Hand-blown, lead-free crystal. Elegant and effective. Holds two bottles. Excellent aeration.
Expensive. (But if you're a wine connoisseur, you'll appreciate why.)
Durable glass and compact design. Works quickly. Easy to transfer wine.
It would be great if this decanter were a little larger. It only holds one unit at a time.
Effective sediment filter. Aeration process quickly improves aroma/taste.
Glass is thin and fragile. Must be washed by hand.
Not the best aerator/sediment strainer, but it works well enough. Decanter is inexpensive and holds a lot.
Glass is ridiculously thin and could shatter under moderate force. Must wash by hand.
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If you’re a wine drinker, you probably already know that at the end of a long day, a glass of wine is the perfect way to unwind. And when you’ve prepared a delicious gourmet dinner, a good bottle of wine can complement your food so well that it elevates your meal to the next level. But if you’re not using a decanter, you may not be doing your wine justice.
A decanter helps a wine’s more complex aromas and flavors emerge so you experience the best taste when you take a sip. Decanters also add a decorative element to your table – and you don’t have to use yours just for wine. You can fill a decanter with juice for a special brunch or use it to hold water in your guest room for overnight visitors.
While choosing a decanter may seem simple – it’s just another container to pour wine into, after all – there are actually several factors that can affect its performance. You must choose among different shapes, sizes, and styles, so if you don’t know much about decanting, it can be tough to find one that best suits your needs.
Our expert, Francois, draws upon his 20 years of experience in the American culinary world to provide all the info you need to make an educated decision when you’re shopping for a decanter. If you’re ready to buy a decanter, check out the product list above for our top recommendations. For general information about wine decanters, please continue reading this guide.
Why buy a decanter? There are several compelling reasons.
Many wines, such as an aged Bordeaux or vintage Port, produce a lot of sediment as they age. The sediment can make the wine cloudy and give it a harsh taste. Decanting allows you to separate the sediment from the wine to make it appear clearer in the glass and take on a more mellow taste.
Decanting wine allows you to aerate it, which means oxygen mixes with the wine to help open it up. That brings out the wine’s complex aromas and flavors so you can enjoy the full range. As a result, inexpensive wines taste better. You can enjoy a $10 bottle as much as you would a $25 bottle.
Decanters usually have a very impressive, stylish look that definitely outclasses the appearance of a generic wine bottle. It adds a decorative element to your table, so every meal feels a little more special.
Born and raised in Paris, the land of unapologetic butter, Francois has spent the last 20 years shaping the American culinary world behind the scenes. He was a buyer at Williams-Sonoma, built the Food Network online store, managed product assortments for Rachael Ray's site, started two meal delivery businesses and runs a successful baking blog. When he's not baking a cake or eating his way through Europe, Francois enjoys sharing cooking skills with cooks of all levels. Rules he lives by: "Use real butter" and "Nothing beats a sharp knife."
With a young wine, simply pour the bottle into the decanter in a slow, steady manner. Allow the wine to sit in the decanter for 20 to 30 minutes before serving to allow the aromas and flavors to truly develop.
For an older wine that has sediment, you must be more careful while pouring to prevent the grit from mixing with the liquid. Tilt the decanter as you pour the wine so it doesn’t splash against the bottom. You can also use a funnel with a filter to pour the wine into the decanter so you don’t have to worry about letting the sediment fall in.
As soon as you notice the sediment reach the neck of the wine bottle, stop pouring. The sediment can sometimes be very fine, so if you notice that the wine has grown cloudy, stop adding the wine to the decanter.
Older wine can sometimes be ruined by too much exposure to air, so you should decant it just before serving.
Most decanters are made of either glass or crystal, and both materials can perform well.
Crystal is more durable than glass, so it’s often blown into interesting decanter shapes for a highly impressive appearance. Crystal decanters tend to be more expensive, though, and they aren’t dishwasher safe.
Some crystal contains lead, and there are concerns about the lead leaching into wine that’s kept in the decanter. However, the amount of lead that would transfer is very low since wine isn’t kept in a decanter for long. If you’re concerned, though, you can also find decanters made of lead-free crystal.
Glass decanters tend to come in standard shapes, and they have thicker walls that make them less likely to break. They’re usually less costly and are often dishwasher safe, which makes them easier to clean as well.
The standard size for most decanters holds a single bottle of wine. However, there are also decanters that hold more than one bottle and those that hold only a single glass.
In most cases, a decanter that holds one bottle is the best option. However, if you routinely host large parties or have a large household that drinks wine, you may prefer a larger decanter so you can decant two bottles or more at a time.
If you are the only wine drinker in your home and likely won’t finish an entire bottle in a night, a small decanter that holds just one glass is a good option. Keep in mind that if you leave wine in a decanter for too long, it can turn acidic.
It may seem like a minor detail, but the width of a decanter’s neck can be a key feature, depending on how you plan to use it.
If your main goal for decanting wine is to aerate it, opt for a decanter with a wide neck. That will allow more oxygen to reach the wine, so it aerates more quickly and easily. A wide neck decanter is also easier to clean.
If you are planning to use a decanter to remove the sediment from older wines, a thin neck style works best. That’s because you’re able to pour the wine in slowly and steadily, so you can stop once you see the sediment reaching the bottle’s neck. Thin neck decanters can be tough to clean, though; you’ll likely need a brush or decanter beads to get the job done.
Don’t fill a wine decanter all the way to the top. Some space is needed at the top in order for the wine to aerate properly.
You can find decanters in a wide variety of shapes. The standard shape resembles a vase in many ways; it has a long neck that widens to a bowl shape at the bottom.
However, for a more decorative look, you may prefer decanters in a swan, cornet, duck, or other intricate shape that often features curves and/or angles.
If you want to use your decanter to aerate wine, a unique shape isn’t always the best option because it may not provide enough surface area for it to flow over. That limits the amount of oxygen that the wine is exposed to, so its flavors don’t open up as easily.
Intricately shaped decanters are also more difficult to clean, and they typically require a brush or decanter cleaning beads to wash out.
Some decanters are simply containers that you pour wine into; you then rely on the surface area to aerate the wine. With this type of decanter, care is needed when transferring an aged red wine from which you wish to remove sediment.
However, some decanters are equipped with an aeration and filtration unit. The aeration unit breaks the wine into tiny droplets so they’re sprayed down the side of the decanter and instantly take in air. A filter removes the sediment so you don’t have to pour the wine as carefully from the bottle.
In most cases, a decanter with an aeration and filtration unit will have a higher price tag than a standard decanter model.
Our culinary expert, Francois, believes that the biggest mistake some people make when shopping for a new decanter is overlooking how easy (or hard) the decanter will be to clean.
The neck width and shape of a decanter can both play a role in how easy it is to clean. A standard-shaped decanter with a wide neck will be easier to clean than a style with a thin neck and an intricate shape.
However, the decanter’s material also matters. The easiest decanter to clean will be one that you can just throw in the dishwasher. Crystal decanters aren’t dishwasher safe, but many glass decanters are.
There are some extra features that may make a decanter even more functional and useful next to your wine rack.
Break-resistance: Decanters are often made from delicate glass or crystal, which can break easily. If you’re concerned about your decanter breaking or chipping, opt for a break-resistant style.
Stopper: If you plan to leave wine in your decanter overnight, you’ll want a style that is equipped with a stopper. It will help your wine last a little longer once you’ve decanted it.
Chilling decanter: For white wines, a chilling decanter is an ideal option. Not only does it aerate your wine, it helps keep it cold at the same time.
If you’re preparing to decant an older bottle of wine that has sediment, leave it standing upright for 24 hours beforehand. This allows the sediment to settle at the bottom so it’s easier to separate.
For safety reasons, decanters made of thick glass work best for casual lifestyles because they’re less likely to break. Choosing a model that is hard to clean will discourage you from using it often.
Always rinse your decanter and wash wine glasses when you take them out of the cabinet. Left unattended, dust may collect on the glass or crystal, and that can affect the wine’s taste negatively.
Decanters are sold at a variety of price points. Typically, they range from $10 to $400.
If you’re looking for a basic glass decanter that holds one bottle of wine, expect to pay between $20 and $30. Keep in mind that you’ll likely pay more for a model with an aeration and filtration unit.
For a crystal decanter that holds two bottles of wine or more, expect to pay between $50 and $150.
Deluxe hand-blown crystal decanters that hold two or more bottles of wine at a time could cost in the vicinity of $400.
A decanter exposes wine to oxygen. This helps mellow acidic notes and lets the floral and fruit elements emerge.
Stoppers were introduced to decanters in the 1730s by British glass makers.
Although it’s most common to use decanters for wine, some whiskies and cognacs also benefit from decanting.
Some white wines, such as German Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay, benefit from the use of a decanter.
If you’re preparing to decant an older bottle of wine that has sediment in it, leave the bottle standing upright for 24 hours beforehand. This allows all of the sediment to settle at the bottom of the bottle, making it easier to separate from the wine when you pour it into the decanter.
Always rinse your decanter when you take it out of the cabinet. Dust may collect on the glass or crystal, and that can affect the wine’s taste.
If you plan to decant multiple bottles of wine at a time, it’s wise to purchase a larger size than you might actually need.
Most red wines last only 12 to 18 hours after they’ve been decanted, so don’t transfer your red wine to the decanter too early.
Q. Do pricey decanters work better than cheaper models?
A. The price of a decanter doesn’t necessarily reflect how effective it is. In most cases, a higher decanter price is due to a higher percentage of crystal. Crystal decanters aren’t necessarily better than glass decanters. But higher-priced decanters are often larger, so there’s a larger surface area to pour the wine over, providing for more effective aeration.
Q. Can you use a decanter for white wines?
A. While decanters are usually reserved for red wines, there are some white wines that benefit from decanting. Wines that are highly acidic (such as German Riesling) or structured (such as Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay) are candidates for decanting. A decanter also comes in handy if you chill your white wine.
Q. How do you clean a decanter?
A. If the decanter has a traditional shape, you can easily wash it with soap, dishwashing liquid, and a decanter brush. For an oddly shaped vessel, decanter cleaning beads work well. Add them to the decanter with some water and swirl them around to remove the wine residue, which you can then rinse away.
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