Decanters - the best?
Hi there, I'd like to buy my father a really nice decanter for christmas...is there any specific kinds that are better, or brands? I am not much into wine myself, so I am not well versed in this area. I am sure the shape matters, etc... any help would be appreciated. I'd like to buy one online if possible.
I am quite happy with this Ravenscroft breathing decanter:
Unleaded natural crystal (if the wine might stay there a day or two I wouldn't want leaded crystal). The price is right and it looks nicer than in the picture.
Bill Hunt's points are excellent, I tend to use this to decant young wines that I think need more air; I am not cracking open too many ancient bottles with lots of sediment. This shape allows rapid swirling and aerates really well. There is a slight drip factor at the end of the pour but I touch the lip to the edge of the glass or use a napkin.
With old wines air might not be your friend. I would either let them settle upright for a few days and pour from the bottle or decant with funnel into a more cylindrical shape that minimizes air contact. There are lots of fun sculptural decanters that have as little air surface area as a regular wine bottle.
First, thank you. Next, go the napkin route. The edge of the bowl of a wine glass is the most delicate part (I have fewer problems with stems, though some will cite that as the weak link) and is easily chipped. I hate to be pouring, when a guest keeps raising the glass to touch the decanter/bottle and usually make sure that the glasses are on a firm, flat surface, and NOT in the hand of the guest.
Most of my decanters also have a tiny "drip-factor" (like that term!), so I keep a handful of large bar napkins handy in the side-board for that. Even the "dripless" truncated mouth decanters (one's that I warned about, re: ergonomics, or lack, thereof) allow a drop, or two, to run down the neck. The napkin, held loosley below the mouth usually catches that.
As for the "leaded crystal" v non-leaded, I've seen reports for both sides, though do not use my decanters to really store wine - possible exception might be Vintage Port, when several bottles are opened for a tasting. I probably should look into the Ravenscroft, or similar, for those events. Thanks.
I've got a dozen, or so, decanters and this style is my favorite for most red wines: http://tinyurl.com/y9xeww. I like them for the ergonomics of pouring the wine from the decanter. While I have several, including 3-mag., and one dbl. mag, size like this: http://tinyurl.com/y3umez, I find that the pouring is a bit clumsey. Mine, unlike these, all have a truncated spout at about a 15° angle. I also like the glass "stoppers" to "put a cork" in the decanter, when you think that it has aerated enough.
As others have stated, one could pour into a bucket and get most of the aeration. However, a larger base does provide a larger wine to air surface for additional aeration. The later mentioned decanter does a better job of that, but at the sacrifice of handling, IMO.
I also have quite a few smaller bowl decanters that I use primarily for Port, but they are closer to the first design.
One additional object, that you might want to throw in, is a funnel. I like the ones with the opening at the side of the spout, or a curved spout, to pour the wine down the side of the decanter.
Remember, there are three reasons to decant a wine:
1.) Aerate a young wine (white, or red), often called caraffing
2.) Separate the sediment from the wine (red), leaving THAT in the bottle
3.) You'd rather have your guests see the lovely decanter, than the label on that bottle of 2$Chuck!
Guests (for some reason) are always really impressed when I use a decanter at home at dinner. But to your point to my knowledge shape really doesn't matter for aerating the wine. You could just as well pour the wine into a bucket and then pour it back into the bottle and get the same affect. But if you are trying to control sediment then the more dramatic the shape the better. So it really depends on whether your father drinks a lot of aged wine with sedimnent or younger wine.
Well, shape does matter somewhat. It matters in how much surface area contact the wine will have with the air, how much the air is able to circulate in the decanter, and how easily the wine aerates when poured down the sides. Shape only doesn't matter at all for splash decanting then pouring back into the bottle. That said, there is little functional difference between standard-shaped decanters. I do like the look of the Reidel duck, but I couldn't justify the price.
The Spiegelau Vino Grande is very nice and reasonably priced.