It’s likely that you have a wine decanter sitting in your home, especially if you were recently married; yet you have no idea when or how you are supposed to use it. Or for that matter, why you even would.

Decant simply means to pour a wine from one vessel, its bottle, into another. While there are a lot of fancy decanters out there on the market, all you need is another empty container. We’ve played around with plastic pitchers, mason jars, even other empty bottles. They all do the job well, though they may not look as pretty.

The reason you decant a wine is to allow it to come in more contact with oxygen. As we discussed elsewhere, oxygen, during its initial contact with a wine can be very beneficial, enhancing a wine’s flavors and softening it.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can only decant certain types of wine, any wine, both white and red, can be decanted. We decant all the time. There is hardly a wine that is worse from being decanted, so our rule is, if you want to decant a wine, do it, even if you are just decanting it because you think it looks prettier in the decanter.

Decanting is also a great trick to ensure a wine is more likely to please all of your guests. The contact the wine has with the air rounds out the wine and makes it more pleasing to most people’s taste buds, plus if you have a nice decanter, it looks pretty sitting on the table prior to being served. Remember we taste with our eyes as much as we do with our nose and tongues.

To decant a wine, pour the wine from its bottle into your decanting vessel 15 to 20 minutes before you want to serve it, and just let it sit, then serve.

Recently a lot of “hyperdecanting” wine aerators and gadgets have come onto the market claiming to achieve even better results than the traditional method. Nathan Myhrvold (yes that Nathan Myhrvold, the world’s leading patent troll!), the author of Modernist Cuisine even advocates pouring wine into a blender and blending it to force even more air into it, but at VinePair we think the classic method works best, plus it’s the most elegant way to serve. Happy decanting.