Decanting wine is a simple process – a bottle is opened and its contents are poured into a glass container to allow the wine to “breathe”. What makes it complicated is deciding which wines need it, and for how long. (Your average supermarket plonk does not need to be decanted). Decanting is recommended for young wine – anything under five years old. Decanting a young red for at least 20 minutes will help dissipate the alcohol and balance the fruit and tannins. For a young white, such as a high-end burgundy, 10 minutes in a decanter will help to balance out the fruit and acidity. If a bottle contains a lot of sediment, decanting can help to separate it from the wine. If a wine has been stored properly (on its side), you can see sediment along the sides and bottom of the bottle. The bottle should be stood upright for at least a day before it is opened and then the cork carefully removed with minimal movement so as not to disturb the sediment. Slowly and carefully pour the wine into a decanter under a good light and stop as soon as the sediment reaches the opening of the bottle. A trick is to use a tea filter over a funnel to catch the larger particles of sediment before they go into the decanter. How to decipher wine labels Sediment is usually found in wine aged 15 years or older, especially if it is unfiltered or unfined. Optimal decanting times vary, but here are some guidelines. Bordeaux: between 15 and 30 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to decide when to pouras it is more interesting to smell and taste the evolution of the wine in the glass than just catch it at that elusive “perfect” moment. Burgundy: between 10 and 20 minutes. As burgundy is the expression of just one grape – pinot noir – it will show many facets over the course of an hour, beginning as soon as the bottle is opened. In fact, many enjoy burgundy straight out of the bottle. Amarone, barolo, brunello, super Tuscans: at least 20 minutes. These are the superstar wines of Italy and tend to be slightly higher in alcohol. Decanting helps to loosen their tannins and allows the wine to shine in the glass. Rhône: the reds from northern Rhône, in France, don’t need decanting but those from southern Rhône do. As one moves south, there is a noticeable change in climate and more warmth means more alcohol in the wine. Ten to 15 minutes in the decanter will loosen up the flavours. Australian wine: the big reds from Barossa, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra should be decanted whatever their age, to tone down the tannins, alcohol and ripe fruit. At least 30 minutes for wine with a high alcohol content (14 per cent or more); 20 minutes for those with an alcohol level below 14 per cent and for bottles aged 10 years or older. Californian wine: the American state’s Bordeaux-style reds need decanting, especially those produced at higher elevations. Youngish wines (five to eight years) should be decanted for about 20 minutes, or longer if they have an alcohol content of 14 per cent or higher. Wines aged eight to 15 years need at least 15 minutes, while older bottles require about 10 minutes. Decanters come in all shapes and sizes. One with a wide bowl at the bottom is best for young bottles as it will expose a greater surface area of the wine, allowing more of it to breathe. A taller decanter with a roundish bowl is ideal for older wines as its primary function is to collect the liquid as it is being poured to remove the sediment, not to give it air. The term “double decant” describes a process wherein the wine is poured into a decanter then back into the bottle, after the bottle has been rinsed to remove any remaining sediment. If no decanter is available, a clean teapot also works. And as a last resort, you can pour wine back and forth between two glasses to aerate it. Wines should be decanted at a temperature of 13 to 15 degrees Celsius.