What Is A Wine Decanter?

A decanter is a vessel designed to hold, serve, and enhance the quality of wine. They’re traditionally made of glass or crystal and boast a distinctive shape that serves both practical and aesthetic purposes.

Decanters feature a broad base, a long neck, and sometimes a stopper or cork to seal the wine. This design allows for the wine to be separated from any sediment that formed during ageing.

It enables the process of aeration, which is when the wine reacts with the air, specifically oxygen. Allowing the wine to breathe can positively influence a wine’s taste profile by softening the tannins, allowing subtler flavours to shine through.

a wine decanter & wine glass with red wine in them

What Are the Types of Decanters?

Decanters have long been a symbol of elegance and sophistication in the world of wine. These beautifully crafted vessels not only serve as a means of presentation but also play a crucial role in enhancing the flavours and aromas of the wine.

Decanters come in various types, each tailored to suit different wines and occasions. Traditional decanters feature a classic design while aerating decanters incorporate innovative elements like wider bases or unique shapes that accelerate the aeration process. Upright decanters are specifically designed to separate sediment from older wines, ensuring a clean pour, while wide-bottomed decanters offer an increased surface area for faster aeration.

Traditional Decanter

The traditional decanter is the epitome of classic elegance. It features a broad base, a long neck, and often a stopper or cork to seal the wine inside. This decanter allows the wine to come into contact with oxygen, promoting aeration and unlocking the full potential of the wine. It is suitable for a wide range of wines, particularly those that benefit from moderate to extensive aeration.

Aerating Decanter

If you’re short on time or looking to expedite the aeration process, an aerating decanter is the perfect choice. These decanters feature innovative design elements such as wider bases or unique shapes with spirals or indentations. These features maximise the wine’s exposure to air, allowing it to breathe and develop more rapidly. Aerating decanters are ideal for young, bold, or tannic wines that require significant aeration to soften their structure and unleash their full potential.

Upright Decanter

Upright decanters, with their tall and slender profiles, help to separate sediment from the wine. These decanters are particularly useful for older wines that have had time to develop sediment over the years. The upright shape allows the sediment to settle at the bottom while providing a clean and clear pour. These decanters are also suitable for wines that require minimal aeration, such as delicate white wines or aged reds that have already undergone significant aeration.

Wide-Bottomed Decanter

The wide-bottomed decanter, also known as a carafe, is characterised by its wide base and shallow depth. This design allows for a larger surface area, enabling faster aeration of the wine. Wide-bottomed decanters are the best option for young, full-bodied red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, or Syrah, which benefit from intense aeration to soften their tannins.

Swan Decanter

The swan decanter is a beautiful piece of glassware that doubles as a functional wine vessel. Its elegant, elongated shape and curved neck not only enhance the visual appeal but also provide a unique pouring experience. The swan decanter is suitable for a wide range of wines and adds a touch of grace and sophistication to any table setting.

a glass & decanter on a table with red wine in them

How to Choose the Right Decanter?

When selecting a decanter, you need to consider three things: the wine type, your personal aesthetic preferences, and the functionality.

Wine Type

Different wines have different aeration needs. Full-bodied red wines benefit from larger, wide-based decanters that allow for more extensive aeration. Lighter wines normally require less aeration and can be decanted in smaller or upright decanters. Using the wrong decanter for your wine can cause it to taste odd, as it will have received too little or too much oxygen.

Aesthetic Appeal

Decanters are decorative and come in a variety of styles, shapes, and materials. Consider the overall aesthetic and the impression you want to make when choosing a decanter that complements your personal style and the occasion. Over at Waiter’s Friend, we are partial to the rolling decanter because it is fun, quirky, a great talking point, and above all, practical.


Although decanters can be decorative, their primary use is practical, so consider the practical aspects. How easy is it to pour? Do you need a special tool to clean it with? Does it fit neatly in your cupboard or, or does it require its own stand?

It’s a balancing act. Some decanters may be more challenging to clean because of intricate designs or narrow necks, while others are designed for effortless pouring and handling, but they look much simpler.

a wine sommelier pouring a glass of red wine

How Do You Use a Decanter?

Now that we’ve explored the different types of decanters and how to choose the best one, let’s delve into how to use them.

Decanting Process

If your wine is older, gently pour it into the decanter, ensuring a steady flow to minimise any disturbance to the sediment. Stop pouring once you notice sediment approaching the neck of the bottle. If the wine is young or needs extensive aeration, pouring quickly can help expedite the process.

Aeration and Resting Time

Once the wine is in the decanter, allow it to rest and aerate. The time required for aeration varies depending on the wine’s age, variety, and preference.

As a broad rule, young wines benefit from 30 minutes to two hours of aeration, while older wines may require longer rest periods of up to six hours. If you’re in doubt, it’s much better to research your wine to ensure you’re aerating it for the correct time.

Serving from the Decanter

Pour the wine into your favourite glasses using a slow and steady motion. This controlled pouring helps prevent any remaining sediment from being disturbed and ending up in your glass.