A Summary of Avoiding Mistakes During Decanting

  • Decanting is a great way to make some wines taste better.
  • It’s a straight-forward process and requires only a few tools.
  • However, there are things that can go wrong.
  • Knowing when, why, and how to decant is important.
  • Understanding the most common mistakes is key to avoiding them.

Decanting is simply the act of pouring liquid from one container to another. It’s as straightforward as that. However, doing it correctly and avoiding common decanting mistakes involves some easy to follow steps and a little practice. 

When and Why to Decant Wine?

Knowing when and why to decant wine depends on a few things. First, does your wine have sediment buildup and second, does it need to open up to let its tightly wound aromas and flavors breathe?

Sediments occur in aged wines over 10 to 15 years old. Decanting helps remove this sediment, which may cause some unpleasant flavors in your wine. 

Young wines and wines with a lot of tannin benefit from being exposed to air for a short amount of time before being consumed. This is where decanters come in. As the wine sits in a decanter, some of the less flavorful aromas evaporate, leaving you a better tasting wine. 

No matter if you’re a wine connoisseur or a beginner in the world of wine, decanting is easy and can really improve your wine-drinking experience. However, there are a few common mistakes to look out for. 

To help you out, we’ve included the most common decanting mistakes and how to avoid them. This way, you’ll end up with perfectly decanted wine every time. 

Moving the Wine Bottle Too Much Before Decanting

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when decanting is moving the bottle or shaking it before pouring it into a decanter. If a wine is old or unfiltered, any sediment that was sitting in place is now clouding your wine. 

Always stand your wine bottle upright for 24 hours or more before decanting it. This lets any sediment fall and collect at the bottom of the wine bottle. 

Carefully pour the wine into the decanter slowly. When it reaches the last ounce or two of wine, you’ll see that nice clump of sediment slowly make its way to the neck of the decanter, where you can stop pouring and discard it. 

If you already moved the bottle too much, chances are you’ll have to give up and let that bottle sit for another few days to let the sediment fall to the bottom of the bottle again.

Pouring Your Wine too Fast

One of the main reasons we decant wine is to capture any sediments in the wine. Once your wine has been sitting for long enough, pouring it into a decanter lets you remove the sediments before drinking. 

 high-quality wine still life in a decanter

Wine tasting shouldn’t be done in a hurry. The same thing goes for decanting. Pouring your bottle into a decanter too fast can cause the sediments to move around and make your wine cloudy. 

Another consequence is missing the sediments entirely. Properly decanting your wine means pouring slowly, especially at the end of the pour. This gives you time to catch the sediment before it makes it into the decanter. 

Using a Dirty Decanter

One of the most common mistakes people make when decanting their wine is not cleaning their decanters enough before and after using them. Appreciating wine means appreciating the most delicate flavors and aromas, and nothing’s worse than the flavors a dirty decanter can give your wine. 

Always make sure your decanter is thoroughly clean and dry before using it. This will prevent any chance of grime or residue affecting your wine after decanting it. 

Also, avoid using soap to clean your decanter. Soaps have chemicals that create residues on the glass surface of your decanter. These residues can leave an unnatural flavor and aroma in your wine, which is not what you want after decanting that special bottle you’ve been saving. 

Once you’re done decanting your wine, always rinse your decanter immediately and clean it. Air dry it well and make sure it is perfectly clean before using it again. 

Only Decanting the Reds

Don’t just decant your red wines. White wines, roses, and sparkling wines too can turn into beautiful versions of themselves after a bit of decanting. 

white wine carafe glasses table 1
Don’t be shy to decant some of your whites as well.

Anything age-worthy, such as a white Burgundy or aged German Riesling, will benefit from 15 to 30 minutes in a decanter. Also, some young white wines need time to open up outside of the bottle. 

Even sparkling wines and roses will open up and likely taste better when decanted for a short amount of time. If you’re curious, try tasting the same bottle decanted versus the same bottle poured straight from the bottle. 

Overdecanting Your Wine

If you choose to decant your wine, don’t leave it in the decanter for too long. This allows too much time for the oxygen in the air to react with the molecules in the wine, a process called oxidation. Wine oxidation creates changes in the wine that harm its aromas and taste. 

For aged red wines, over 15 to 20 years old, or white wines and roses, consider decanting for only 30 minutes. Most complex and young red wines with a lot of body and tannin can be left in a decanter for up to two to three hours. 

If you leave your wine in the decanter for a little more time than you wanted, don’t panic. Oxidation happens slowly, so even if your wine decanted for 30 minutes to a few hours too long, chances are it will taste and smell just fine. 

Thinking All Reds are the Same

One big misconception is that all red wines need to be decanted solely based on their color. While many experts acknowledge the potential benefits decanting has for many red wines, the decision isn’t just red versus white.

Decanting helps make many wines taste better, but not all wines need to be decanted. It also comes down to preference. Some people enjoy tasting a wine immediately after pouring it from the bottle. 

For decanting red wines, consider the wine’s age. For younger reds (less than 10 years old) or aged wines over 15 to 20 years old, decanting can help the overall taste by opening them up to air and removing any sediments. 

If your wine seems to be a little tight and you feel unimpressed after pouring a small amount into a glass and tasting it, then it may be time to use a decanter. However, if your wine is of average age and tastes great right after opening, then it’s up to you if you want to decant it or not. 

Being too Rough with Your Decanter

Like other fine glassware, wine decanters are breakable and need to be handled gently. Take extra care not to move them too much or set them on surfaces too aggressively. 

Most decanters are made to be strong enough for daily use. However, chips, scratches, and other wear and tear can happen if you’re not careful. 

This especially goes for washing it. When scrubbing and rinsing your decanter, be careful not to scrub too hard and make sure not to use water that’s too hot or cold, especially at the same time. 

Also, never use a dishwasher to clean your decanter. Not only will it not clean your decanter properly, but it might break it. 

Take Your Time and Enjoy the Process

Decanting can be a fun way to get to know your wine. By practicing and using your best judgment, you can turn decanting into another enjoyable part of appreciating wine. 

By slowing down and avoiding the common mistakes above, you will keep decanting stress-free and enjoy the best expressions of your wine.