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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is it worth ordering a bottle of wine at a restaurant if it needs an hour or two of decanting to show its best?
—Brandon, Naples, Fla.
I've ordered enough Barolo in restaurants to have a plan for this scenario: Order the wine right away, and request that it be decanted. If they don't have a decanter, ask for the wine to be poured into their largest wineglasses.
In the meantime, order a glass or a bottle of something else—maybe a white or a bubbly that will go well with the appetizer you’re eyeing.
By the time your main course arrives you can start enjoying that austere red—it will be closer to where you want it. Wines that “open up” with some air are usually still quite good when they're opened—it’s not like at 59 minutes the wine is terrible and it magically transforms into something terrific once an hour has elapsed. Let the wine evolve as the meal and the conversation does, and enjoy every moment.
But if you suspect you’ll be distracted by concern for the wine's evolution, or lack thereof, just order something else. Wine is meant to be enjoyed, not worried over.
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