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Decanting wines can be somewhat of a mystery for the novice oenophile. To help break things down, Diane Flamand, a Bordeaux-based oenologist for Légende Wines at Domaines Barons de Rothschild Lafite, explains: “Decanting is used for two things—first, to aerate and oxygenate the wine in order to develop the aromas after having been closed in bottles and kept in a reduction area for more or less time.” She continues, “And second, for older wine, which can sometimes have a bit of deposit.” These deposits, Flamand adds, are made up of the wine’s tartaric and color matters, which decantation works to separate from the wine for serving. The type and age of the wine you’re serving or drinking, of course, will dictate your decanter style and preparation. Here, Flamand and other experts offer their personal picks and pro tips for decanting at home.
Best Overall: Le Chateau Wine Decanter
Le Chateau’s finely engineered decanter is designed to perfectly hold one standard bottle (750ml) of wine, with its wide base and asymmetrical spout for optimal aeration and precise, easy pouring. The 100-percent lead-free crystal piece is as visually stunning as it is functional, and at 8.5 inches wide, the base is among the largest on the market––perfect for your biggest and oldest reds. According to Master Sommelier Larry O’Brien, a fine lip also minimizes dripping (a problem that can arise with pouring the last drops from a wide-based decanter).
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Best Value: Luigi Bormioli Crescendo Wine Decanter
For high quality, durability, and aesthetically pleasing designs, Luigi Bormioli’s glassware ticks all the boxes, and this 68-ounce wine decanter is no exception. Hand-blown in Italy, the crystal glass decanter features a wide base and an open-mouth design. Flamand notes that a wide base is among the first things she considers when shopping for wine decanters. “I am looking for the shape, whatever the brand or the price,” she says. “The base of the decanter must be large in order to favor the oxygenation of the wine––better surface of contact wine [equates to better oxygenation].” Flamand also adds that the decanter’s neck should be narrow and easy to handle all-around, fitting comfortably in your hand.
Best Splurge: Riedel Ultra Wine Decanter
Robert Daugherty, winemaker at Winc in Santa Barbara, Calif., picks the Riedel Ultra as his favorite wine decanter. “For Cab drinkers, it’s a must-have––not only does it have a wide base for maximum exposure to oxygen, [but] it’s also simple in design and elegant,” he adds. “It’s one of those few items that doesn’t sacrifice functionality for beauty.”
With a 43.4-ounce capacity, the handmade Riedel decanter very comfortably fits a full standard bottle with plenty of room for the wine to breathe. Its gently flared neck also makes for easy pouring. Hand washing is recommended, but this decanter can also go in the dishwasher in a pinch.
Good to Know:
Daugherty offers a taste test idea for beginners: “Try [the] wine straight from the bottle first and analyze [it] in three parts: mouthfeel, aromas, and flavors.” He adds, “Then, pour the rest into the decanter—let it sit for 15, 30, and 45 minutes, trying a glass at each stage.” He also notes that one should be able to detect differences along the way. If this seems like too much of a process, Daugherty’s default decanting time with reds is one hour before serving.
Most Durable: Spiegelau Authentis Decanter
O’Brien is also a fan of wide decanter bases, particularly when it comes to big, bold wines. His favorite wine decanter for these bottles? “The Spiegelau Authentis decanter offers a wide surface area for those very powerful wines in need of maximum aeration—it is also sturdy and durable,” he says, noting the model’s relative affordability for its quality. The lead-free, crystal wine decanter also has a 35.3-ounce capacity and a 9-inch wide base.
As for how to use them, O’Brien offers a few tips. “As sediment is rarely the issue for decanting, there is no need to delicately pour down the side of the decanter,” he says. “Depending on the wine, a greater or lesser degree of splashing and frothing in the middle of the decanter can be very beneficial.”
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Best with Stopper: Sagaform Oak Stopper Wine Carafe
Perfect for white wines, this simple, elegant Sagaform decanter comes with an oak stopper for a minimalist touch. This mouth-blown decanter is dishwasher-safe and can hold approximately 34 ounces of your favorite whites (or even just water). While white wines are not decanted quite as commonly as reds, doing so does have its purposes. For instance, if a white wine has sulfurous or overly tannic (bitter) elements to it, one would decant it to allow the wine to breathe and mellow out. Or, if a wine needs to be brought closer to room temperature, transferring the liquid to a decanter would help quicken the process, thanks to its increased surface area and thinner glass. However, if left to decant too long, white wines can lose their liveliness, so keep it to under a half-hour.
Most Unique: Waterford Lismore Square Decanter
Technically speaking, sediment can be removed from wines using any clear vessel. That’s why Tyler Elwell, co-founder and winemaker at Halcyon Wines, opts for something slightly unconventional. “I like the old-school square Waterford crystal decanter often used for spirits,” he shares. “[It’s] perfectly functional to use to remove your aged wine off of the sediment.”
Waterford’s Lismore decanter is made from crystal and features a classic Waterford diamond- and wedge-cut pattern. It also has a smaller capacity than most wine decanters (holds 25.4 ounces or almost exactly 750ml), so consider another option if your goal is more aeration and less sediment removal or presentation. You can also, of course, use this decanter to store and display a spirit when not using it for wines.
Good to Know:
To prep your wine decanter, Elwell recommends rinsing it out with water before each use, then adding a splash of wine to swirl around and pick up any residual water.
Best Aerating: Rabbit Pura Decanter
The Rabbit Pura decanter comes complete with its own aerating system, pulling double duty with its smart design. To use, simply pour a standard, 750ml bottle into the decanter to aerate, while the stainless steel stopper directs the wine down the sides of the decanter, and let it decant for the desired time. Upon pouring, the mesh strainer will catch any sediment and prevent it from landing in your glass. This 25-ounce decanter is made from lead-free crystal and is hand wash only.
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Best Design: Ravenscroft Crystal Visual Decanter
Bell-shaped and ultra-durable, the Ravenscroft Visual decanter lives up to its name, serving as a stately centerpiece for any tablescape. “[It’s] big and sturdy with lots of table presence,” says O’Brien, who personally recommends this wine decanter for its durability and appearance. The base of this 50-ounce decanter features a punt for both sediment collection and easy pouring, and its middle-of-the-road, 6-inch width is ideal for light and medium-bodied wines. It’s also recommended to hand wash this crystal decanter.
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Best Electric: Wine Enthusiast iSommelier Smart Decanter
They say there’s no substitute for time, but Wine Enthusiast found a way around it. Using purified, concentrated oxygen, a patented decanter, and a technology-powered base, the iSommelier Smart Decanter speeds up both the decanting and cellaring processes by passing filtered air through the wine itself via a tube inside the vessel. This means that longer decanting times are reduced to mere minutes. Carafes are available in 200ml and 750ml sizes, and customers have the option to upgrade to the iSommelier Pro, an add-on that allows control of the decanting system from a mobile device.
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Céline Bossart is a longtime wine writer who has seen, shopped for, and used plenty of decanters. While they’re a must-have for any wine drinker, she does not recommend traveling with them.