 minutes before pouring, as this is easily enough time to evaporate any reduction in the wine as well as any sulfur dioxide.
On those rare occasions when I had to decant sparkling wine, I will always use a narrower decanter so that there’s actually less surface area of the sparkling wine than a traditional decanter because I want to preserve the fine bubbles – the reason why I chose to open a sparkling wine in the first place.
TIP: Wine Decanting is among wine lovers’ most discussed topics. Discover which wines need to be decanted in this article. Read this article to find out how to decant wines when you do not have a decanter. Wine decanters are often made of soft glass, so be careful how you clean them. This article explains how to wash a decanter in the dishwasher.
How Long To Decant White And Rose Wine Before Serving / Drinking
White wines and rosés have a delicate balance, and should you choose to decant your white wine or your rosé, you should not do so for too long; otherwise, you risk those wines losing their aromas.
Regarding delicate white wines, these wines have higher levels of thiols. These thiols give your white one those delicate fruity aromas of passion fruit, guava, and Grapefruit.
If your white wine has any of these three aromas, then you need to err on the side of caution when decanting your white wine, as these aromas tend to dissipate if your white wine is in the decanter for too long.
If I am decanting a white wine, I will limit the time in the decanter to no more than 30 minutes. In most cases, depending on the cultivar, I limit decanting to 20 minutes and sometimes less.
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Wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Colombard which known for having higher levels of thiols and give the aromas of passion fruit in the case of Sauvignon Blanc and guava in the case of Colombard.
I often tend not to decant these at all and instead let the wine breathe for a short period of time in the bottle so that any excess sulfur dioxide can evaporate. In certain circumstances, I might detect some reduction in the aroma of the wine.
I will then pour the wine through an aerator rather than using a decanter, as I don’t want to risk losing the delicate aromas of my wine.
Regarding rosés, I use the same decanting principle as for white wine.
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How Long To Decant Red Wine Before Serving / Drinking
When choosing a decanting time for red wine, we must separate our red wines into three categories. The first is our light-body red wines; the second is medium-bodied red wines, and finally, full-bodied red wines.
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Each of these three categories requires a slightly different decanting time to reach its full potential, as stated by sommelier Madeline Puckette in her book.
When it comes to light-bodied red wines such as Pinot Noir and Beaujolais, these wines benefit from approximately 20 to 30 minutes in a decanter.
This is roughly the same as the decanting time I would allocate to white wine or a rosé simply because all I want to do is have any reduction in the wine evaporated off, and that takes place within the first 10 to 15 minutes of being in a decanter.
Medium-bodied red wine benefits from between 30 and 60 Minutes in a decanter. Examples of medium-bodied red wines are Merlot, Grenache, Cabernet Franc, and Tempranillo.
These wines have relatively light tannins, and I have found that by 60 Minutes in the decanter, the light tannins reduce to next to zero.
Finally, we get to the full-bodied red wines such as Monastrell, Petit Sirah (I grew up knowing it as Shiraz), and Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines need longer in the decanter.
At the very least, you should have these wines decanted for 60 minutes, and in the case of some Cabernets and Sirah, this can extend for as long as 2 hours before you have the tannins reduced low enough for the fruity flavors of the wine to come to the forefront.
Practical Table Of Wine Decanting Times
Limit white wine, rosé, or older wines in a narrow decanter for less than 30 minutes. In most instances, 20 minutes will be enough for any wine reduction to evaporate.
The same applies to sparkling wine, but only if you detect wine reduction when you open the bottle. Use the table below to see how to decant your wine for red wines.
20 – 30 minutes
|Pinot Noir, Gamay, Schiava, Beaujolais, Zwiegelt
30 – 60 Minutes
|Grenache, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec,
Barbera, Barbera, Sangiovese, Tempranillo
|Cabernet Sauvignon, Nebbiolo, Tannat, Petit Sirah,
Mourvedre, Sagrantino, Aglianico, Touriga Nacional
Can You Decant A Wine For Too Long?
The short answer is that you can decant a wine for too long. We need to think of the aromas of a specific wine as being somewhere along a parabolic curve.
The aromas of our wine will increase up to a high point on our parabolic curve, and after that, those same aromas will dissipate until the point where your wine has nearly no aroma left whatsoever.
This is one of the primary reasons I seldom decant my delicate white wines with passion fruit, grapefruit, and guava as the primary aromas. These aromas are the quickest to dissipate if I leave the wine in a decanter for too long.
The same applies to sparkling wine, but for a very different reason; if I leave sparkling wine in a decanter for too long, those gorgeous bubbles that make sparkling wine so unique will dissipate, and the wine becomes flat.
How Long Is Too Long For Decanting Wine
Let’s look at how long is too long for decant wine. The basic rule of thumb will be when it comes to white wine rosé and light-body red wines, all you want is for any reduction and sulfur dioxide to evaporate off and, therefore, anything beyond 30 minutes will be too long.
If you have a medium-bodied red wine, I would look at anything well beyond 60 Minutes as too long in the decanter and risk the aromas to begin fading.
On the other hand, full-bodied red wines are the most resilient to the decanting process, and some will still improve their aromas after spending as much as 2 hours in the decanter. However, I would never push the decanting time on even a full-bodied red wine beyond 3 hours.
When it comes to really old wines, I won’t let those decant for very long because their flavors are incredibly delicate.
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Potentially, what I would do with an ancient wine is decant it carefully just so that I can eliminate any pieces of cork in the wine and any sediment at the bottom of the bottle and then serve the wine as soon after that as I possibly can.
If you use the decanting process to separate an old wine from the sediment in the bottle, I have a helpful hack to make the process easier. While carefully pouring the wine from the bottle into the decanter, hold a light source under the neck of the bottle.
This will allow you to see the silhouette of the sediment as it starts extending up into the neck of the bottle. That way, you can avoid pouring any of the sediment into your decanter.
What Happens If You Decant Wine For Too Long
A wine decanted for too long will begin to lose its aromas. However, it is not as if the wine will suddenly lose all of its aromas within a matter of seconds; in the same way that the aromas increase during the first part of the decanting process up to a peak, the wine will begin to lose its aromas over some time once it has passed the height of its flavor.
Delicate white and very old wines risk losing their aromas if left in a decanter for too long.
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How Long To Balance A Biodynamic Wine In A Decanter
When it comes to biodynamic and organic wines, these wines have a far higher chance of having reductions within the wine.
The easiest way to detect wine reduction is by sniffing the wine after opening the bottle. White wine reduction often smells like burned matches, while in red wine, you can detect smells of rotten eggs, old lunch meat, or burned rubber.
Therefore, these wines will benefit from spending time in the decanter. Remember that most wine reductions will evaporate in a decanter within 10 to 15 minutes.
Keep your organic or biodynamic wine in the decanter for approximately 20 to 30 minutes. It will be more than enough time for all of the reductions to evaporate and improve the flavor of your wine.
Only decant sparkling wine in a narrow decanter if you detect wine reduction when you open the bottle and then only for 20 minutes. Limit white wine, rosé, light-bodied red, and older wines to between 20 and 30 minutes in a narrow decanter.
Medium-bodied red wines should be decanted into a medium-base decanter for between 30 and 60 minutes. Decant full-bodied red wines into a wide-base decanter for one and two hours.
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