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There is a danger with the subject of wine that is always lurking just out of, but near, the foreground: snobbery, and I include its counterpart inverted snobbery. It is worth remembering that wine is for enjoyment, and anything that enhances that enjoyment is to be supported. Talking about wine enhances the enjoyment of it; being fanciful, showing off, using language that fails to describe or give an insight into the wine being talked about is a boring waste of time; but constructive talk definitely enhances the drinker's appreciation of a wine.


So an inverted wine snob can pooh-pooh the process of decanting on the grounds that it is stupid toffee-nosed behaviour. There are certainly lots of wines that are not worth decanting: as a general rule cheap wines do not benefit from decanting; they are made to be drunk young, and have been deliberately produced to be poured straight from the bottle.


However, there are certain wines that definitely do benefit from decanting: some young wines will taste much better if they are decanted several hours before drinking, because this allows the air to mix with the wine to open up the flavour. This works particularly well with young tannic red wines, such as better quality clarets, Rhône wines (Hermitage, St. Joseph, Côte Rôtie, Châteauneuf du Pape, for example) and some expensive New World wines from places like California and Australia. Good quality white burgundy is also well worth decanting – the French do! I was taken out to dinner by a grower who I used to buy from a few years ago; we went to a local restaurant where he sold his wine, and so he took a couple of his wines along to drink with the meal; the red he took out of the cellar and just put the bottle in the car; the white, his best white, a Meursault Charmes, he decanted at home before we set off, covering the decanter with clingfilm and wedging it carefully in his car for the short journey to the restaurant. The third category worth decanting is older red wine, and the reason for doing so here is to separate the sediment that has formed in the bottle from the wine that you want to drink - sediment swirling round your glass does not enhance the pleasure of drinking the wine. But you do not have to use an actual decanter - a jug serves perfectly well for the purpose.


So there are certainly cases where there is a practical point in decanting – it will enhance your enjoyment of the wine.