Some wines just taste and smell better after spending time in your decanter. These wines are usually full of tannins and complex flavors, just waiting to be uncovered. 

By decanting them, you’re allowing them to express their full potential. From hidden aromas of flowers and fruit to beautiful earthy notes of mushrooms and forest floor, some of these wines go from boring to outstanding after a few minutes in the decanter. 

To help you choose which wines to decant, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 wines that benefit from decanting. From bold heavy-weight reds to light and racy white wine, the varieties of wine that can be decanted may surprise you. 

Why Decanting Matters

Although you can enjoy your wine freshly poured from the bottle, many wines get even better after being decanted. There are two reasons we decant some wines.

Remove Sediment

First, decanting helps to separate any sediment, especially common in older wines over 10 years old. 

Sediment is not a good thing to have in your wine. Although it’s safe to drink, it’ll give your wine a gritty texture and bitter taste.

Sediment is a term used to describe color pigments and tannins that have gradually bonded and formed crystals over time. Decanting lets you remove them easily, leaving you with clean and sediment-free aged red wine. 

Aerate Your Wine

The second reason is to let your wine breathe and open up, a process that people in the wine world call aeration. This is good for younger wines that have tight tannins and compounds that are bound up inside the wine. 

These younger reds and sometimes even whites have hidden aromatic profiles that are just waiting to be let out. While full of flavor, tannic red wines become even better and more expressive after decanting. 

Some white wines benefit from decanting too. These wines are particularly ones with a distinct burnt match smell when you open them. This is caused by ‘reduction’ and can happen to many white wines and natural wines. 

Like anything else in the wine world, a lot of things depend on your preference. So get out your decanter and try experimenting. You may be surprised by what you like decanted. 

The duration of decanting your wine also matters. If you want to learn more, read our guide on how long to decant different types of wines.

Full Bodied Red Wines

These wines are full of tannin and often alcohol. Their flavors are often tight and need to be exposed to air in order to open up and expose their more delicate flavors and aromas. 

red wine decanted in luxury setting
Decanting is a simple yet effective way to make some wines taste their best. However, choosing the best wines to decant may be confusing, especially if you’re just getting into wine. 

When full bodied reds are aged, they have a high chance of developing some serious sediment. Decanting these aged reds is essential unless you want a mouthful of bitter and gritty sediment.  

After decanting these wines for over an hour, they’ll open up to express their softer aromas of fruit, spices, and earth. For some of the boldest full-bodied wines to really come out, you may have to let them decant for over two hours or more. 

Cabernet Sauvignon

This popular red grape from France’s Bordeaux region is one of the world’s most planted grape varieties. Cabernet sauvignon is a key component in some of the world’s most celebrated and age-worthy wines, such as Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon, Bordeaux, and some of the world’s great Super Tuscans. 

Many wines made from this grape are full of tannins and body, and can benefit from over an hour in the decanter. If you have a library cabernet sauvignon over 10 to 15 years old, it’ll benefit from a quick decanting to remove sediment. 

Bordeaux Blends

These powerful and age-worthy blends are some of the world’s most expensive and prized wines. Because of their tannins and complex structure, they too benefit from decanting. 

Depending on which side of the river they’re produced, Bordeaux blends are either cabernet sauvignon dominant or merlot dominant. In the blend, winemakers use cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, and sometimes malbec. 

Decanting times vary, so pay attention to the age. You can safely decant young Bordeaux blends for over an hour while aged library wines will open up after 30 minutes. 

Nebbiolo, Barolo and Barbaresco

These Italian heavy hitters usually need lots of air exposure to release their violet and cherry aromas and delicate forest floor qualities. You can decant aged varieties for 30 minutes to an hour.

Both Barolo and Barbaresco are made from the nebbiolo grape. This Italian grape produces wine that’s full of tannins, acidity, and alcohol, making it notoriously difficult to handle. 

Many winemakers and sommeliers swear that outside of Italy’s Piedmont region, nebbiolo just isn’t the same. Regardless if you have a new world or old world nebbiolo, decanting it for at least an hour is probably a good idea. 

Medium Bodied Red Wines

Medium bodied red wines have less tannin and alcohol than their full-bodied counterparts. Still, they can often benefit from 30 minutes to an hour in your decanter to develop their subtle flavors and aromas. 

side view red wine glass with grape horizontal

Merlot

Merlot is one of the most planted grapes in the world and makes high-quality medium bodied wines. In warmer climates or during hot years, merlot can come out fuller bodied and more tannic. 

During colder years and in cooler climates, it turns medium bodied and has bright red fruit aromas and mellow tannins. For these merlots, 30 minutes in the decanter may be all you need. 

Cabernet Franc

This Bordeaux grape has beautiful red and black fruit aromas with a hint of bell pepper and spice. Its mellow tannins and low alcohol make it medium bodied. 

Consider decanting cab franc for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on if it’s a cold climate or warm climate wine. This way, you’ll get all those complex herbs and minerality in cabernet franc to shine. 

Malbec

Malbec wines are famous for their diversity of styles and ability to complement food, especially grilled meat. The finest malbecs are medium bodied, with balanced tannins and low acidity. 

Decanting these wines for 30 minutes to an hour helps them express their juicy plum flavors and spicy aromatics. Some younger Argentine malbecs are fuller bodied and can be decanted up to an hour or more. 

Light Bodied Red Wines

Light bodied red wines contain even less tannin and alcohol. Their delicate and complex flavors and aromas will come alive from 30 minutes in the decanter or less. 

decant light bodied red wines

Many of the world’s best red wines are made in this style. In the world’s cold-climate regions, even typically medium bodied wines such as cabernet franc can become light bodied. 

Pinot Noir and Burgundy

Pinot noir thrives in cooler climates where it develops a light bodied, silken wine, full of complexity and unique flavors. In its home of Burgundy, France, pinot noir is made to express the soil and climate it was grown in, known in the wine world as ‘terroir.’ 

New World pinot noirs can be light and soft, like most Oregon and New Zealand styles. However, in California and Australia, pinot noir can take on a bolder and more full-bodied structure that could benefit from up to an hour in a decanter. 

Gamay and Beaujolais

Gamay is a grape that makes light, refreshing, and fruit-forward wines. Still, a quick 30 minutes or less in your decanter can help even these light-bodied wines open up. 

Beaujolais is the region in France famous for gamay. It’s slightly warmer than Burgundy to the north and produces gamays with tons of flavor and complexity. 

White Wines

Contrary to many people’s expectations, some white wines benefit from decanting. Although you don’t have to worry about removing sediment, a little aeration time in your decanter can help these wines release their finest and most subdued qualities. 

young white wine nature decanter white grapes

Another reason to decant white wine is to let out any unpleasant burnt matchstick or sulfur aromas that might affect these wines. This happens when wine doesn’t get enough oxygen during the winemaking process. With just a quick time in the decanter, these aromas will likely go away. 

Chardonnay

This popular grape is made in a wide range of styles, from oaky and buttery to crisp and racy. Sometimes, chardonnay makes wines that have a higher body than most white wines. 

With 15 to 30 minutes in the decanter, chardonnay’s can open up and come alive. The richest and most oak-driven California chardonnays from Napa Valley and the Central Coast do extra well with a little aeration. 

Riesling

This racy, mineral-driven wine can sometimes benefit from a little time in the decanter. Riesling is one of the most popular grapes in Germany and eastern France, and it can have intense aromas that benefit from opening up. 

As with all white wines, it can help to experiment. If you have two or three bottles of the same wine and a few guests to help you drink them, try comparing them side by side.

Which Wines Don’t Need Decanting

Even if you have a decanter, not all wines need to be decanted. Sometimes a wine will taste best poured directly from the bottle to your glass and enjoyed right away.  

The choice not to decant depends on the producer, age, style, and your own preference. From red wines, white wines, and sparkling wines, some wine is made to be as good as it can be immediately after you open it. 

For reds, the first thing to look at is its age. Some older wines that haven’t had the time to develop sediment might be good to drink right away. 

Other reds that rarely need decanting are lower-bodied reds. These include some gamays and pinot noirs that are aged just enough for their flavors and aromas to mellow out without developing sediments in the bottle. 

Finally, most white wines are good to enjoy right after opening the bottle. Young and acidic whites such as sauvignon blanc and pinot gris will lose some of their gentler aromas if you expose them to the air too long. This will make them taste less delicious and refreshing. 

Steps to Knowing if you Should Decant Your Wine or Not

Choosing whether to decant your wine involves a little wine knowledge and some taste-testing. As always, you can ask experts from the wine shop or wineries you bought them from. Or, if you’re at a restaurant, don’t be afraid to ask a sommelier.

Want to learn more? Read our Ultimate Guide to Decanting Wine

delicious wine

However, if you have a bottle of wine, follow our handy tips above. Think about if your wine is high in tannins, aged, young, or contains sediment that should be removed. 

When in doubt, don’t be afraid to open a bottle and try it immediately. If it tastes tight and constricted, or you smell a faint burnt match or egg smell, then you might want to let it open up in a decanter. 

In the end, decanting really comes down to your preference and taste. If you want to decant your wine, don’t be afraid to try. You might be surprised!