1.2 What are these vases all about?
A decanter may look like something you put a bouquet of flowers in, but they are more than just a fancy way to serve wine. They have an important job.
Why use a decanter? The large bowl bit of the decanter allows the wine a chance to breathe by providing space to sit and expose a large surface area to oxygen. This oxygenation is important for red wines as it helps to settle any sediment, smooth out tannin (the drying feeling in your mouth and the taste of bitterness is how you register tannin in wine, it’s from the skins of grapes, nothing sinister) and open up the wines aromas and flavours. It’s not just old wines that benefit from decanting, Young wines tend to have more tannin so if you’re finding a wine challenging to drink, try decanting it for a while.
A rule of thumb guide to decanting times. For Old reds (20 years+ in bottle) decant immediately before serving, oxygenation will have happened (slowly) through bottle age, you just want to reduce the sediment. Red Wines that are Full Bodied (opaque, you can’t see through) like a syrah or malbec, can need up to three hours in a decanter before serving. Red wines that are medium Bodied (semi opaque, you could make out shapes through the glass) require about an hours decanting. Fortified wines (like port) benefit from two hours and decanting is best avoided for white wines and bubbly
Some people swear by using a blender to speed up the aeration process (just a 30 second blitz). Is this a shortcut too far? Maybe. A slower approach means that you can keep tasting it, get a sense of when it’s ready for your taste. If you speed it up, you run the risk of missing that perfect (for you) moment.