Decanting wine seems to have become trendy again. Whether you are in a fancy new restaurant or the latest hipster hangout, decanters certainly seem to be on the rise despite many establishments not knowing how and when they should be used. 

As regular readers of the Octavian Vaults blog will tell you, our team of fine wine specialists simply love bringing you all the information you need about how to buy, maintain and of course consume your wines. In this latest instalment, we look at just when, how and why you should be decanting your wine.


Why Decant Wine?

First of all, let’s look at why people decant wine in the first place. Believe it or not, it isn’t simply to make your expensive wine look more aesthetically pleasing or to add some pomp and ceremony to your dinner experience.

The sole purpose, especially in the case of vintage wines, is to expose your beverage to more oxygen. It’s all about the chemistry and generally speaking, the higher quality the wine the more need there will be for the decanting process.

Cheap bottles of plonk will quite simply not need this process, although there is no harm in doing so. Decanting will never decrease the quality of your wine, it just lends itself better to wines that have been nurtured by master wine producers, rather than the mass produced wines you will see in your local shop or off licence.

When To Decant Wine

Now we have established why decanting wine is a good idea, the next question is when you should be doing this. Many individuals who are new to the world of fine wine panic about this part, in the fear that getting it wrong could ruin their merchandise.

This is true to a point but you would need to leave your wine out and exposed to the elements for some time in order to ruin it.

All wines are different, as we have discussed in previous articles here at Octavian. This means that the optimum time for decanting your wine and placing it at your table, varies although not by a great deal. 

This ranges from around half an hour for Zinfandels and Pinot Noirs, to three hours for Shiraz or Nebbiolo. So, all you need to do is a little online research prior to your engagement to find out just when your beverage is going to taste its best and when you should be placing in to your wine decanter of choice. 

Which Wines Should I Put In My Wine Decanter

You are perfectly entitled to decant any red wine you like even if is just for aesthetic reasons. However, there are certain wines it will impact and others that it could have a slightly strange influence on.

The most common question around this topic, is whether or not one should decant white wine. The answer is to tread with caution here as most white wines don’t need to go through the decanting process and there is a small number that could be negatively impacted.

However, if you do come across a white wine that has developed a rich, mushroom like flavour that many dislike, then this could be a rare instance when we would recommend decanting the wine. The aforementioned oxygen reaction should mellow this out and leave you with a very drinkable tipple in the process. 

So, be sure to consider decanting your white wine very carefully. If it smells and tastes okay then we would not suggest running the risk of ruining it; the process is really designed for red wines and their rich tannins.

How Do I Know When My Wine’s Ready? 

Finally, it is of course crucial to know when your wine is ready so you can consume it or serve it to your guests at the perfect time. There are three simple tests you can do to guarantee you nail this every time.

  1. Taste – It sounds obvious, but don’t be scared to try a little bit of the wine yourself to see how it’s getting on. If you aren’t picking up the tannins or the fruitiness, then the wine is still what is referred to as “closed” and needs a bit more time.

  1. Try again – Refer to your guide regarding your particular wine and then try again. There is no harm in giving it one more taste, but don’t panic. Your wine will decant successfully, sometimes it will depend on volume and the shape and size of your wine decanter.

  1. Pour – Once you start to get more fruit flavours when you smell or drink the wine, you have decanted your wine. You can then pour for your guests, which will aid the process further and they may want to swirl it in their glass for some final oxygen and aeration.

These tips should see you well on your way to successfully decanted wine. Give them a go and be sure to get in touch with Octavian Vaults should you have any questions about your fine wine or its storage.