To decant or not to decant?

Most of you will probably find this to be a total newb question, but I am quick to admit that although my interest, knowledge, and love for wines is soaring exponentially, I am an absolute novice in this world. But I am truly enjoying the journey, and enjoying reading and learning from this forum as well. Anyhow...

As my sig indicates, my favorite wines (for now, anyhow Wink) are big bold Italian reds like Brunellos. I have definitelty grown a taste for powerful and dry reds, though I am experimenting with a lot of different things on the side as well (mostly all some sort of red varietal, as I'm just not a huge white-drinker. At least not yet). I've had a few killer Cali and Oregon Pinots recently, and have also had some great Argentinian wines, and some fantastic Napa Cabs as well. (We're talking in the $20-35 range here, nothing too fancy).

I know that a wine like a Brunello needs to be decanted, but my question is (other than if there is clearly sediment in it) when should a wine be decanted? Are there certain 'guidelines' for what types/age/price/etc of bottles should spend some time breathing?

Generally - and I'm not saying I'm right here, just how I've been doing it - I have been decanting most anything that I knew was real strong (like a Brunello or Rosso), or had been aged a bit, or I had paid a pretty penny for. However, recently I have had some wines that either were not very expensive, or were not the types I thought you 'normally' would decant and so I didn't, yet when I drank them I found their flavor was going through fantastic changes after spending some time in the glass and/or the bottle being open! For example, just the other day I had a Marquis Phillips Sarah's Blend (not more than $18 or so) and not a wine I would have thought to decant... yet, after spending some time in the glass, and even the next day when i finished it, I felt it was a lot different and surprisingly a lot better than it had been fresh. The thought hit me, "wow, maybe I should have decanted that a bit!".

And so, I thought I'd ask you all your thoughts on the topic. Other than the obvious ones, generally what types and what wines (price? varietal? age?) should spend some time breathing? And when is it clearly not needed, or even bad to?

I'm sure there isn't a 100% blanket answer that covers everything, as no generalization holds true across the board, but what're your thoughts on this? I'd love to know. Smile

Thanks!!
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