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.


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.