While I am a big proponent that everyone should own a decanter, if you don’t have one, you can still achieve similar results with tools and vessels you probably have lying around the house. The primary uses of a decanter are twofold: to “open up” or aerate the wine, exposing as much as possible to oxygen; and to remove sediment from the wine before you serve it.
On the aeration front, a decanter is great because it allows for a large surface area of the wine to be exposed to oxygen. This is why you can’t simply pop the cork and let the wine “breathe” and achieve the same results — the surface area of wine that’s exposed to oxygen inside a popped bottle is far less than wine poured into a decanter.
Decanting also removes a lot of the sediment that can be found in older, aged wines. This sediment won’t hurt you, but many people prefer not to drink it. Pouring a wine slowly into a decanter allows you to pour out the majority of the wine before getting to the dregs that have sunk to the bottom of the bottle.
But lots of items you have in the kitchen can be used for both of these tasks. If you don’t have a decanter, you can pour the wine into a pitcher or a carafe, a clean vase, a few pint glasses, or a bowl if you want. All would achieve the purpose of the decanter, at least at its most basic level. Now you might be thinking, “Adam, serving wine out of a bowl or pint glass isn’t very attractive, what do I do?”
Pour the wine back into the bottle! This method is called double decanting. With this method, you pour the wine from the bottle into another receptacle, being careful to leave the sediment behind in the bottle; then, rinse out the bottle with cool water, and pour the wine back into the bottle. This action aerates the wine sufficiently, removes the sediment, and allows you to serve the wine in its original bottle, instead of scooping it out of a bowl like you’re a character in “Game of Thrones.“