To Decant or Not to Decant
Unsure of why and when to decant wines? Lots of people are, so here are a few general facts about transferring wine from bottle to decanter.
First, there are two principal reasons for decanting wines: to separate a wine from any sediment that might have accumulated in the bottle during the natural maturation process and/or to introduce oxygen to the wine (not necessarily always a good thing, as I’ll mention later) in order to encourage the wine to “open up” or express a broader range of aromas and flavors.
When should you decant wines? This depends on the individual wine. I find that a youthful wine (red or white) can benefit from a quick slosh into a decanter just before service. More than likely, the wine will continue to develop in the glass. The timing for decanting mature wines like Bordeaux and Tuscan reds, for example, can be a little tricky, however. Some wines might take hours to show their full spectrum of flavors while others might rapidly and shockingly oxidize before your very eyes. This is an example of oxygen as the mortal enemy of wine. As a general rule, I prefer to pour my young wines straight from the bottle and let them evolve in the glass. I also prefer to decant mature wines and serve them immediately in hopes of avoiding that deflating experience of watching a beautiful red wine turn brown in the glass.
Experiment for yourself to find out what decanting methods work best for you.