Decanters are much like toasty makers (or any bulky kitchen appliance). They a bought or given as gifts, used a handful of times, then relegated to a hard-to-reach kitchen shelf where they collect enough dust to put you off ever using it again.

That said, a decanter is an essential instrument for any wine lover. I am not the only one that has drank a wine that has come to life only when you get to the end of the bottle (this is sometimes down to alcohol too!)

There are two main reasons to decant a red wine-

1.To separate the wine from the sediment

Some reds, particularly older ones can develop a sediment over time. Sediment, although perfectly safe to consume, tastes vile – this is where the decanter your parents received as a wedding present and never used comes into play. By gently pouring the wine into the decanter, you can separate the wine from the sediment.

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Photo courtesy of Kattaree Chaowanich

2.To allows the wine ‘to breathe’ or ‘open up’

Wine and oxygen has a complicated relationship.

Oxygen allows a wine to come to life: that bottle you didn’t finish last night which tastes even better today. But then it can also be wine’s enemy  – a  bottle that has been left for 4 days will now tastes like acid and old raisins. The trick is to have just enough time in contact with the air. So, 30 minutes to an hour in a decanter is normally enough time. Overnight in a decanter is a recipe for red wine vinegar.

What about white wines?

Although not a common sight, decanting the right white wine be amazing.

The trick is it should be a rich, full-bodied white. So think –

Oaky chardonnays from napa valley, Uco Valley- Argentina and white Burgundies like Meursault. Aromatic styles like Torrontes and Sauvignon Blanc tend to be ‘ready to drink’ from the bottle (not literally) but feel free to experiment.

Remember – decanting for an hour or less will rarely make the wine worst. Just be careful with very old wines (15- years and older) as they will fade away quickly, so decanting just before serving is best.