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What is a Wine Decanter?

If you’re new to collecting wine, you’ll need more than a cooler and corkscrew. Today’s guide will show how why you should decant wine and how to get the best results when you’re aerating red wine. Let’s get started with a basic definition of a wine decanter. What is a Wine Decanter? A wine decanter ... Read more

If you’re new to collecting wine, you’ll need more than a cooler and corkscrew.

Today’s guide will show how why you should decant wine and how to get the best results when you’re aerating red wine.

Let’s get started with a basic definition of a wine decanter.

What is a Wine Decanter?

A wine decanter is a crystal or glass container. You pour your wine into a decanter before serving instead of pouring it directly into your wine glasses.

The main aim of decanting wine is to increase the amount of the wine’s surface area that is exposed to the air. When the wine interacts with more oxygen, this triggers the process of oxidation. This process helps to soften the tannins in the wine.

Additionally, decanting wine will eliminate the sulfites in wine that give off the unpleasant smell of sulfur. At the same time, oxidation will dilute some of the alcoholic and medicinal taste of wine.

You could perhaps achieve some of the above effects by pouring your wine into a glass, but those effects will not be as striking. Where a wine glass is designed to function as an efficient funnel, a decanter is constructed with aeration in mind.

As an added kicker, if you decant older red wine, you will reduce the likelihood of any sediment ending up in your wine glass.

Why Should You Decant Wine?


It is advisable to decant your wine in any of the following scenarios:

  1. When you have older red wine and you want to minimize the chances of sediment ending up in your wine glass.
  2. When you want to weaken a younger red wine’s tannic structure.
  3. If you need to take red wine from storage temperature to the optimum serving temperature.

Assuming the wine dictates decanting, you can expect to achieve the following benefits:

  • Aerating the wine
  • Removing the sediment from red wine
  • Correcting reduced white wines
  • Warming up the wine

Aerating the wine

Whether you use a traditional decanting method or a shock decanting method – more on those below – you will accelerate the oxidation process. At the same time, decanting will also speed up the evaporation process. Both oxidation and evaporation are chemical processes associated with intensifying both the flavor and aroma of wine.

Removing the sediment from red wine

Molecules of tannin in red wines form into chains. These molecule chains accumulate as sediment on the bottom of the wine bottle.

Decanting the wine allows you to intervene if you see the sediment when you are pouring the wine.

Correcting reduced white wines

You may find some white wines give off a pronounced smell of sulfur when you uncork the bottle.

If you splash decant a wine like this and allow it to sit in your wine decanter for 15 minutes, you’ll banish that foul smell of rotten eggs.

Warming up the wine

If you bring your wine out of a wine cooler at below the recommended serving temperature – this can happen if you are storing mixed wine in a single-zone wine cooler – you should always decant it and allow it to sit breathing for a few minutes before serving.

How Should You Use a Wine Decanter?


When you are storing wine, it is advisable to position the bottles horizontally so the liquid is in contact with the cork. Failing to do this can dry the cork out, causing potentially problems with uncorking.

If you intend to decant wine, by contrast, you should leave it standing upright for 12 hours beforehand. Doing so allows any sediment in the bottle to settle.

You then need to choose between the following two methods of decanting your wine:

  • Decanting
  • Shock decanting


With the traditional approach to decanting, you pour your bottle of wine into a decanter. You should pour very slowly for best results.

Some people prefer to place the decanter on a flat surface and pour while others hold the decanter while pouring with the other hand. The choice is yours.

Pouring the wine into the decanter slowly will minimize splashing, keeping more of the wine’s color and texture intact.

Beyond this, if you pour with a controlled and gentle motion, you’ll have more chance of noticing any sediment before it ends up in your wine glass. Pour using one hand and use the other hand to shine a light on the neck of the wine bottle to improve visibility.

Decanting your wine using the traditional approach will not remove or filter any offending sediment, but it will strengthen your chances of spotting it and removing it if you pour with precision and patience.

In some cases, you may need to use the shock decanting approach, so what does that involve?

Shock decanting

Shock decanting is sometimes referred to as quick splash decanting.

If you apply this technique, you will tip the wine bottle vertically. The force of gravity channels the wine into the decanter.

Just like with the traditional decanting approach, you can choose to hold the decanter or to set it down on a flat and stable surface. Try both methods and see which feels most comfortable.

When you shock decant wine, it will hit the base of the wine decanter forcefully, splashing off the bottom of the decanter and swilling around inside.

When should you use this technique, then?

If you have a young red wine that’s rich in tannin and you have been aging it for less than two years, it will respond favorably to shock decanting. When you aggressively aerate a wine like this, you will expose more of the wine to more oxygen. This more vigorous style of aeration helps to effectively isolate any sediment that’s built up in the wine bottle.

You should avoid shock decanting mature red wines with visible sediment at the bottom of the bottle.

How Long Does it Take to Decant Wine?

There is no fixed timeline for decanting wine.

If you choose to employ the shock decanting method, the process is quick and easy. You will derive the benefits outlined above almost immediately when you use this technique. You can drink your wine after just a few minutes of breathing time.


Shock decanting is a quick and easy method. The benefits you will derive are delivered near instantly. Drink after just a few minutes breathing. There’s no need at all to let it sit for more than 15 minutes when you’ve shock decanted.

If you are decanting older red wines using the traditional decanting method, you’ll need to experiment and dial in the time to suit your palate. Breathing time could be anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours or more.


We hope today’s guide has given you an insight into all aspects of wine decanting.

Pop back soon as we’ll be bringing you a roundup of all the best wine decanters out there. If you’re new to wine collecting, why not browse our reviews of dual zone wine coolers and built-in wine coolers so you’ll have the ideal cooling solution for your collection.

Don’t forget to bookmark Slow Wine Magazine and pop back soon. We are adding new content daily as we bring you a no-nonsense and jargon-free approach to collecting wine at home. See you soon!