Decanting is a strange word to many people. Some do not even know what it means exactly. Taking the sophistication out of it, decanting literally means pouring the wine from the bottle to a special glass container. This is done in order to expose the wine to oxygen and enrich it.
What is the meaning of this process? Do all wines benefit from decanting or not?
The wine experts are not in agreement. Some say wine should be decanted in order to allow it to "breathe" and develop fully before consumption. Others claim decanting does not contribute to the quality of the wine.
So who is right? Well, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Decanting does seem to benefit certain wines more than others. Most red wines, except for the very aged and some white ones would definitely benefit from decanting 1-2 hours before serving. Young red wines, on the other hand, which are low in tannins, light and fruity, would not improve if allowed to oxidize. There are also wines that would actually suffer from decanting. Those are the aged reds. Their quality could worsen if allowed too much contact with air.
Another important factor in decanting is keeping the right temperature of the wine until it's time to serve it. When it comes to white wine, one could easily place the decanter in a bigger bucket filled with cold water or ice. That would guarantee a crisp wine ready to serve and enjoy. However, when it comes to red wine, keeping the ideal temperature for serving is more difficult. The same technique as for white wine could be applied but with a minor difference - the temperature of the water in the bucket should be controlled by a thermometer. It may seem like a hassle but the exercise is well worth it.
Finally, a few words of wisdom - don't be afraid to experiment! Sooner or later you'll be surprised to find that you also have an opinion about decanting which you could adamantly defend!