By Lucie, communication
In Duration ~ 5 min

How to decant wine and what is the purpose of this operation?

Like settling, decanting consists of pouring a wine into a carafe from a bottle. However, the two operations do not have the same purpose. Here is why and how to decant wine.


What is the difference between decant wine and and settle ?


Principle of settling


Decanting is an operation that is carried out in a decanter with a wide base and which allows the wine to be aerated by bringing it into contact with the air. To further increase the oxygenation of the wine, it is advisable to pour it briskly into the container. This process is mainly intended for young wines to help them mature and reveal their aromas. It can also be used to tranquillise wines that have become a little carbonated and to improve wines that have been slightly reduced.


Once the liquid has been poured into the bottle, you can even rotate the bottle so that the wine can oxidise and air out optimally. Don’t put a cork in the bottle to let as much oxygen as possible into the bottle. Remember, however, that some grape varieties and vintages do not like to be exposed to too much oxidation. In this case, the decanter should be kept at the right temperature between decanting and serving. If necessary, you can store it in a bucket filled with water and ice cubes, making sure that the water level is the same as the wine in the decanter.


Principle of decanting


Decanting allows the wine to be separated from the lees, i.e. the deposit that forms at the bottom of red wine bottles and is a sign of quality. The container used must be slightly flared so that the contact surface between the wine and the air is as small as possible. Decanting is intended for older wines, even exceptional vintages, which are more fragile. Oxygenation that is too brutal can make them less tasty.


How do you know if you should decant wine or settle ?


As we have seen previously, decanting is best suited to a young wine, whose aromas are not yet very pronounced. Indeed, it is increasingly common for us to consume wines before they have been aged. In this case, decanting is a solution that allows the wine to develop its full potential and makes the alcohol less noticeable.

However, you should know that there are some wines that it is better not to decant. These are sparkling wines, which would lose all their bubbles.

To know if you should decant a wine, the best way is to taste it. After pouring it into a glass, start by smelling it for a long time to determine whether or not it develops pronounced aromas. Then put it in your mouth to see if it is acidic or if you feel a heavy sensation. Then leave the wine in a carafe and repeat the tasting. If it has improved, it needs to be decanted.

Decanting is for wines with firm tannins. The operation must be carried out delicately and following a few rules:

  • Before opening, leave the bottle in an upright position in your cellar for 24 hours to allow the lees to settle to the bottom of the bottle.


  • To prevent bad odours from forming inside, the decanter should be rinsed with warm water before and after each use. Then turn it upside down to dry.


  • Decant the wine at the last moment to prevent the wine from becoming stale.


  • Carefully pour the wine into the bottle without jerking. Hold the decanter at an angle so that the wine flows gently down the side.


  • Stop as soon as the lees reach the neck of the bottle. Some people use a lighted candle to see the deposits and place it against the light where the decanting operation will be carried out.


How long does it take to decant wine?


The decanting time for a wine is not the same depending on whether it is red or white. For a fairly powerful red wine, you should decant it between 2 and 4 hours before tasting. If it is a light red wine, decanting for one hour is more than enough.

As for white wines, they do not need to be exposed to air. You can therefore decant them just before sitting down to eat and present them to your guests.


How to distinguish between the different types of decanters?


For settling

A serving decanter can be recognised by its wide base and its fairly narrow neck, which can be straight or bevelled depending on the model. The latter also serves as a pouring spout, making it easier to serve the wine.


For decanting

The first decanters appeared in the 18th century and their shape has evolved considerably since then. Today, there are products on the market called “ducks” which have a very elongated shape, which facilitates the transfer of the wine by keeping the bottle in a lying position. There are also straight and tapered models, with particularly contemporary lines.


What to do if you don’t have a decanter?


If you don’t have a decanter at hand, you can “shoulder the wine”. To do this, simply remove a glass’s worth of wine from the bottle so that the level of the wine drops to what sommeliers call its “shoulder”. This will increase the aeration area. However, the aeration process must be multiplied by four on average.