Holiday Gift Guide, Decanters

Why do we use them and which kind should you buy?


Gifts are supposed to be light hearted and even frivolous, especially when you're buying a gift for a hard to shop for wine geek. You can rack your brain trying to find the perfect wine or glassware, but truth be told, those are generally hard to find when it comes to more difficult wine geeks.

So what's the solution? Take a look at decanters. Seriously. While decanters may not get a ton of use by many wine lovers out there, it is probably just because many wine lovers don't own decanters!

Decanters not only serve a real and tangible purpose, to help oxygenate wine, but they also serve an aesthetic purpose. Decanters are attractive and can quickly enhance the appearance of a table setting or side bar. They come in a variety of styles, sizes and shapes, and at a range of prices. So take a look at some of these great decanters and learn more about why and when to use them.

What Is a Decanter?

The first thing to recognize when buying a decanter is that there is a difference between a wine decanter and a spirits decanter. The main difference is the result of the intended use for each.

Spirits decanters are more about appearances, and perhaps just hide less well thought of brands. For this reason, decanters tend to be more bottle shaped and ornate, with applied glass features and cut crystal.

Wine decanters on the other hand are generally used for aerating wine and allowing it to "breathe," which means exposing a greater surface area of the wine.

Find this decanter on Amazon


In order to best aerate wine, you want a lot of the wine to be exposed to air. Paradoxically, as the wine gets more air, you'll want to expose less of it to further aeration, and once you start drinking the wine, you'll want to reduce that surface area to volume ratio even more. What's a wine lover to do?

This is where punts, those little cones in the bottom of the decanters come into play. As you consume your wine, the peak of the punt emerges. As the volume of wine goes down, more punt is exposed, further reducing the surface area of the wine. It's an inelegant solution and probably does little to adjust the volume to surface area ratio, but it does make for great marketing speak!

Find this decanter on Amazon


The so called duck decanter, purportedly named because of its distant resemblance to the bird of the same name, is a classic decanter shape. This shape allows for a large surface area of wine to be exposed, provides a handle for ease of pouring and has an offset opening which prevents dust from falling into the decanter.

The newer Canard Decanter from Ravenscroft tapers towards the bottom, allowing for a reduction in surface area that the more traditionally styled duck decanters do not. I like the shape and this feature.

Find the Duck Decanter on Amazon

Find the Canard Decanter on Amazon

Back to Basics

Of course, there is no reason to have to expose a massive surface area of wine to air. You could just wait longer to enjoy the wine. If you'e enjoying a wine that really needs to breath, chances are that you've either paid a pretty penny for it or have had cellared it patiently.

In either scenario, it behooves you to chill out and take the requisite time to enjoy the damn bottle! In which case, any old decanter would work just fine. While I have indulged my inner child with at least one foolishly designed but gorgeous decanter, the majority of the time I use a rather straightforward, simple design which has the added benefit of being easy to store and easy to clean.

Find this decanter on Amazon

Decanting for Sediment

Another reason to decant wines is to separate the clear wine from the sediment resting at the bottom of the bottle. This is generally only needed for older wines. While there is no specific requirement for a decanter that is suitable for this type of decanting, you might want to keep in mind that a decanting funnel, one with a screen, can come in handy, particularly with port.

Find this decanter on Amazon

The Wow Factor

As I mentioned, I do have one crazy looking decanter that's large, impractical, difficult to store, unwieldy, and yet is crazy beautiful when sitting on my table. The Riedel Tyrol decanter is a monster and I wouldn't really recommend it for anything other than aesthetic considerations. It usually sits in my cupboard, but is brought out occasionally when I'm feeling particularly fancy!

While this may seem to be a really frivolous item, that's what makes it a great gift! It's monumental and something very few sane-minded wine lovers would even consider buying for themselves!

Find this decanter on Amazon

Balls to the Bottom

Speak of cleaning, it can be a real struggle to get a decanter properly cleaned. Rinsing with plenty of warm water helps, as does drying on a rack upside down. You can buy those specialized drying racks by the way, though I've always been able to manage to get my decanter to stay upside down while it dried without one.

Back to the balls though. Even doing all that, I have found that some residue does tend to build up on the bottom of my decanters, especially when I leave them out overnight with a touch of wine left in them. These decanter washing balls are the solution. They agitate the residue left in the decanter without effecting the decanter and obviate the need for harsh chemicals, which may leave a residue and affect the flavor and aroma of your next wine. They also make for great stocking stuffers!

Find this on Amazon

Want to Learn More?

Be sure and check out our Top 10 Wine Books for the Holidays!


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  • Snooth User: swinnea
    483269 16

    My wife, the nurse, won't let me get a "duck". Looks too much like a urinal.

    Dec 12, 2011 at 3:29 PM

  • The other great thing about a decanter is that it removes ugly labels from your dining table. It's an aesthetic decision as much as an oenological one. Would you put ugly plates or cutlery on your table? If you've got a great wine with a nasty label...decant it! See

    Dec 13, 2011 at 5:24 AM

  • The Decanter is handy for three main reasons
    1. To oxygenate any young red wine - releasing its flavours
    2. To slowly pour into it any old wine that may have sediment at teh bottom of the bottle
    3. To know more about a wine (colour, aroma etc) hidden behind a coloured glass winebottle.

    We got a basic one from a charity (second hand) shop and it has been fine.

    There is a lot of poncery about opening wines hours before you drink them and another good reason for decanting is to puncture such pomposity

    Dec 13, 2011 at 8:46 AM

  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,082

    I use several decanters when I have blind tastings. This is much better than bags over bottles.

    Dec 10, 2012 at 2:03 PM

  • Snooth User: JCBellomy
    936597 7

    I just love the look of a decanter on a beautiful dining table, esp. in candlelight...

    Dec 10, 2012 at 2:55 PM

  • good

    Aug 12, 2013 at 11:50 PM

  • outstanding

    Sep 09, 2013 at 3:18 PM

  • Snooth User: gomab37
    1332096 17

    Novice wine drinker, enjoyed the insight.

    Apr 26, 2014 at 3:40 AM

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