While recently cleaning out one of our kitchen cupboards, my wife and I discovered that our wine decanter was cracked and thus needed to be replaced. The one we had was at least 15 years old and had been nothing special. It was just the typical flute design and made of simple glass. However, since it needs to be replaced anyway, now is a good time to investigate and see what options are out there.
However, before striking off on my shopping expedition I reaffirmed what I need the decanter for. My main purpose is aeration, so the wide neck flute design is still best for me. They allow more oxygen in so the wine aerates faster and more effectively. They’re also easier to clean than thin neck versions. Wide neck decanters are the most popular type and will work well for most wine drinkers.
The size of the decanter bowl, which is the bottom part where the wine sits, determines the amount of available surface area. The more surface area, the more contact between wine and oxygen and the less time you’ll need to decant.
Some wines need longer to decant than others. For full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Tannat, Monastrell and Tempranillo, a decanter with a wide base generally works best. They will need to be decanted for 1 to 2 hours.
Medium-bodied red wines such as Merlot, Sangiovese, Barbera or Dolcetto will benefit from a medium-sized decanter. Light-bodied reds such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais decant well in a small to medium-sized decanter that in this case has been chilled.
White and Rosé wines don’t require decanting but serving them in a small chilled decanter is a nice touch.
For myself, being a fan of full-bodied red wines, a wide based decanter is best suited for me.
When it comes down to choosing, it is recommended to get a decanter that we love the look of, but at the same time is practical. The main emphasis should be to find one that’s easy to fill, pour and clean. There are lots of beautiful decanters that are a pain to use and thus spend their life on a shelf or in a cupboard.
There are different types of glass used to make decanters. Crystal is more durable and thus it’s often used to create large artistic decanters, whereas glass decanters tend to be made with thicker walls and simpler shapes. Either is a good choice but if you plan to put your decanter in the dishwasher, then standard glass is probably a better idea.
Some decanters can be very expensive. However, the increase in cost has nothing to do with functionality. Decanter prices go up either with special design or material. Some decanters are entirely about design, in which the shape only matters for the shape.
There are also wine aerators which introduce a superabundance of oxygen to wine as it is poured from the bottle into the glass. The wine is decanted by the time the wine reaches your glass. I have always considered these to be a gimmick for the wine enthusiast who has everything. However, apparently these things actually work, though some better than others.
You can even successfully decant your wine by simply pouring it into mason jars, coffee mugs or even a blender. However, if you select one of these methods I recommend returning the wine to the original bottle before serving in a wine glass, unless you had a very bad day and would benefit from the vast quantity of wine.
Personally I have always used a standard glass decanter for a few reasons. They are easy to use and clean and they are inexpensive. I do also have 2 crystal decanters, a wine decanter that was a hand-me-down from my parents, and a whisky decanter that I received as a gift. The wine decanter is hidden away in a cupboard and the whisky decanter has a place of honour on my bar. Neither gets used.