Do we decant?

One of Australia's leading sommeliers, Frederic Rivard, has a firm policy to decant almost every wine he and his team serve.
To Mr Rivard, from The Ginger Room in Canberra,  it's a vital part of the sommelier's job because it presents wines at their very best.

Young and old reds, and aged chardonnays have the most to gain from a little oxygen contact because it helps freshen them up, he says.  Other sommeliers restrict decanting to aged reds to separate the bitter sediment from the wine.
Who's right?

As is often the case with wine, it's all about personal taste.
Young wines can indeed look bouncier and brighter with decanting, but taste the wine first to see if it needs it. Remember wooded white and red wines generally benefit from decanting more than unwooded styles.

Pour the wine into a carafe and then pour it back into its bottle. That normally does the trick.
It's often not necessary to buy any special equipment to decant wine, although a simple plastic funnel can come in handy unless, of course, you are particularly dexterous at pouring from bottle to bottle.

If you have a highly tannic young red go for a more vigorous aeration and use a proper decanting funnel.
You'll find them in good wine shops. Top of the range funnels come in sterling silver, and aren't cheap, but they are intended to be something you'd be happy to use in front of guests at dinner parties.

These funnels come in three parts: a top sieve, a funnel and stand.
The top sieve collects bits of cork and wine sediment.
The sieve on the bottom of the spout makes the wine stream out and down the sides of the carafe or decanter. Contact with the air releases increased aromas and flavours, putting any harsh tannins back in their place.

Decanting and old wines - 25 years plus - can be hit and miss.
Some oldies shine brilliantly when opened but only for a short time. Others unfold in the glass over hours. You won't know until you open the bottle.

First step, stand the bottle up. The older it is, the longer you keep it vertical (a week, even more). Open it 30-60 minutes before serving.
Taste the wine. If it's lively and fragrant, capture the moment and drink it. I would.
If it's stinky, musty and closed, it will need decanting.
Pour the wine, gently, into a carafe or another bottle leaving the bitter sediment behind. Let it rest before serving.
Easy as pie really, especially the more you do it . . . or if you happen to be a seasoned sommelier.

But be warned! The more you get into this decanting business, the more you might be lured into the world of special wine equipment. Be wary. It will hurt your back-pocket and your partner won't be too pleased with the space needed to house your growing collection of imported crystal carafes, decanting cradles and machines and antique decanter labels (from the days when Jeeves used to do the job).

The decanting cradle is a particularly lovely piece of engineering reserved for aged wines. The bottle is (carefully, tenderly) placed in a metal cradle which keeps the wine at a perpetually inclined angle so that the sediment is rarely disturbed as the wine is (gently) cranked up to pour into a glass or carafe. A candle near the neck alerts the pourer when the sediment is nearing the neck.

Wine collectors swear by them because they pour off the maximum amount of liquid from an old bottle, an important consideration if you've spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on the wine.

It's a grand show and a bit of a hit at dinner parties, if you're into that sort of thing. . .
If you're not, spend the money on good wine glasses. These days, a good wine glass and some vigorous sloshing and swirling aids the enjoyment of young whites and reds and wooded wines -  the kind of wines that Frederic Rivard and his staff would be decanting at The Ginger Room.
Just don't try it with a 20-year-old red or vintage port.