Decanting Helps A Wine To Breathe
Decanting is the movement of wine from its original container to a fresh glass receptacle, leaving the sediment behind. It is supposed to allow the wine to breathe and improve the bouquet.
Stand The Bottle Upright
It is customary to stand the bottle upright for up to two days before decanting to let the sediment settle. Remove the cork. Hold the bottle over a light or candle so that you can watch for the sediment as you pour the wine slowly into the decanter. Watch carefully and stop before the sediment leaves the bottle.
Clean The Bottle First
Clean around the top of the bottle immediately after removing the cork. A slightly mouldy or old cork can affect the wine as it is poured.
Sediment Will Affect The Taste
It's usual to decant fine old red wines and some ports that have spent most of their lives maturing in bottle, as they throw a deposit or crust which if allowed into the glass, would sully the appearance and affect the taste.
Is It Always Neccesary?
There is some controversy as to whether decanting is necessary other than to separate off the sediment. When this debate was put to the test in Decanter Magazine (December 1997) it was concluded that decanting too long in advance was not that beneficial. The best option seems to be 'just to open and serve'.
Letting A Young Wine Develop
Exposure to air is said to improve the bouquet of young wines and can give the wine a chance to bloom and attain a stage of development that normally requires years of ageing.
Decanting The Occasional White Wine
Oaked wines, notably Chardonnay, are most susceptible to changes prompted by decanting white wine. High acidity, unoaked varieties such as Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are relatively unchanged by limited exposure to oxygen.
Chosing The Right Decanter
A wider necked decanter will let in more air and should be used with wines that are to be drunk that day. Thinner necked decanters would be better if you intended to keep the wine or port overnight.
One For Skinflints
Decanters also make the wine look better quality (fool your guests by buying less expensive wine in a restaurant, but requesting it to be decanted).
The Expert's Opinion
If you are still in some confusion, you could follow the advice of Bordeaux negociant Christian Moueix: 'I prefer to decant wines, both young and old. It is a sign of respect for old wines and a sign of confidence in young wines.'