I've written about decanting and aeration before (see "Should You Let the Wine Breathe?" and "Oxidation, Friend or Foe?") and recently came across another good article on the subject by Will Lyons of the Wall Street Journal. He summarizes the main reasons for decanting and points out the areas where professional opinions differ.
Here are his insights that I found the most helpful:
- You may want to decant your whites as well. It will open them up and allow them to warm slightly if they're coming straight out of the fridge. (Remember that fridge temperatures are a bit too cold for most whites!)
- As for how long the wine should sit in the decanter before you drink it.... Young wine can sit for several hours or even days, but if you go ahead and pour it into your glass, you get to experience how it's changing over time. Old wines should be decanted and then served right away, because they can be damaged by too much exposure to oxygen.
- If the inside of your decanter is encrusted with the wine from the night before (definitely a problem in my house), "fill the decanter with a handful of uncooked brown rice, pour in hot water and swirl around." I'm looking forward to trying this one.
My overall approach to decanting/aerating is to err on the side of caution. You can always let a wine sit in the decanter longer, or aerate it again, but once you've done it, you can't go back.