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Dear Dr. Vinny,
How long should Port rest in a decanter before you drink it? Is it OK leave it in a covered decanter for months?
—Hala, Fairfax Station, Va.
I wouldn’t recommend opening any bottle of wine until you're planning to consume it, even Port.
There are a few different reasons to decant a wine. Typically, when Port is decanted, the purpose is to separate it from its sediment. A mature Port can have quite a bit of sediment, as the pigments and tannins bond and fall out of the solution, a natural process of aging. It won’t hurt to drink those gritty bits of sediment, but it can be distracting and less enjoyable.
Once you pop the cork on a bottle of Port (or any wine), you expose it to oxygen, and it starts the process of oxidation, which changes the way a wine tastes, usually displacing fruit flavors with more nutty, oxidized notes. Port’s relatively high alcohol and residual sugar contents help protect it from degradation, but not for months. If you keep the bottle or decanter sealed and in the refrigerator, you might be able to eke out a week before you start to notice a difference.
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