To decant or not to decant. A question often asked so I thought I would give my thoughts on the subject. Decanting is all about allowing some oxygen at the wine. Growing up I always thought taking the cork off the bottle would do the trick. But of course, the amount of surface area in contact with the wine is trivial so this does next to nothing. Decanting is all about bringing a large amount of the wine in contact with oxygen.
Experience will help you anticipate which wines benefit from decanting and how much. Some folks decant wine for as much as half a day, but I don’t. What I do is I will open the wine say 1-2 hours before the meal and taste it. I look for bitterness, and alcohol flavors in the wine that I deem undesirable. When I taste these I decide to decant the wine. How much of it I taste determines how long I think I need to decant it. Take a number of large body Niagara Cab Francs. These need a good two hours. Younger wines will need decanting more than mature wines.
Another reason why you may want to decant is sediment. Some wines will throw a lot of sediment as they age. Carefully pouring the wine into a decanter and leaving some in the bottle can remove most of the sediment. Then when you pour for your guests they don’t end up with stems and the like at the bottom of the glass. Some people really don’t like that.
Decanters don’t have to be expensive. They just need to have large surface areas. How much you pay for it has more to do with how fancy you want it to look. Mine is a duck style decanter similar to this one.
I highly recommend picking up a decanter. It can make a huge difference in the wine taking one you thought was nasty and revealing it’s true potential. Decanting can help to take a wine that really ought to be kept for another year or two and make it close to that NOW!!!