Decanting wine--the process of pouring wine out of the bottle into a glass or crystal serving container--may seem like a waste of time. You may wonder what difference it makes whether the wine is served out of a bottle or a decanter. If your wine is a red--particularly an aged red wine--decanting can greatly enhance the drinking experience. Done properly, decanting any red wine can reduce the amount of sediment present in the glasses, enhance the aroma and taste of the wine and add to the visual ambiance of a dinner table setting.
Determine if you have an older wine with sediment or a younger wine without sediment. Older wines contain more sediment and are decanted in a drastically different manner from newer, younger bottles of wine. An older wine is generally defined as a wine that is older than 10 years. You can also determine if the wine contains sediment by pouring out a small amount into a glass and inspecting the fluid in strong light. If floating particles are visible, the wine--regardless of its age--must be decanted as an older wine.
Allow older bottles of red wine to stand upright for a minimum of two hours before opening. This allows the unwanted sediment to settle to the bottom of the bottle.
Position the bottle directly in front of a strong lamp, lantern or candle in such a way so that the level of liquid within the bottle can be seen. Slowly tilt the bottle until it is perpendicular to the lamp or candle and pour wine at a steady, controllable pace into the decanter. Pour slowly and do not use a funnel. Stop pouring as soon as sediment is visible in either the neck of the bottle or the decanter. Leave the decanter untouched for at least one hour.
Vigorously pour younger red wines into decanters. Young red wines not only lack years of accumulated sediment, they benefit from increased contact with air in order to enhance their flavor. Before serving, let the wine rest in the decanter for at least 15 minutes.
When decanting older red wines, be certain not to let the decanted wine sit out, exposed to air, for longer than two or three hours. Past this point, it will begin to take on a vinegary flavor. Store wine from the decanter, carefully sealed, in the refrigerator.