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Aerators and Decanters: What’s the Difference?

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009 at 1:55:52 PM
by Erika S., Wine Enthusiast Companies

Respirer Wine Aerator Allure Aerating Decanter

An aerator and a decanter both serve a similar purpose which is to expand the surface area of wine, which allows the air to mingle with it. Whether placing the wine in a larger vessel (decanter) or forcing air to be circulated throughout it (aerator), the end result is a wine with an expanded aromatic profile and/or softer tannins.  So, what’s the difference?

The difference is time. If you have limited time to spare and you’d like your wine to be softer, a handy aerator will do the trick in minutes. A Vinturi or Respirer for example, is held above your glass while you pour wine through the top of the aerator. As the wine flows through the aerator, it “breathes” as bubbles are sent through it. An aerator is therefore more appropriate for casual meals, where time is of the essence, but quality of experience is important as well.

When time is on your side, and you’re preparing a more leisurely meal or inviting over guests, a decanter is the best solution. A decanter is often used with a funnel that aerates wine as it is poured into the decanter. The wine then rests in the decanter until you are ready to serve it, opening and changing all the while. Wine can stay in a decanter for hours without spoiling, it all depends how much air it needs. Presenting wine in an elegant decanter for guests may be a more special experience for company, than using an aerator.

Aside from the time you have available, it’s also important to note the age of your wine. A very old wine (10+ years) should not be aerated but the sediment must be removed. If you’re serving an old wine at its peak, it won’t benefit from aeration, as it’s fully developed. The more an old wine is exposed to air the sooner it will start to fade. The wine should be decanted off its sediment just prior to service.

Do you prefer to use a decanter or an aerator? Or do you keep both on hand depending on what time allows? Leave a comment, and let us know!

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7 Responses to “Aerators and Decanters: What’s the Difference?”

  1. Wow- great entry. It definitively answers a lot of questions I’ve had on this subject. Especially the guidance about *not* aerating older wines.

    I’ve done head-to-head blind tastings between the Vinturi, the Soiree, the Respirer, decanted, and pop-and-pour. The first time I did it, I expected to see a nice rank-ordered preference where decanted finished first, pop-and-pour last and the instantaneous single-serving aerators somewhere in between. However, across a number of tasters the results were quite different from what I expected. In some ways the results were somewhat random, but taken as a whole, trends definitely emerge. Blind tasting the same wine aerated different ways can be quite a humbling experience.

    Another thing to note is that sometimes you just want to crack open a bottle and enjoy it without any gadgets at all. If a wine tastes great right out of the bottle there’s no point in messing with it.


    Bob Dwyer
    The Wellesley Wine Press

  2. I’m much more of a decanter advocate than aerator. I like to watch the wine evolve. Whether it’s correct or not, I feel that using an aerator runs the risk of missing some of that evolution, and maybe even its “prime.”

  3. Will there be any update on this post BTW? I have added your feed to my reader.

  4. Having tried wines both ways, I’ve come to the conclusion that decanting is the only way. Forget the “time is of the essance”. Wine is to be enjoyed and if you can’t take the time to properly prepare the wine then drink a beer
    John Coram
    Fraizer Creek Farms

  5. Thanks for the input John. Certainly any way that you choose to enjoy wine is the best way for you! There are no wrong/right answers.

  6. There is an enjoyment that surrounds decanting that is certainly not captured with an aerator. I agree with John, make time to decant when your wine will benefit from breathing. I love to taste the wine immediately after opening and see how it changes while decanting.

  7. [...] confirmed my conclusion (gotta love the Internet when you’re second-guessing yourself). Wine Enthusiast says “So, what’s the difference? The difference is time. If you have limited time to spare and [...]

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