What’s the rule for how long a wine should be left to breathe in a decanter?

Leave Martin alone! He knows what he's doing!

Tough one, and not with a very straight-forward answer! But this is wine, right? And if there’s one thing to be learnt from the world of vino, it’s that nothing is straight-forward! Ever!

When it comes down to it, it’s really a matter of preference for how long a wine should be left in a decanter before you serve it:
– If a wine is young and bold, an hour or two should suffice. Any less than that, and a little vigorous swirling in the decanter might be required (like the guy in the cartoon is so aptly demonstrating)!

– If it’s older and throwing a sediment, you may want to drink it sooner before it slowly starts dying (as older wines have a tendency to “fade” faster).

There’s been a few times when I’ve decanted a wine (usually young and full-bodied Amarone, Barolo or Priorat) the night before, ready for service at a wine tasting the following day. It sounds like overkill, but I promise you they were MIND-BLOWING, and well worth the added prep!

Since there’s no hard and fast rules on how long to leave a wine in a decanter before serving, the best way (as always) is to experiment for yourself!
Buy a few bottles of the same wine (ideally one that would benefit from decanting in the first place, something young and bold), invite over a few friends, decant one wine 3-4 hours ahead of time, one an hour ahead of time, pour one straight from the bottle, and then taste them all……blind!
Whilst this won’t tell you your preference on how long every wine should be left in a decanter, but it will give you a good idea of how that particular style evolves when exposes to varying degrees of air.

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