Storing Wine in a Decanter



Wine, especially red wine works best if it is decanted before serving. Decanting removes the sediments and aerates the wine to release the aroma and the flavors, soften the tannins and dissipate the sulfites in the wine. Otherwise, the wine will be too closed, too tangy, and too strong for pleasurable drinking. 

The problem, though, is the remaining wine in the decanter. You don’t want to spoil that wine so what will you do with it? 

One important thing to note, use only glass decanter. For the sake of this article, let us assume that when we discuss decanters here, we mean only glass decanters. Lead crystal decanter should only be used for serving wine and not for storing, even overnight. Research shows that wine stored in crystal decanters can have lead levels of more than 5,000 micrograms per liter which is 100 times over the current Federal limit of 50 mcg per liter. 

Can you leave wine in a decanter overnight?

Yes, it can stay in the decanter overnight as long as it has an airtight stopper to stop over aeration of the wine. 

Does wine go bad in a decanter?

Yes, especially if it does not have an airtight stopper. While oxygen is good for the wine to release its flavors and aromas and soften the tannins, too much oxygen can cause the wine to oxidize. When exposed too long in open air, wine can change in its chemical composition, making white wine brown and red wine to be ruddy or orange. The  wine then becomes sour and is turned into vinegar. 

How do wine decanters work?

Wine decanters work in a way to aerate the wine. The design of the decanter makes this possible by allowing the air to mix with the wine in the decanter. The narrow neck of the decanter gives you a firm grip when swirling the wine in the decanter. The wide bowl increases the surface area of the decanter to allow movement of the air inside it. A good decanter should have a capacity of at least 1.5 liters to maximize that air space and surface area. 

While the wine is in the decanter, the air mixes with the wine, coaxing the closed off aromas and flavors to be released. Without proper aeration, you cannot detect the subtle citrus, floral, or fruity aromas and flavor of the wine. 

Another important job of the decanter is allowing the wine to release its tannins. The tannins make the wine taste bitter and acidic. Tannins are actually antioxidants that keep the wine from going stale. Contrary to popular belief, tannins do not cause migraine. Food high in tannins are tea, chocolate, nuts, and apple juice but none of these foods can cause migraine. However, they tend to aggravate it if you already have migraine.  

Sulfites are another substance in wine that is removed when you decant your wine. These are preservatives that keep the wine fresh and its flavors and aromas intact. However, without the dissipation of the sulfites in the wine, these flavors and aromas are also closed off. The sulfites can also have negative effects on people allergic to it. It can cause hives, stomach pains, headaches, and swelling of some body parts. While still in the bottle, the sulfites also prevent the wine from browning. However, after it is dissipated, it no longer has this preservative effect on the wine, resulting in the staling and souring of wine.  

As mentioned earlier, decanting removes the sediment effectively from the wine compared to pouring it directly into a wine glass. These sediments form over time while the wine is in the bottle. These can either come from spent yeast used during the fermentation process or tartrate crystals. If you are familiar with cream of tartar, this is made by grinding the tartrate crystals. Although these sediments are harmless, they can be gross and make you look like a sloppy host.

How long can you leave wine in a decanter?

While wine, especially red wine, is best if decanted, it cannot stay in the decanter for long. Overnight is okay, it can even stay in the decanter for 2-3 days as long as the decanter has an airtight stopper. Even if it does, it is not really airtight and the wine in it can get stale from being too aerated.

How long should red wine sit in a decanter?

Since the red wines are the most decanted wines, it can sit in the decanter for as long as 3 days. 

How long should you decant wine?

Wine can be decanted for at least 30 minutes for the decanter to do its job. Full-bodied wines like the Aglianico, Barbera, and Sagrantino and high tannic wines like Nebbiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Sangiovese need 3 hours or more of decanting. 

Medium reds like Cabernet Franc and Dolcetto with medium tannins and high acidity need at least 1 hour of decanting.

Old red wines more than 20 years old, though, may need to be tasted to know if it needs decanting. At least 10 minutes before serving is best, but test out every 5 minutes or so to see if the needed changes can already be perceived by the  taster. On this note, younger wines need longer decanting. 

After decanting the wine into the decanter, you can choose to return it to its original bottle after removing the offending sediments. This process is called double decanting which tends to open up the wine more than what is perceived when it was first decanted. You will notice in bars and hotels that they are not decanting their wines. That is because they have already done it. 

An Alternative to Storing Decanted Wine

A cheap way to store decanted wine is to put it back into the empty wine glass. Remove the oxygen by using pure argon gas wine preserver or an inert gas wine preserver made of nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide. These are perfectly safe gases and both wine preservers are endorsed by restaurateurs and wineries. Just spray the gas into the wine so the oxygen is pushed out then re-cork the bottle. Your wine will taste as good as a new bottle every time. 

Conclusion

Instead of throwing away your precious bucks with your spoiled wine, knowing how to store it properly is a good way to continue enjoying your favorite wine. Decanting is a good way to make your wine more enjoyable but be sure to keep the remaining wine well. One way also to preserve your wine is to keep it in a wine fridge. Here are some tips as to when to buy a wine fridge and a review of best wine fridges in 2020. 

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