A lot of wine lovers baulk at the idea of decanting their favourite drink. It’s not so much the act of decanting that sends them into a spin so much as not knowing when to do it and what types of wine to do it to.

It’s actually way simpler than you’ve been thinking – you need to decant wines that are red, old and bold, ideally.

All wines will benefit, or at least not suffer, from being decanted. We don’t just do this to let the wine breathe and all that jazz, decanting also helps us to separate the wine from any sediment that’s collected at the bottom of the bottle.

True, decanting also introduces oxygen, but this is where the anxiety can start to creep in. We’ve all been guilty of opening a bottle of wine and not finishing it, or of leaving a glass unattended on a counter for a few hours, then finding it turned to vinegar. The process that causes this change is oxidation and it starts happening the moment you open a bottle. This is why, to stay on the safe side, you need to decant the wine around half an hour before you plan to drink it and certainly no more than an hour.

Why the old, bold and red rule?

Old and bold wines do well with decanting, but for different reasons. Older wines are decanted to remove the sediment that’s built up over the years. Older reds start to develop sediment after five years or so.

When you’re planning to drink an older red, turn it upright for a day or two so the sediment can collect at the bottom, then shortly before you plan to enjoy it, pour it slowly into the decanter, watching for cloudiness creeping into the neck. When you see this, stop and seal the decanter, which will slow down the oxidation process – older wines are more vulnerable to it.

For bolder reds, you need a bit of oxygen going in, as this can make the flavors and aromas stronger and more identifiable. It also makes the tannins softer, just in case your wine is more aggressive than bold! Young reds like Syrah, Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon definitely do well after decanting.