Hamish Hamilton in the Daily Telegraph (7 August 2016) explores the issue of whether it is worth decanting wine.
I have always thought that the main reason for decanting a bottle of fine wine was to let the air “breathe”, softening otherwise harsh tannins in robust red wines.
The other main benefit is to make it easier to separate any sediment from the wine, which could otherwise ruin the enjoyment of an older wine.
Yet the use of a decanter can sometimes look pretentious, and of course there is no guarantee that the wine in the decanter is unaldulterated or disguised by the less scrupulous!
However, decanters can be en elegant addition to the dinner table.
There are strong practical reasons for separating a wine with sediment from that sediment, which can taste bitter and physically gets in the way of enjoyment. This traditionally involves standing the bottle upright for a day or two beforehand and pouring the wine into another clean glass container (glass is inert and if clear allows you to enjoy the colour of a wine, which can be a great pleasure) with a strong light source behind the bottleneck so that you can tell when the sediment is about to slip into the neck and can stop pouring at that point. That light source could be a candle or any strong light such as a desk light, table lamp without the shade or strip lighting under a wall-mounted cupboard. Bear in mind that some wines coat the inside of the bottle with a deposit that will not fall to the bottom of the bottle however long you stand it upright – but nor will it make the wine cloudy.
I often decant full bodied white wines which may have no sediment at all, simply because they look so gorgeously golden in a decanter. A glass jug or clean bottle would do just as well in practical terms. In the famous Locanda Cipriani on Torcello in the Venice lagoon, local fizzy white Prosecco is served in vast glass jugs.
Scientists say we should decant at the last possible moment so that no part of the wine’s reaction with air be lost to us. As a host I confess I am prepared to sacrifice completeness for convenience with all but the most fragile old wines, say those over 25 years old, depending on their body and the style of the vintage. In practice therefore I tend to decant most wines that need decanting just before guests arrive, saving only really old bottles to be decanted just before serving.
Some young wines however are so tight and closed that, even though they are too young to have formed any sediment, they benefit from the aeration involved in pouring the wine from a closed bottle into another container. Jancis Robinson