That changes when you step up to an oaky Chardonnay or a fine red wine that is still in its youth. These wines have rough edges that often benefit from aeration. Opening the bottle well in advance of using, say an hour, will serve to smooth out some of its youthful roughness by allowing oxygen to speed up the aging process. This can be done, as well, by pouring the wine into a decanter about half an hour before serving.
For red wines that have reached their maturity, decanting becomes a must, especially if the wine was neither fined nor filtered. This bottle will surely be throwing sediment; a layer of fine particles that originally were in suspension and that has now settled to form a carpet at the bottom. Disturbing this layer of muck is not something you want to do, by pouring glass after glass. For this ritual, a decanter, a candle and a match are a must.
First, allow the bottle to rest standing up for several hours before uncorking. The older the bottle, the more fragile the cork, so caution must be exercised while slowly extracting the cork. If the cork disintegrates, pour through a coffee filter to filter out the cork fragments. Pour slowly and carefully over the lighted candle into the decanter while looking for the sediment to begin its movement towards the neck. If you have performed your act of surgery correctly, you will have trapped all of the sediment in the last ounce of wine in the shoulder of the bottle. Avoid this last ounce. Mixing in any of the sediment will embitter the wine.
Aged wines are not for everyone, but for the true aficionado aging is the final act in the wine maker’s drama. For here is where all of the disparate elements have resolved themselves to become an eloquent work of winemaking art.
To the fortunate possessors of these wines: Enjoy!