A decanter is a glass vessel with a very large base that is designed to increase the surface contact area between the wine and air. You’ve probably heard that we don’t want air coming in contact with wine because it will spoil the wine. That is true while you are making and aging the wine but just before it is served, contact with the air is very desirable with most dry red wines. It is usually not important with white and rosé wines; however, serving any wine from a decanter is very elegant.
Dry red wines are usually improved with some oxygen contact for about a half hour before serving. If the dry red wine is just left in a bottle with the cap or cork removed for a half hour, it won’t get enough oxygen contact to do any good. How is the wine changing with oxygen contact? In dry red wines, phenolic compounds, especially tannins, play an important role in the mouth-feel and taste of the wine. Immediately after opening the bottle, these compounds can be aggressive and poorly integrated with the wine, but after some air contact, some dry red wines that were harsh and “just OK” become big, memorable wines.
Tassel Ridge Winery offers three different decanters priced at $30, $40, and $54. Functionally, they are all the same; however, the more expensive decanter offers features that make it easier to use.
The Tassel Ridge wines that will benefit from aeration in a decanter before serving include: Reserve Merlot, any of the Marquette vintages, and Reserve In the Dark.