The 101 on decanting your wine

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “letting wine breathe” or that people like to use an aerator or decanter to open their wine up. But what does that really mean, and when is the right time to decant? Decanting wine has a variety of benefits, so let’s dig into the why and the how.

Why should you decant your wine?

Well, it’s not necessarily something that you NEED to do for every bottle, but it serves a handful of purposes. First of all, decanting is generally more important for red wines than it is for white or rosé wines. There are occasionally exceptions to that rule, but a general rule of thumb is that you’re going to want to decant your bottles of red wine. The bigger the body, the longer you’re going to want to decant. Within the first 15-20 minutes of decanting, reductive traits in red wines start to attenuate. After 30-45 minutes, volatile acidity starts to burn off and mellow out any burning or hot aromas in the wine. Exposure to oxygen can help expand the dominant aromas in the wine and dramatically enhance taste and nose. After about an hour of decanting, the tannins will calm down, making the wine taste smoother and more velvety.

How should you decant your wine?

Start off by sitting the bottle you plan to open upright for 24 hours to ensure sediment has settled to the bottom of the bottle. Once you’re ready, open up the bottle and slowly pour the wine into the decanter. Keep the bottom of the bottle low to ensure sediment doesn’t get disturbed too much. If you start to see sediment creeping up to the neck of the bottle, take a break from pouring and let it settle back down.

One of the wines I recently opened that was even more lovely after decanting for about 45 minutes was Carpineto’s Vigneto Poggio Sant’Enrico 2012. This is a gorgeous 100% Sangiovese wine and is very well balanced. Upon first opening, I got notes of bright red fruits on the nose – but after letting it decant for around 40-50 minutes, the aromas opened up dramatically. It esales notes of ripe cherry, plum, baked backberry, toasted oak and vanilla, a hint of cinnamon and chocolate, and a little tobacco. This bottle is an example that’s wonderful if you don’t decant, but the way it opens up even more with a little breathing time makes it worth the wait.