Tips for double decanting a wine for restaurant consumption?

So I’ve double decanted before, but only in the context of an at-home situation in which we had more wines that needed decanting than we had decanters. I’ve never done a double-decant on a bottle I plan to take to a restaurant.

In a few weeks, I’m going out with some old friends for a twentieth-anniversary celebration, and thus am bringing a few twenty-year-old bottles to the restaurant, including one that WB and CT tell me shows best with a couple of hours of air. Given that it’s a special occasion, I want to make sure I minimize any newb mistakes around double-decanting for restaurant consumption. Hence, I’m looking for tips.

My questions are below, and I’ll say up front that I recognize I’m probably overthinking this.


  1. Does the time back in the bottle count against the total decanting time? For example, if I want to decant the wine for a total of two hours before consuming it, should I have it in the decanter for an hour and a half and then back in the bottle for thirty minutes on the way to the restaurant? Or should I do the entire two hours in the decanter before putting it back in the bottle? Basically: does the wine keep oxygenating once it’s been put back in the bottle?

  2. Any tips for getting the cork back into the bottle? Alternatively, any tips on getting a different cork back in the bottle if the original is damaged? I hope to get the cork entirely back into the bottle to avoid any issues with the restaurant refusing to serve a bottle that’s already opened.

  3. Any tips on transporting the wine? I suspect having the cork back in the bottle will be enough, but has anyone ever had any problems with leakage in transit?

  4. Any tips for discussing this with the restaurant staff? The restaurant we’re going to, while having good food, doesn’t have a sommelier on staff. I did already confirm they allow outside bottles.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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I DD all the time to take a bottle to a restaurant. I use an Ah So wine opener to pull the cork. I usually don’t have any issues returning the cork back into the bottle, unless its a really old vintage and/or there is cork damage. While the wine is decanting, I will wash out the bottle with water and let drip dry upside-down if there is sediment in the poured out wine or in the bottle. If the cork is in bad shape, ill use a cork from another bottle and if the sediment is caked on the bottle and doesnt come.out easily, ill use a different bottle.

I count the wine being funneled back into the bottle as adding approximately 1 hour to your airtime (definitely not an exact science). So if I wanted to decant for 2 hrs, I’d decant for 1 hour then put back in the bottle. If you take a sip at the restaurant and feel you want more air you can ask the restaurant for a decanter. There is some additional development once its back in the bottle with the cork retrned but its very slow.

Good luck and enjoy!


I do this all the time as well. A few thoughts:

  1. A 20 year old cork may be fine to re-insert, or it may be a little questionable. I like to keep used DIAM corks around for re-corking purposes, as you know they won’t break in half or drop little cork crumbles into the wine. I usually shove the corks in half way or a little more, as the restaurants I frequent don’t care about previously opened bottles. Haven’t ever had an issue with leaking.
  2. I like the put the empty bottle in the fridge or freezer (depending on serving order) while the wine is in the decanter. This way you can put the bottle on the table at the restaurant and avoid the wine coming all the way up to the temperature of the room while you drink through sparklers and/or whites.
  3. Typically I’ll drink an ounce or so at home to check on the wine. This gives the added benefit of a little more surface area at the top of the bottle for additional aeration at the restaurant (not sure how much impact that actually has, but it helps me justify a little taste at home :slight_smile: )

Interesting about how the funnel back into the bottle speeds up oxygenation – never thought about that, but it makes sense. Thanks!

Good idea on refrigerating the bottle. Never heard of this idea before. Do you also put your decanter in the fridge while the wine is in it, or just the bottle?

I used to do this a lot. Good advice so far, the only other thing I do is not cut the foil the full 360 at home, so I can bend it back over the cork once re-inserted.

Usually not an issue, but adds a layer of “it doesn’t look like it’s been opened” for those somms/staff that are a bit too strict about that sort of thing.

It depends on how soon after arriving at the restaurant I plan to drink the wine. Typically there is a flight or two prior to the reds, so I usually put the decanter back in the cellar, which is at 56 degrees. I would go warmer if it was going to be consumed right away. Just educated guesswork rather than exact science, but it has worked well for me.

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I would be sure to clarify with the restaurant that they allow pre-opened bottles to be brought in. (If they don’t have a som, they might not have even considered that you would open and decant them at home). In some states, there are supposedly liquor laws that make bringing in pre-opened bottles a problem. Many restaurants still don’t have a problem with this, but some make a big deal out of it, which can be a huge issue if they won’t let you in the door with your pre-opened DRC.

I double decant for restaurant consumption all the time. I don’t really concern myself with timing down to the minute. Basically any quality wine improves with air and will not degrade for several hours. If it’s really old and you don’t want to give it air, but you need to get it off the sediment, you can DD into a carafe right before leaving for the restaurant so it gets very little air, but that’s a different conversation.

So I will do a decant and then put the decanter in the fridge during decanting and then put back in the bottle right before leaving. I definitely try to chill the reds to 50 or so and the whites closer to 40, so it’s not over temp when serving. It’s easy to warm the first glass up with your hands. But this is also because basically every restaurant we go to is a 45-60 minute drive. If I had 10 min travel time, I might adjust accordingly.

Unless the restaurant has an actual Somm, not a wine steward, I typically do my own wine service anyway, so I don’t concern myself with foil cutting or cork protrusion. But I do typically push the cork in pretty deep to avoid leakage. Also, I’ve never had an issue in my state with a Somm and an opened bottle, so I don’t worry about that anyway.



Simply open the bottle at the restaurant and have them decant it then.
Then go to the thread, “The Myth of Letting Wines Breath.”

You’re welcome.

During decanting, wine actually gets the biggest dose of oxygen from when you pour the wine. The more aggressively you pour, the bigger the oxygen intake. The aeration that happens in a decanter when the wine is undisturbed is much slower.

So decanting a wine carefully off its deposit into a decanter and then back into the rinsed bottle is already a rather big dose of O2. Even if the wine is in a bottle, it has now quite a bit of dissolved oxygen and it will continue to aerate in the bottle, no matter how small the airspace/surface is.


IIRC Jamie Goode dipped into this, I think in one of his Wine science books. From (distant) memory it echoed what Otto is saying, that once decanted, there’s a lot of oxygen mixed in and that’s far more influential than relative headspace.


Got it – that makes sense. I’ll add that time in the bottle to my overall calculation, then. We have a bunch of pre-dinner plans before we’ll get to the wine, which is the main reason I’m asking this specific question.

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Good to know! Are his books worth a read?

Doesn’t address the issue of sediment though, e.g., for old Nebbiolo where the drive to the restaurant could disturb the sediment.


I respectfully disagree here. Your option can certainly be the right option, depending on the restaurant, your relationship with the restaurant, the wines, how much time you have, how much you do or don’t believe a given wine will benefit from aeration, and other factors.

But a lot of the time, double decanting at home is a good strategy for one or more of the following reasons:

(1) Old bottles with difficult corks and/or sediment, you can handle that all at home and return them to a clean bottle, then everyone can just pour and enjoy at dinner with no brain damage;

(2) Old Italians with the ultra fine sediment are better decanting off at home before the bottle gets shaken up in transit;

(3) Not every restaurant has all the decanters you want, plus asking them to use many of their decanters for your BYO bottles could be seen as an imposition;

(4) By handling everything ahead of time, the wines are ready to go and you don’t have to wait around for a server to show up, to open bottles, to get decanters, to decant. All those steps can take a long time in total, especially in today’s labor shortage world. Plus, again you’re asking the staff to do a lot of things for your BYO wine.

To the main question posed, I think the other answers above have pretty well covered it. The one thing I’d add is that in LA/OC, I’ve never encountered a situation where a restaurant objected to the wine having been opened beforehand, though you can certainly check with them if you want to be 100% certain. By not fully recorking, you can easily just pull the corks once the bottles are on the table, and save the wait staff the effort and yourself the delay of waiting for the bottles to open.


I’m with Otto on this, but thought I’d add to clarify: it doesn’t matter (relative to the aeration of decanting) how long the wine is in the decanter. The ‘airing’ comes from the pouring, even more so if you use one of those wiz bang aerator thingums. The amount of air interaction of non-moving wine at the surface/neck of the bottle or decanter is minimal.

Therefore: decant, clean your bottle of sediment if necessary, then pour right back into the bottle. Recork and you’re done.

Btw, chilling will slow down the affect of the aeration, so don’t overdo that part of the process. I often find that transit counteracts most at-home chilling, so I just chill at the restaurant.

Oh yes, the most important question: what are you decanting? Curiosity and all that!

In the current Decanter issue, there is an article stating that decanting older Italian reds adversely affects and is detrimental.

Goode’s? Basically all of them.

The Science of Wine of wine is a great source of knowledge, but a bit dull piece to read for fun because it’s quite super-serious, closer to a fleshed-out encyclopedia. Still definitely a book that is handy to have at hand.

However, I heartily recommend reading Authentic Wine and Flawless. When it comes to wine books, they are both absolutely exceptional combinations of hard facts, interesting science and easy, fun readability. Especially Authentic Wine basically reads itself.

I’ve also read I Taste Red and The Goode Guide to Wine, which are both good books - the latter maybe a bit less interesting for a more geeky reader - but not at the level of the three books I mentioned first, IMO.