Many wine lovers have discovered the joys of decanting, but newer enthusiasts and occasional drinkers are often unfamiliar with the benefits. While most often associated with older, pricier red wines, decanting can enliven the flavors and aromas of any type of wine. The process allows oxygen to interact with the wine, enhancing its taste and bouquet and helping its tannins smooth out; it also lets you withhold any sediment deposit.
Decanting does offer the most benefits for older, tannic red wines. Just 10 to 15 minutes of letting the wine breathe in the carafe can make a difference, though about half an hour up to a few hours is ideal, depending on the particular wine.
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But even younger reds—as well as rosés and white wines—can get a boost to their flavors and aromas with decanting, especially if they seem a bit flat at first sip. While rosés and whites don't typically need to be decanted, it certainly doesn't hurt, and it can help with heavier ones. These should generally only be left to oxygenate in the carafe for about 20 to 40 minutes.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Wine Decanter
Style: Classic decanters are made of glass or crystal, the latter being a little more durable. They have necks (look for one with a wide enough opening for easy pouring) and bowls—usually broad and flattened in shape—where the wine collects. These work well, but there are also U-shaped wine decanters you might prefer.
There are also electric wine decanters, which are of course more expensive. They provide faster results by automatically swirling the wine to increase aeration. Wine decanters have plenty of variation in design, so choose one you also like the look of—especially if it'll be sitting out on your counter or used to serve guests at dinner parties. Also, pick one that will be easy to hold and pour from.
Size: Standard wine decanters accommodate a 750ml bottle of wine. But they come with necks of different heights, bowls of different widths, and so on. Make sure you have storage space for the model you choose. Also, you can buy bigger decanters for magnums (1.5-liter bottles), and they even make miniature versions for decanting one or two glasses of wine at a time.
Features and Accessories: Wine decanters are simple pieces of glassware, so you won't find a wide range of features. But some have little extras like spiraling tubes or aerating punts to enhance aeration. Electric products can have additional features as well. Also, consider whether you want a dishwasher-safe piece.
Some decanters come with accessories. A stopper that creates an airtight seal is helpful if you want to leave wine in the decanter for hours—or even up to a few days. And certain products include an aerator for speedier results, specially designed cleaning tools or other items.
Price: Obviously, your budget considerations come into play too. You can buy a budget-friendly wine decanter for $20 or so, or you can spend a few hundred bucks on one. A properly designed decanter at the low end of the spectrum will work just as well as one at the high end, so aesthetics are the main consideration if you're springing for a pricier product. And again, electric decanters tend to cost more.
These factors will help you select the best wine decanter for your home.
The Best Overall Wine Decanter
You can't go wrong with this pick for best decanter. At 10 inches by 8 1/2 inches, it's relatively compact while providing an adequate neck and a bowl designed precisely for maximum oxygenation, with the contents of a bottle of wine coming up to its widest part. Plus, it's well priced and elegant looking and made of durable, hand-blown, lead-free crystal. With its tapered neck and lightweight but sturdy construction, this piece is easy to grip and pour from, while the angled top facilitates spill- and drip-free pours. This decanter is dishwasher safe, though hand-washing is still recommended.
The Best U-Shaped Wine Decanter
U-shaped decanters are highly effective at oxygenating their content, as well as preventing sediment from ending up in your wine glass. If you prefer this design, here's an especially elegant piece, reminiscent of a swan and made from hand-blown lead-free crystal offered at a great price. It aerates more efficiently than many standard wine decanters, and its shape and thin lip let you pour out the contents easily without any drips, spills or splashes. The medium weight also strikes a good balance of stability and ease of pouring. It's a dishwasher-safe decanter, but given its shape, you're better off just rinsing it out with some warm soapy water.
The Best Budget Wine Decanter
If you're looking for a wine decanter at the low end of the price spectrum that's effective and durable, look no further. At 8.7 inches by 6.5 inches, it's quite compact for the category, making it easy to store, carry and pour from; the tapered neck is also comfortable to grip, while the angled rim provides a smooth, clean pour. This crystal glass decanter features an aerator punt inside its base that aids the process when swirling the wine inside. Its wide neck and base facilitate thorough cleaning, and this thick, recycled crystal glass piece is dishwasher safe, too.
The Best Splurge Wine Decanter
This beautiful piece is right at home in any luxury kitchen and at any fancy dinner party. It also makes a great gift for any wine enthusiast. Riedel is a beloved name in glassware, and this handmade, lightweight fine crystal wine decanter, with its sleek, simple profile and elegant curves, is a perfect example why. The wide base allows plenty of room for the wine to spread out and breathe for efficient oxygenation, including with younger wines. Stick to hand-washing this decanter to protect your investment, as it's on the delicate side.
The Best Wine Decanter With Aerator
To get the full wine taste and aromas to bloom faster, the combination of a decanter and a wine aerator can't be beaten. If you don't want to wait 30 minutes to a couple of hours to start imbibing, this product provides comparable results in a matter of minutes. That's not just handy if you're impatient, but also if you don't remember to open bottles in advance of guests arriving. The stainless steel aerator also doubles as a filter when left in the spout, holding back any sediment as you pour. One caveat, though: This can lead to some drips when you're pouring wine, so be careful.
The Best Electric Wine Decanter
For a more modern take on decanting, an electric model provides faster results. This one features a gorgeous lead-free German crystal carafe from the well-known and highly regarded brand Spiegelau, combined with an electric base from vSpin. It creates a vortex that pulls air into the wine, rapidly aerating and oxygenating in under four minutes in most cases, rather than hours. You can even set it for most major types of red wine; they actually did the research to determine the optimal aeration speed and time by varietal. Hand-washing is recommended for this product.
The Best Magnum Wine Decanter
If you tend to buy magnums (1.5-liter bottles of wine), or if you want to simultaneously decant two 750-milliliter bottles of the same wine for a get-together, you'll need an oversized decanter—like this one. It has an elegant look that glassware manufacturer Riedel is known for, and the neck is smartly tapered to allow a sure grip on this larger, heftier decanter. The hourglass shape works well for younger wines too, which is good, given that these are what are usually bottled in magnums. This product is machine made, strong and dishwasher safe. And it's offered at a price comparable to many standard-sized decanters.
The Best Wine Decanter Set
If you're looking to be more thoroughly outfitted with various decanting and cleaning accessories, this is a fairly comprehensive set sold at a great price point for all you get. In addition to the classic, compact, hand-blown crystal carafe, you get a storage and drying stand, an airtight stopper for prolonged holding of the wine, a cleaning brush designed for the piece's shape and a box of cleaning beads. Because of their shape, decanters are generally difficult to clean, so these special cleaning tools are quite useful. The packaging is attractive as well, so this makes a perfect gift for a wine drinker.