Decanters look amazing, probably one of the best tools to impress guests at home or in the restaurant. It turns out, that decanters are really only recommended for two types of wines:
- For young red wines whose taste feels quite closed upon opening the bottle. Decanting such wines will oxygenate them and likely release the full aroma.
- For old red wines who have a lot of sediments. Using a decanter will help you prevent pouring those sediments into your or your guests’ glasses.
This is nicely explained in this video by the company Riedel, responsible for many (seriously amazing) wine glasses and decanters, for proof check here.
Riedel also explains when and why you should use decanters in a bit more detail:
If you clicked at the pinterest link in the third paragraph of this article, you will have noticed that Riedel also sells decanters (and not for cheap), so maybe we should take this as a sign of caution.
Looking more closely at when and why to use decanters for your wine, we’ll see that the story is not as simple as that. Especially old wines with a lesser amount of tannins face the risk of oxidation when being in contact with too much oxygen at once. Oxidation makes a wine entirely undrinkable, the wine is said to have collapsed. The older the wine and the less tannins, the higher the risk.
Given this risk and the modest benefit, my personal opinion on when to use a decanter is quite simply: don’t use one. As to the why, this is split into two parts:
- Enjoy the experience of your wine developing in your glass throughout your meal. If you are at home open your good bottle of red wine 1-2 hours before the meal. If you are in a restaurant, make sure to order the red wine immediately when you order the food. If you have a sparkling wine or white wine first this gives the wine a good time to oxygenate. If it’s the kind of restaurant where you eat in less than one hour, then probably the wine won’t be as good as to require decanting anyway.
- You won’t die having some some wine sediments in your glass, the whole adversity of wine sediments supposedly requiring you to buy a decanter is marketing. If you have an older wine with lots of sediments, make sure that you (or the waiter) pours the wine into the glass very slowly, since the sediments are heavier than the actual wine, and assuming you haven’t shaken the bottle before, you will fully enjoy the wine in its fluid state throughout the experience. For the last glass, if you are worried, put a (tiny) candle in front of your glass and again poor very slowly to keep it inside the bottle and see them inside. But again, you won’t die having some sediments in your glass. If you are a party of people, you’ll surely find at least one person who doesn’t mind having the last glass (with pleasure). Unless of course it’s a genuinely bad wine, a decanter doesn’t help in this case anyway.