Decanters can be purely functional, creating a wide surface area to assist with aeration and a suitable opening for mess-free pouring. They can also be stunningly beautiful, as companies like Riedel have pushed these essential wine accessories into the realm of art. Many of them are handmade, created by artisans at the top of their craft. If you’re going to take the time to let the wine breathe naturally, rather than using an aerator, a beautiful wine decanter adds pleasure to this process.
What Does a Wine Decanter Do?
When you open a bottle of wine, the oxygen mingles with the wine at its surface. The alcohol and other volatile compounds evaporate, releasing aromas and casting off some of the bitter taste. Because this process only happens where the wine contacts the air, fully breathing the wine can take a long time if the surface area is small. Decanters provide a larger surface area to speed up this aeration process. They come in a variety of beautiful shapes and sizes, so their elegance also adds to the ambiance as you pour each glass.
How to best Decant Wine
It may take up to 24 hours for the wine to fully breathe, though you’ll notice a big difference after as little as 30 to 40 minutes with most wines. Natural processes take care of most of the aeration process. The only thing that you have to worry about when decanting wine is the sediment.
First, let the unopened bottle sit peacefully for about 24 hours. This lets the sediment collect at the bottom. Sediment forms in aged red wines when tannins deteriorate and erode. You don’t want these in the final pour, because they cloud the wine and give it a gritty, bitter taste.
Next, open the bottle and wipe the neck clean to remove any cork residue. Then pour the wine into the decanter. You’ll want to do this slowly, being mindful of the sediment. If you like, you can shine a light through the bottle to watch it and make sure it stays inside. You’ll generally need to leave about an ounce of wine in the bottle, which can be discarded. If you want to be sure no sediment slips into the decanter, you can also pour through a filter.
Choosing the Perfect Decanter
There are a variety of decanters on the market that range from simple to elaborate. Previously we discussed the best decanters for each of the basic styles. Here, we present ten of the most beautiful wine decanters. These luxury decanters are works of art, usually handmade and created from fine, lead-free crystal. Their beauty and craftsmanship are worthy of presenting your most precious wines.
1. Riedel Bacchus Decanter
The decanter from Riedel conjures images of Bacchus, the Roman god of grape harvesting and wine. Artists often depict him with a drinking horn, hence the shape of this decanter. It is 9” tall and has a volume of 63-1/2 oz, providing a generous surface area for aeration.
2. Riedel Tyrol Decanter
The Tyrol is another beautiful, handmade decanter from Riedel. We love the angled, modern styling and the unique profile, which is nearly like a carafe resting on its side. It’s also sturdy and perfectly ergonomic for pouring. It stands at 7-1/2 inches and has a 26-1/2 oz capacity.
3. Riedel Apple New York Decanter
We love this adorable Apple New York decanter from Riedel. It’s machine made from lead-free crystal and stands at 7-1/2 inches tall with a capacity of 50 oz. We love the whimsy of this decanter, which makes it a great choice for casual dinners and family events.
4. Riedel Sommelier’s Black Tie Amadeo Wine Decanter
The Riedel Black Tie Amadeo wine decanter is a U-shaped vessel with gentle, elegant curves. The overall shape is meant to evoke that of a lyre, the inner curve accentuated with a slender black line. This decanter stands 13-7/8 inches high, with a capacity of 52-7/8 ounces, and makes a stunningly beautiful pourer.
5. Riedel Crystal Mamba Decanter
The Riedel Mamba is a crystal decanter that makes an everlasting impression. It stands at an impressive 17-3/4 inches and has a capacity of 52-7/8 ounces. Everyone will marvel at its design, which is more than simply aesthetic. The wine aerates as it swirls dramatically through the long neck.
6. Riedel Black Tie Bliss Decanter
The Black Tie Bliss is a lovely handmade decanter for sentimental occasions. It stands at 14-3/8 inches with a beautifully long neck for pouring and holds 42-5/8 ounces. We love the slender black accent lines, which accentuate its profile. The heart in the center also makes it a thoughtful gift for weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays.
7. Riedel Escargot Decanter
The Escargot has a profile reminiscent of its namesake. We love the uniqueness of its silhouette, which also provides an impressive surface area for aeration. The decanter is just 5-7/8 inches tall, but has an excellent capacity at 49-3/8 ounces. We also love how it feels to pour from this decanter, supporting it with a hand in the oval opening.
8. Riedel Horn Decanter
With a unique shape that appeals to both musicians and wine lovers, the Horn decanter from Riedel is a stunning addition to any decanter collection. It is 14-1/2 inches tall, with a capacity of 88-1/8 ounces, each curve providing additional aeration.
9. Riedel Eve Decanter
The Eve from is another sensational snake-style decanter from Riedel. It stands at an impressive 19-7/8 inches with a capacity of 48-1/4 oz. We absolutely love the height of this decanter and its evocative silhouette. Wine looks just as beautiful flowing into this piece of glassware as it does flowing out.
10. Riedel Boa Decanter
The Riedel Boa is one of the most striking decanters we’ve ever seen. It stands 13-3/4 inches, with a capacity of 69 ounces. The wine aerates beautifully as it travels through the coils, finally resting in the base with a wide surface area until it’s time to pour. We love the dramatic silhouette of the Boa, which is arguably one of the most impressive of the snake-shaped Riedel decanters.
This article was originally published at The Best Wine Decanters 2019.