When should you consider using a decanter?

  1. You are opening an old bottle that is clearly throwing sediment.
  2. You are opening a bottle that you suspect has big tannins.
  3. You want an elegant way to serve the wine for your dinner.

You can quickly see if a bottle is throwing a lot of sediment if you hold it up to a point source of light and see sediment down at the bottom of the bottle.  As long as you have not shaken the bottle, any sediment will be at the bottom.  This can happen because the wine was not filtered before bottling.  Some winemakers think you lose flavor when the wine is filtered and others think that modern filtration systems remove the sediment but not the flavor.  Also, older wines are more likely to produce sediment regardless of whether they’ve been filtered.

If you are opening a bottle that you suspect, perhaps from previous experience with that wine, to be very tannic, some gentle aeration in a decanter may help to tame those tannins so that the wine is enjoyable.  Exposure to air for a half hour before serving will soften the tannins and make the wine consumption experience more enjoyable.

Decanters are frequently very attractive and the use of the decanter can add to the aesthetic experience of wine consumption.