Your wine collection needs a breath of fresh air. Literally.
From bold reds to crisp whites, decanting will improve most any bottle. It's easy, it's fairly quick, it brings out subtle nuances of flavor, and maybe most importantly, it'll impress the hell out of your dinner guests.
Sold yet? Next time you uncork a bottle, just take these factors into consideration.
Air = Good
Exposing wine to oxygen softens up the tannins, in turn bringing out some subtle complexities in the flavor and aroma. The difference is slight, but noticeable.
See for yourself by decanting only half a bottle, then doing a quick taste test to compare the difference.
Sediment = Bad
That extra air is great, but decanting goes beyond just opening up the wine to additional oxygen. Wines, especially older vintages, can have sediment, which will impart a bitter and lightly astringent note if it makes its way into your sip.
That kind of flavor is great for a Negroni, but not so much a glass of wine, which is why you want to decant a bottle you think might have some dregs.
Add Age to Younger Blends...
It depends on the varietal, obviously, but lots of younger wines haven't had time enough for the flavors fully mature. Exposing these youngsters to oxygen gives them a head start of sorts, boosting the flavor and body in minutes, not years. Just decant and then let sit for about a half hour before drinking.
...Or Freshen Up Older Ones
Older wines don't always need the added oxygen, but can benefit significantly from a good decant if they've developed sediment from years of sitting around. You could simply let the bottle sit upright for a few hours to allow the sediment to settle, and then pour carefully, but it's quicker to just decant using a mesh filter and start sipping right away.
You'll have to use your best judgement, though, because if a wine is old enough, adding lots of extra oxygen might be overkill for the already well-developed flavors. If you do decant, serve immediately.
It's Not Only About the Reds
We checked with the experts, and they agree: white wines are absolutely fair game for a proper decant. Whether you're cracking open a grassy Sauvignon Blanc or an oaky Chardonnay, a quick exposure to oxygen will give you a fantastic evolution of body.
Another well-kept secret? Decant your next bottle of bubbly. The expanded aroma and flavor will more than make up for the slight reduction in carbonation.
Clear Glass Is the Way to Go
You want a decanter with clear glass so you can take in the full effect of the wine in front of you. Clean lighting and a white background go a long way towards making the process as eye-catching as possible, and also let you take clearer note of your wine's hue and opacity.
Forget About Soap
Cleaning your decanter with dish soap can leave trace amounts of residue, which will work its way into your next pour. That's not good.
Instead, reach for some cleaning beads. Gently pour them in, add a bit of water, and swirl around gently. That'll clean the glass without leaving a soapy film behind.