I have always felt that the wine decanter is the best wine accessory (after the corkscrew!) that a wine lover should have in their arsenal.
Decanting Most Red Wines is a Good Idea.
For one thing, younger red wines need time to recover from fermentation; and a lot of young reds have had no time for the flavors to knit. Air helps that process in young wines. Even inexpensive wines can benefit and “come together” with aeration.
Also, many mature red wines get a bit “funky” after years in the bottle and can benefit from aeration.
Decanting White Wines
What’s new is that many white wines today are in need of aeration, and the best way to do that is by decanting. But if they’re transferred into a regular large-bottomed decanter, they can’t stay cold very long.
Riesling and Gewurztraminer — and other aromatic varieties (including Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier) — would benefit from not only decanting, but staying cool in an ice bucket.
The reason for decanting whites is that some (notably those sealed with a screwcap) have a dose of sulfur dioxide that leaves the wine with a hint of a matchstick aroma.
Decanting aerates the wine and gets rid of most of the SO2. Other aromas that are not supposed to be in wine also can aerate off by decanting.
Red wines that are a bit too young to drink generally benefit from decanting. This includes almost all wines on restaurant wine lists these days.
After decanting, most red wines begin to “breathe” and open up. The aroma benefits, while the wine actually tastes a bit softer and smoother.
A Pulled Cork Does Not a Decanter Make
Simply pulling the cork on a bottle of wine does very little to allow the wine the aeration it needs to develop additional character. The amount of air that gets into the neck of the bottle is so small as to be negligible.
All quality restaurants should be prepared to decant any wine the diner requests. It’s one of the reasons you’re paying such a premium for wine in restaurants: why not enjoy it at its best?
One of my favorite slim-bottomed decanters is the Marquis by Waterford, selling for about $70. It is narrow enough to fit nicely in an ice bucket.
A more elegant — and expensive — solution is the Cooling Decanter by Eisch, a German crystal maker. The double-walled half-bottle decanter has a freezing coolant in a chamber between the walls of the glass. When it is placed in a freezer, the coolant gets below freezing.
When room-temperature wine is poured into it, the wine chills in a few minutes while the rest of the bottle is in the fridge. This handsome gadget has a retail price of about $150.
Then again, you could always pour your wine through a funnel and into another wine bottle!