Decanting is when you pour a bottle of wine into a glass or crystal container to remove any unwanted tastes and aromas and remove any sediment that’s built up over time. This process works well with many wines, especially young and tannic red wines. 

While some wine producers, winemakers, and sommeliers say they refrain from decanting champagne, many also swear by it. Recently, there’s been a wave of interest in decanting champagne, both from wine makers and sommeliers.

Before you start pouring your favorite bottle of $200 Krug Grande Cuvee into your decanter, read on below to learn more about what champagnes you should be decanting, steps to decanting your champagne, and more. 

What Champagnes to Decant

Decanting isn’t for every champagne, so it’s important to know your wine and your own personal taste. When in doubt, check with the winemaker, producer, or ask the sommelier or clerk at the wine store or restaurant you bought it from.

For some champagnes, decanting can enhance the aromas you smell and get rid of any stronger aromas and excess bubbles. For others, decanting could make a perfectly good champagne taste flat. 

Champagne in an ice bucket

Some vintages are more powerful than others. By decanting them, you’ll make their bubbles less aggressive. This lets more delicate aromas like white flower pedals and citrus shine through the glass. 

Other champagnes, especially small-batch champagnes and grower champagnes, may have built up volatile aromas in the bottle. This is caused by a process called reduction and makes the wine smell faintly like a burnt match. 

What Champagnes Shouldn’t you Decant

Not all champagnes should be poured into a decanter. Some are way too delicate to handle too much aeration. Plus, their bubbles may already be perfectly distributed and refreshing. 

Older champagnes are notoriously delicate, with soft flavors and satisfying effervescence. These aged champagnes like to be savored immediately so you can enjoy their natural freshness and delicate aromas. 

Ultimately, it comes down to the vintage. Some vintages are considered better for drinking right away and others may benefit from aging. Others may need to open up in the decanter before you try them. 

Tips For Decanting Your Champagne for Maximum Flavor

Once you’ve chosen to decant your champagne, it’s important to keep a few things in mind to get the most flavor out of decanting. By following these steps, you should get the perfect version of your champagne. 

Use a Clean Decanter

To help make sure your wine tastes the best it can, it’s important to clean your decanter. Wine gives off delicate aromas that can pick up other stronger and less desirable aromas easily. If you have soap residue or grime in your decanter, it will probably affect the taste of your wine. 

Thoroughly clean and dry your decanter before and after using it. Avoid using soap and instead use hot water or vinegar along with cleaning beads if you have them. This way, you won’t have any soapy residues in your decanter that will leave an unnatural aroma and flavor in your wine. 

After you clean your decanter, air dry it. Towels and paper towels may leave unwanted particles and dust on your glass decanter. Air drying avoids this and leaves your decanter perfectly clean. Read our guide to decanting if you want to learn more.

Prepare Your Decanter Correctly

Before decanting your bottle of champagne, chill your decanter in the fridge or in ice. This will help keep your champagne nice and cold before serving. 

Pour Slowly and Gently

Make sure you don’t shake your champagne too much when you pour it into your decanter. This is because it could release the bubbles quicker than you want, leaving your champagne tasting flatter and less effervescent. 

When you decant, pour your wine gradually and steadily into your decanter without stopping. Avoid creating any splashes or sudden pours. These splashes will interrupt the natural aeration which could over aerate older vintages. 

Pour at an Angle

Pour your champagne at a 45-degree angle down the side of your decanter. This is a much gentler way of pouring that will also help preserve your bubbles. 

If you pour your champagne at a 90-degree angle, you’ll notice a large foam of bubbles in your decanter. This means that your champagne’s precious bubbles are escaping into the air too quickly. 

Decant Your Champagne for the Right Amount of Time

Champagne is a delicate wine, with very little tannin and alcohol. This means that decanting it for too long will make it lose its aromas quicker. 

Try decanting your champagne for around 15 to 30 minutes. This will give your champagne time to soften its bubbles without losing its softer flavors and aromas. 

Consider Pouring Your Decanted Champagne in a Normal Wine Glass

Champagne flutes are there to look pretty and put your champagne’s beautiful effervescence on a pedestal. However, like other fine wines, champagne has a lot going on that may not be expressed fully in a narrow glass. 

Consider pouring your decanted champagne in a Burgundy glass or a normal wine glass. Pour slowly so you don’t agitate the wine. The trick is to keep the wine’s bubbles as refreshingly intact as possible. 

Don’t Overdecant Your Champagne

Overdecanting can make your wine taste and smell dull. This happens extra fast for some white wines and delicate aged wines. 

Aged wines and library wines over 15 or 20 years old will lose their flavor and aroma quickly once you expose them to air. This is because old wine’s aromas and volatile compounds have already gone through a lot of changes in the bottle. 

When you open an old wine, these compounds will evaporate quicker than in a younger wine. When this happens, you’ll be left with a wine that doesn’t taste as good as it should.  

The bubbles in champagne will also go away after a few days. This will leave your champagne tasting flat and less delicious. 

Why Decanting Helps the Flavor of Some Champagne

Wine is a complex drink that has an almost endless array of aromas and flavors. Bottling wine often restricts these flavors and aromas. 

When you decant a wine, you’re letting it breathe and open up. This makes a wine taste and smell less tight, more expressive, and more delicious. 

glasses champagne with bottle table

Decanting works by exposing the wine to air, a process called aeration. When your wine goes into the decanter, it transforms over a short period. If you leave it in for too long, the alcohol will slowly convert to Acetic acid, also called vinegar. 

When you decant your wine properly and for the correct time, two things happen. First, some of the wine’s harsher volatile compounds evaporate, leaving the better smelling compounds behind. 

Next, your wine oxidizes. This is when oxygen in the air interacts with all the gasses and compounds in the wine, leading to slight chemical changes in the wine. A little can be good, but over time, oxidation will ruin the flavor of the wine. 

To maximize your champagne’s flavor when decanting, decant until your champagne’s less desirable volatile compounds have evaporated, its bubbles have softened, and before it oxidizes. 

Best Decanting Times to Maximize Flavor

Some champagnes do well decanted for 15 to 30 minutes or less. However, each wine will be different and some wines will benefit from longer decanting times, while others shorter. 

The best way to judge how long to decant your champagne is by doing an experiment yourself. Take two or three bottles of the same wine and decant them at separate times. This way, you’ll be able to taste the difference and know exactly how long to decant your wine based on your preference. 

You can also ask the winemaker or winery. Many wineries and champagne houses have suggested decanting times or will let you know if you ask. This is an easy way to tell how long you should decant or if you should decant at all. 

Other Types of Sparkling Wine That Benefit From Decanting

It’s not just champagne that sparkles. There are many sparkling wines out there that may benefit from decanting. 

Although most sparkling wines don’t need to be decanted, there are a few cases where it will help. Wines such as traditional method wines, English sparkling wines, and Sekt can sometimes have intense bubbles that need to open up. 

Other sparkling wines may also show signs of reduction, which gives them a burnt match smell immediately after opening. A quick pour into the decanter and they will open up and show their more pleasant aromas. 

Just like champagne, other sparkling wines should only be decanted for 15 to 20 minutes. Any more than this and they will taste flat and lose their wonderful bubbles. 

The History of Decanting Champagne

Decanting has been a part of making champagne for many years. This is because winemakers have to add some extra ingredients to the wine to make the bubbles we all enjoy. 

This process is called secondary fermentation. This is when the winemaker adds a little extra yeast and sugar to the wine before sealing it to create more alcohol and carbonation, aka bubbles. 

champagne barrels

After the wine ferments for the second time, it leaves spent yeast cells, known as lees, suspended in the bottle. In the past, winemakers in Champagne would decant their wines to remove the leftover lees. 

If winemakers didn’t decant their champagnes, their customers would drink cloudy champagnes, which would hurt the wine’s reputation. 

Today, we have the technology to do this by making an ice plug in the neck of the bottle, which traps the dead yeast cells, making them easy to remove. This technology has made decanting less popular for champagne. 

Should I Decant My Champagne or Not?

As you can see, there are a lot of things to consider if you’re choosing to decant your champagne or not. Ultimately, it’s your choice. 

You can always ask the winemaker or test your wines yourself. If your wine still doesn’t taste the way you like, and if you think its bubbles are too intense, then you should pour it into your decanter for a short amount of time. 

Wine drinking is a personal experience and any rule is more of a guideline that you can break if you want. You never know, decanting may make your champagne taste even better. 

You won’t know until you try.