4 minute read

Drink: Wine Decanting

The Perfect Pour

Story by Pablo Antinao

The simple act of getting some fresh air, even if it’s for a few minutes, allows us to naturally wake up and improves our overall well-being. In a similar way, decanting wine, or allowing it to “breathe,” can improve its overall flavor. The increased oxygen exposure decreases the intensity of the tannins and allows the fruit and floral aromas to come out, making it smoother and more silky.

To Decant or Aerate

Young, strong red wines (vintages aged 2 years or younger) benefit most from decanting because their tannins are more intense at this stage. While Malbecs, Syrahs, Cabernet Sauvignons, Bordeauxes, and Burgundies should most certainly be decanted, most wines can benefit in some way from being exposed to oxygen—whether a few seconds or a few minutes of aeration. Young white wines often do not embody their full flavors straight out of the bottle, so a shorter aeration period in a carafe can help improve their taste. Aged white wines do not need aeration, and sparkling wines should never be aerated to avoid going flat and losing any fizz.


Two types of vessels are typically used for aerating wine: decanters and carafes. A decanter comes in different shapes and serves different purposes depending on the type of red wine you’re aerating. A carafe is best for white wines that need less aerating time and are used mainly for serving.

How to Decant

Aged Red Wines

When decanting these red wines, you should slowly pour the wine into your decanter with minimal splashing at a 45-degree angle to avoid disturbing the sediment at the bottom of the bottle so they don’t lose their structure. Stop pouring the wine when you reach the sediment, which is usually about the last half ounce or so.

Young Red Wines

Using the splash or shock technique works well for red wines that haven’t been aged very long. You accomplish this by simply pouring vertically allowing gravity to empty the wine into your vessel and splash around. Manually swirling also speeds up the aeration process.

Young White Wines

These wines typically do not boast their full flavors until being exposed to oxygen. Aerating in a carafe is best and will enhance their taste. From a high distance, slowly pour your wine into your carafe so its surface is directly exposed to the air and somewhat forcefully splashes around.

Quick Guide

Light-Bodied Red Wine

Pinot Noir, Grenache, Primitivo, Shiva, Gamay

Best Style of Vessel: Chilled standard decanter with a narrow base and neck

Decanting Time: 30 minutes

Medium-Bodied Red Wine

Merlot, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tempranillo

Best Style of Vessel: Medium base or swan shaped decanter

Decanting Time: 30-90 minutes

Full-Bodied Red Wine

Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Tannat, Aglianico, Sagrantino

Best Style of Vessel: Wide base decanter with a long, narrow neck

Decanting Time: 1-2 hours

Young White Wine

German Riesling, oaky Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc

Best Style of Vessel: Chilled carafe

Decanting Time: 15-30 minutes

Tips & Tricks

1. If your bottle of red wine is stored horizontally and is 7+ years old or under 2 years old but unfiltered, allow it to sit upright for a day or two before decanting so the sediment settles.

2. Test your wine before decanting or aerating by tasting it. If you’re unable to taste the fruit and the tannins are strong, then it will benefit from oxygen exposure. You’ll know your wine is ready to enjoy when it tastes smoother and is pleasantly aromatic.

3. When pouring older or unfiltered red wine into your decanter, using a light to see the sediment can help avoid getting sediment too close to the opening. Stop and start over as needed.

4. You can decant your red wine up to four hours before drinking, but be sure to re-cork and preserve within 18 hours if not finished.

5. You can swirl white wine in a chilled glass instead of aerating it in a carafe.