Best Glass Wine Decanters

Updated October 2021
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Buying guide for Best glass wine decanters

Once you open a bottle of wine, however fine or budget-friendly it may be, you only have about a week or so to enjoy it before it oxidizes and the color, taste, and aroma are affected. You’ll miss out on the best of what wine has to offer if it’s exposed to too much oxygen; however, with some wine, you need to expose it to just enough. That’s where a glass wine decanter comes in.

Decanting before drinking improves the taste of certain types of wine. The process rapidly and substantially increases the wine’s oxygen exposure, softening and smoothing bitter and astringent tannins. Decanting can also activate the fruity and floral aroma of the wine. The size and shape of the decanter affects the speed at which the wine oxygenates, but a decanter may also serve aesthetic purposes too. A quality glass wine decanter highlights the color of the wine and serves as an elegant centerpiece on your table.

Our buying guide explains how glass decanters work, why you might need one, and how to find the right one for your wine. With the proper glass wine decanter, enjoying your wine will be worth the wait.

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Once you decant a bottle of wine, there’s no going back. Because the wine is aerated so thoroughly, its shelf life is greatly decreased.

Key considerations

Decanting wine

Decanting is simply the process of aerating wine. This procedure is commonly done in a large glass vessel, which increases the surface area of the wine that’s exposed to the air. Wine left in an open bottle has little exposure to the air; wine in a glass has more, but it’s still not enough to expedite the process. The longer the wine sits in the decanter, the more aerated it becomes.

Wine type

In theory, all wine can be decanted, but it isn’t necessary for some types. Most in need of aeration are the fuller-bodied red wines like cabernet sauvignon or petite sirah, particularly older bottles. These need to be softened in order to be properly enjoyed. The label on the wine bottle might indicate the ideal aeration time. You can also check online for vineyard- and region-specific recommendations.

Full-bodied reds may need anywhere from one to two hours to aerate.

Medium-bodied reds, such as merlot or sangiovese, might only need only half as long.

Lighter-bodied reds, including pinot noir and Beaujolais, can do with 15 to 30 minutes of decanting, if desired.

Decanting doesn’t just smooth out tannins. It also releases aromas and flavors as well, which is why some people choose to decant lighter red wines as well as budget-friendly bottles from major vineyards. Indeed, inexpensive, new wine that’s not meant for aging or saving might benefit from decanting to enhance its flavor.

White and rosé wines for the most part don’t need to be decanted because most have potent aromas that should be enjoyed immediately before they dissipate. However, some white wines have a burned smell or mineral flavor upon first opening the bottle. This unpleasant odor or taste can be alleviated by decanting for less than half an hour.

Orange wine, a type of white wine that’s fermented with the grape skins, may also be decanted for up to half an hour to improve the taste.

Size and shape

A typical glass wine decanter has a wide mouth, long and slender neck, and wide base, but there are many other options available too. The width determines the decanter’s effectiveness at aerating certain wines. For example, a decanter with a wide base is best for full-bodied wines. Medium-bodied wines are served well by a medium-size decanter, and light-bodied wines can be decanted in a smaller vessel.

If you’re not a fan of full-bodied red wine, a smaller decanter will suffice. If there’s a chance you’ll enjoy a cabernet every now and then, you’ll want the larger size. Matching the body of the wine to the size of the decanter isn’t necessary, but it will change how long it takes to properly aerate the wine.

Material

Decanters are made of glass or crystal.

Glass decanters are fairly simple in design. These generally have thicker walls than crystal decanters. Hand-blown glass decanters are durable and beautiful, but they cost more than standard glass decanters.

Crystal decanters have thinner walls and are more expensive than glass, with more artistic and inventive designs.

Borosilicate glass is a more durable version of standard glass, and decanters made of it are thin, lightweight, and eye-catching. Expect to pay more for these decanters.

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Did You Know?
You can use a decanter for other beverages too. Some people enjoy decanting whisky, while others use a decanter as an elegant way to serve juice or water.
Staff
BestReviews

Features

Design

Decanters can have very artistic designs, with unique options available for anyone interested in something eye-catching. One popular decanter design is the swan. This elegant and effective decanter has two long, opened curved ends resembling a swan’s neck and tail, with the base, or body, in the middle. You decant the wine through the wider “tail” and pour it out through the “neck.” Keep in mind that many of these unusual decanters aren’t dishwasher safe and might be harder to clean.

Extras

Some decanters come with useful accessories or extras. A matching stopper might be included, which can slow the aeration process if necessary, though it’s mainly for aesthetic purposes. Another accessory might be a drying stand to hold the decanter upside-down to air-dry after cleaning. Perhaps the most useful extra is a cleaning brush, which is especially welcome when trying to clean inside the decanter’s long neck.

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Did You Know?
An amusing and seldom-used process called “hyper-decanting” — processing the wine briefly in a blender — offers a way to rapidly aerate wine, but it may diminish the aromas.
Staff
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Accessories

Wine glass set: Bormioli Rocco Red Wine Glasses
You need the right glass to enjoy your aerated bottle of red wine. We recommend this crystal set of four 18-ounce glasses from Bormioli Rocco.

Wine opener: HiCoup Kitchenware Professional Corkscrew
While screw caps are fairly common on wine bottles, plenty still require an opener. We recommend this durable, compact corkscrew from HiCoup Kitchenware that makes opening a bottle fast and easy.

Glass wine decanter prices

Inexpensive: A simple standard glass wine decanter costs as little as $30.

Mid-range: Most glass decanters, including those made of crystal, range from $30 to $50, with plenty of options in terms of design.

Expensive: Spend over $50 and you can find high-end decanters made of crystal or borosilicate glass that likely boast some kind of unique design or include extras.

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Did You Know?
Most glass wine decanters don’t have a handle, though there are exceptions. In most cases, you pour the wine carefully by holding the decanter’s slender neck.
Staff
BestReviews

Tips

  • Pour the wine down the side of the decanter. This increases the wine’s oxygen exposure.
  • Avoid aerating the wine too long. It’s possible to let your wine aerate for too long. Exceptionally old wines may be delicate and spoil quickly after hitting their peak. Some white wines lose their aroma if decanted for more than 20 or 30 minutes.
  • Do not decant sparkling wine. There are very specific Champagne wines that need to be decanted; otherwise, decanted sparkling wine will lose all its carbonation, aroma, and enjoyment.
  • Practice pouring from the decanter. Some decanters can be tricky to use, so it helps to practice with water before potentially spilling an expensive vintage. Pour a steady stream and lift and turn the decanter when done.
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Most decanters are designed to hold a standard, 750-milliliter bottle of wine. While some can hold much more, even as much as a second bottle, decreasing the surface area exposed to air will slow the decanting process.

FAQ

Q. How do I clean my decanter?

A. A standard decanter might be dishwasher safe, though it’s advised to wash all decanters by hand to avoid any breakage or clouding. Cleaning a decanter is no simple task due in part to the slender neck and often elaborate design. Use dish soap that’s free of any fragrance so that the aromas don’t settle in the decanter and contaminate wine.

A decanter brush is the simplest solution to cleaning the hard-to-reach places, but you can make one at home using a slender wooden spoon to push a sponge around the interior. To dry the decanter, you can purchase a decanter dryer or let it air-dry upside-down on a decanter stand.

Q. How concerned should I be about lead in my glass decanter?

A. Some wine glasses and decanters may include lead, though many companies advertise and sell lead-free glassware. While lead poisoning is a serious health concern, it's unlikely that much, if any, lead will transfer from a glass decanter to the wine because the wine isn’t kept in the decanter for long. Contamination can become an issue if you’re storing wine in lead-based crystal for long periods of time.

Q. Is a decanter necessary?

A. For anyone who enjoys full-bodied fine wine and appreciates elegant glassware, a decanter is a worthy investment. One completes a home bar setup, looks impressive on a bar cart, and comes in handy should you buy a bottle that needs aeration. If you don’t own one, you can get by without it by swirling the wine in your glass, but that process takes longer. An alternative to a wine decanter is a wine aerator.

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