As summer warms and you might be cooking more at home, you might also be finding yourself enjoying wine at home more frequently — parking in the so-called quarantine wine experience. If you want to elevate your experience, decanters and aerators could help quite a bit. A wine decanter is essential for any wine drinker’s home — and not just because it makes for a great accent piece. According to Hristo Zisovski, the beverage director of the award-winning Altamarea Group in New York City, decanting a wine serves two major purposes.
“In older wine, decanting racks off and separates the sediment that gradually builds up on the bottle,” he told NBC News Shopping. “In young wines that seem not ready to drink right when you open them, decanting aerates the wine, helping it ‘open up’ and ‘soften’ its aromas and flavors.” Which wines should you decant? Think young reds, older bottles that have been stored for a while, older white wines and the like — rosés and younger whites, for example, do not really need to be decanted.
When it comes to wine, decantation and aeration go hand-in-hand, explains Cycles Gladiator’s founding winemaker Adam LaZarre. “Decanting is really defined as pouring wine from one vessel into another, which draws off the liquid from the sediment. Aeration is simply the act of introducing oxygen to a substrate.”
- So, when you decant a wine, you’re aerating it by default, as pouring the wine into a new vessel introduces oxygen
- Many decanters are designed to optimize aeration through wide bases for increased surface area.
- There are also tools out there to help aerate a wine without using a decanter.
After removing the cork, let the wine rest in a decanter to help the aromas grow clearer and take on greater depth.
Alejandro Iglesias, Executive Sommelier, vinomanos.com
“When I’m not in the mood to get into pouring out bottles [into] a glass decanter, I also have an aerator that fits over the top of the bottle,” says Adrienne Capps, the general manager of Parallel Napa Valley. “These obviously won’t help with removing sediment and generally are not as good for aeration because you are only getting a little extra air being introduced through the aerator (as opposed to pouring the entire bottle into a decanter and aerating), but they do help.”
So if you want to get into the habit of elevating your wines — whether they’re young or old, affordable or fancy — read on for some expertly selected decanters and aerators, along with a few other tools, tips and tricks to help optimize your quarantine wine drinking experience.
Best wine decanters to shop in 2020
This workhorse decanter is a personal recommendation from Capps, given its wide base for swirling and its surface area. Its slanted spout is also ideal for easy pouring and minimizing drip in the process.
Alejandro Iglesias, the executive sommelier of vinomanos.com, has a few tips for decanting robust, full-bodied reds, specifically Argentine Malbecs: “After removing the cork, let the wine rest in a decanter to help the aromas grow clearer and take on greater depth: The red fruits, spices and mountain herbs will establish a better balance with the oaky notes that arise during the aging process.”
You’ll find this 1.2-liter lead-free crystal decanter in Capps’ hand in the tasting room at Parallel — it’s lead-free for safe drinking, offers plenty of room for a standard size bottle of wine, is easy to grip and use, and the fact that it looks beautiful is always a bonus. As a rule of thumb, Capps always makes sure she’ll have enough space to do her thing. “I choose one that allows me to also aerate in the decanter, [meaning] there is enough room to swirl a full bottle of wine around without the risk of it jumping out of the top!”
If you’re looking to invest in a great decanter from a trusted name in glassware, go for the popular Zalto Axium model from the brand’s Denk’Art collection, which was “influenced by the earth in accordance to the tilt angles of the Earth.” This decanter is ideal for medium-bodied reds and full-bodied white wines, and is as functional as it is striking. “My favorite decanters (and glassware in general) are from Zalto,” says Anna Frizzell, marketing director at Wine Hooligans. “They’re an investment, but I think they are so lightweight and elegant.”
Zisovski has a few tips for pouring a wine into any decanter: “You should decant in a slow stream [so as not to] cause bubbles — this ensures you don’t mix the sediment in the bottle, and decanting a bottle slowly through light helps you rack off as much wine as possible from the sediment. Also, decanting too fast can also shock the wine.”
Rabbit’s RBT decanter combines the best of both worlds, featuring a simple yet elegantly-designed decanter and an aerating funnel that also uses a filter to capture sediment as the wine is poured through it. This highly functional option is also easy on the eyes (it comes with an acacia wood base, to boot). Funnels in general can be useful in transferring a wine into a decanter, especially if you’re planning on pouring it back into the bottle afterward, which is known as a “double decant.”
Frizzell offers a few tips for this technique: “Usually, I’ll do this for a nice bottle presentation, or to put the cork back in and keep the wine for another day. But you need to make sure you have a stable funnel, or an extremely steady hand when pouring the wine back in the bottle (I’ve definitely had some spills).”
Best aerators, pourers and other decanting tools of 2020
“At home, I tend to aerate a glass of wine with an aerator, rather than decanting (unless it’s for a special bottle or fortified wine),” says Frizzell, whose aerator of choice is this model by Vinturi, which LaZarre also recommends. Using a patented technology, these gadgets aerate a wine in seconds, are equipped with a filter screen to catch sediment and cork and they come with a no-drip stand for easy storage. “I find it to be a handy and effective tool, if for no other reason than it keeps the wine from flying all over the counter and my shirt. Plus, I love the ‘wooshing’ sound the wine makes as it runs through the device,” LaZarre adds.
Pouring the wine from the bottle into a glass exposes that wine to oxygen — giving it a swirl or two or three in the glass further aerates the wine.
Adrienne Capps, General Manager, Parallel Napa Valley
Capps says she likes to have fun every once in a while when pouring her wines. If you’re looking for a bottle attachment that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face (and your guests’ faces), opt for one of these decorative pourers from Menagerie, a California purveyor of premium wine gifts and accessories. These pourers do not speed up the aeration process, but they do make for a graceful pour while keeping the drips to a minimum. Capps’ preferred model is the Christmas tree pourer, which she likes to use year-round.
While “purifying” a wine isn’t generally practiced by the pros, Üllo’s purifier is a useful tool for the home wine drinker, especially those allergic or sensitive to sulfites. This attachment pulls double duty: When switched off, it uses a proprietary sulfite-capturing technology to remove sulfites from any wine that’s poured through it. And, when switched on, the Üllo purifier also aerates the wine in the process. This tool is designed to fit atop a variety of wine glasses and decanters, and in its compact form makes for a mobile wine decanting solution.
Best wine glasses of 2020
Capps offers a pro tip to those who don’t yet own a decanter, or are not ready to invest in one. “At home, you can decant and aerate right in your wine glass,” she says.
“Pouring the wine from the bottle into a glass exposes that wine to oxygen — giving it a swirl or two or three in the glass further aerates the wine,” Capps explains. As an experiment, you can let a wine sit in your glass for a few hours, tasting every 15 or 30 minutes to see how it evolves. Crate and Barrel’s striking 31-ounce Hip red wine glasses are excellent for sipping and swirling, and they won’t break the bank (though you’ll likely be fooled into thinking they did when you hold one in your hand).
“What I like to do is pour my glass 30-60 minutes before we will drink it to let it slowly open up naturally,” says Zisovski. Zalto’s Denk’Art all-purpose wine glass is an investment, perfect for those who are serious about wine, are looking for a special gift or simply wish to elevate their at-home drinking experience. These glasses are lead-free and, best of all, it’s actually recommended that they be washed in the dishwasher versus by hand (hand-washing can compromise the delicate stem, base and bowl). Keep in mind that high-quality glasses like this are for drinking, not clinking (unless you’re very careful).