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Purchasing my first wine decanter

Is there any functional reason that the high end Riedel decanters cost 5 or 10 times then their low end counterparts? What separates the Riedel Amadeo from the O from the Vivant decanter that I can buy at Target or $20? The Amadeo does look very pretty aesthetically and has a wide base for a good surface area, but I cant imagine that this would be easy to clean. The Spiegelau Vino Grande seems like a good deal, though cleaning and pouring would seem to be difficult.

The are the criteria I'm using, in order of importance:

1. Wide base, good surface area, narrow neck
2. Ease of cleaning
3. Price
4. Ease of pouring
5. Aesthetics

Am I missing anything?

I'd appreciate any comments, suggestions, and personal experience.

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  1. It depends on what you are going to use the decanter for. I have many different decanters and always find myself using my most simple and modest ones. The $20 Reidel decanters at Target are very good. Thats all you need. It has a nice shape, pours well and is really perfect for your first decanter. More elaborate ones can be nice for more formal dinners or if you decide you want to start a collection. The Target one can be used in any situation with no problem. I have some just like it.

    Also, if you think about getting more than one and you ever serve magnums... the traditional decanter won't fit the whole bottle. I've found some nice ones at a modest price (below $40) at Crate and Barrel.

    1 Reply
    1. Hey, mengathon,
      You might enjoy this recent thread on wine decanters
      with hilarious recs by carswell...

      1. I know guys & girls around here are gonna look at me in a weird way, but I must confess:

        My fave is the separatory funnel w/teflon plug, like the one in the link below.


        I can elaborate further, but that takes time.
        Just get one, it's cheap, then we can talk.

        5 Replies
        1. re: RicRios

          Those look cool. Wouldn't recommend it for OP's first decanter, but its interesting. A few quesitons...

          1. How do you support the unit?
          2. Assume you "pour" by opening the valve and the wine goes directly into the glass, right? Thats the coolest part
          3. Assume you decant the wine directly into the funnel, correct? (If not, than its just a pouring tool).
          4. So height for the support mechanism has to be high enough so a glass can fit comfortably under it and low enough to be able to decant the bottle. Does the support mech allow that?
          5. With a traditional decanter you can use a light source (candle, flashlight, etc) while decanting to see the sediment as it approaches the neck. As this looks like it must be higher than counter height it seems like these won't work so well. What do you use for "light" if needed for bottles with sediment?
          6. How do you clean the valve part of the unit?
          7. What are the dimensions?
          8. What sizes do you use... ie. use for Magnums, 3L?
          9. As it pours from the bottom, any sediment that may still be in the wine will collect at the bottom and go directly into the glass. So, decanting properly seems to be a must. Has this presented any problems?

          Very curious to hear how you use it. I like the pouring concept for "clean" (young) wines. Could be fun.

          1. re: WineTravel

            1) These types of funnels are sold in lab supply stores. I actually purchased mine on line ( about $60, IIRC ); seller was a bitch, I wouldn't recommend. Anyways, they come with their own (heavy) metallic base, steel round column and semi-circular round holder shaped like a ? sign, plus clamps to attach to the column.

            2) Pouring: with valve closed, I first tilt the entire funnel (easily done by adjusting the clamps) until it's as horizontal as it gets. This provides max exposure to air, slow pour, plus the sediments fall in the bulky part of the funnel.

            3) Correct.

            4) The steel column is about 3 ft high, so that's no problem. But again, since I tilt the funnel (see 2 above), the glass must be a little higher than the base of the contraption.

            5) Any light source placed on the side of the funnel opposite to the pourer will do.

            6) Valve is teflon, cleaning is a breeze. Just rinse the funnel and let the water flow through.

            7) Again, the column is about 3 ft high, the base is smaller than a regular (8" x 11") sheet of paper, I'd say 6" x 8".

            8) I bought a 1 liter funnel, since I never buy bottles larger than 750 ml. Plenty of different sizes available though.

            9) See 2 above. Any sediment that didn't fall into the bulky part of the funnel gets trapped along the walls.

            Hope that helps.

            1. re: RicRios

              That's a very interesting idea. It'd be like high school chemistry all over again.

          2. re: RicRios

            I have one of the those and I HATE it. In fact it is packed up in the garage. Give me the Reidel from Target any day.

            1. re: RicRios

              It's a great idea theoretically -- I love the image -- but I'm not sure I like the idea practically . . .

            2. The essential difference between high-priced and low-priced decanters is often no more than aesthetics. It is aesthetically pleasing to some to know their decanters are crystal. That fact may be visually indiscernible, but according to many folks I have spoken with, they "know".

              I recommend glass decanters in a shape/design that is pleasing to your eye.

              I favor 'Captain's decanters' and 'ducks'.

                1. re: zin1953

                  I have a $9.99 Mikasa glass Captain decanter that I have happily used for years.

                  1. re: bogie

                    My wife has stopped buying me wine glasses and now buys me decanters for my birthday/Christmas/etc. However, there is no need to get a fancy decanter. I use my Riedel the most, but when I need more than one decanter I have no problem pulling out the $10 Mikasa glass Captain decanter.

                    I wouldn't worry too much about a narrow neck, since sometimes the combination of wide base and narrow neck makes pouring a pain. Other than that, I'd say your criteria are right. But something that is pleasing to the eye is always a good thing as long as it is functional and easy to clean.

                2. zin1953 upthread is exactly right. Decent looking and functional decanters cost around $20 and if you get seriously interested in wine, you also will probably "go through" a few of them over the years, just as with any glassware.

                  I have heard of folks spending big money on fine decanters. I also know many folks seriously interested in wine. But so far I know of no one belonging to both groups ...

                  1. Thanks all. Off to Target I go.

                    1. Have not read all the replies, so this might just be a rehash of what's above.

                      Erognomics - first, is it comfortable to pour?
                      Utilitarian value - you cover those in your first 2 points
                      Price - anywhere from US$35 to $300. Yes, a big, broad range, and spending more will likely only come into play with #5.

                      I really like the Riedel Lyre (SP?) model, but it fails badly with #2. Since it was a gift, #3 did not come into play. It excels at all other points, but turned out to be very expensive.

                      I have (just counted for a previous thread) 16, ranging from .375s to double-magnums. I like the "ship's decanter" for #1, #2, #3 (most are in the $30-150 range), are fine for #5 (don't bring on the guests' oh-h & ah-hs, but still look good), but some have too wide a base and just do not pour well, #4. I have some Port-style decanters, that are adequately wide, have stoppers and pour well. Prices of these range across the board. They are also easy to clean.

                      Something to think about, once you do decide on which one/type fits your needs, is a good funnel. I like the ones with a side hole, so that the wine hits the sides of the decanter, and does not fall fully to the bottome. I also like stoppers, so I can slow down the "aging" in the decanter. For certain wines, I can also put in/on the stopper to save for the next day - think Port, etc.

                      Next, look at IWA and Wine Enthusiast for a good drying rack. I have three, for different sizes/types of decanters, and for the day after I have used several the night before. Each one works best with certain of my collection, except for the beautiful Lyre!

                      There have been several articles over the last 6 mos. on decanters, and I, and others have added links to various catalogs. You might want to do a search on "decant," as I think two were with subjects like, "Decant, or Not to Decant."

                      Also, get a nice, wide-based candle. It should be low enough, that it does not heat the neck of the bottle, but allows you to look into it - takes practice and a steady hand. Also, when decanting, stand the bottle upright for a day, or two, before you plan on serving, and do not agitate the bottle, as you transport it from its storage place to the decanting spot - BE GENTLE!

                      Also, remember that there are only three reasons to decant a wine. I'm going to make you do a search for the answer to that.


                      1. The Spiegelau Vino Grande is great and a good value. A friend has a collection of decanters and that's his favorite.


                        1. Most of the time, when we decant at home, we just ues a nice ceramic pitcher. Seriously. It works really well, and was pretty cheap.


                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Pool Boy

                            Pitchers work fine, better than carafes if you want to aerate the wine, but it's nice to see the wine.

                            Sometimes, with older wines, you really want a narrow neck and a stopper to slow oxidation.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              RL...true on both counts. You could, for your younger wines, also use a glass pitcher.


                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                I agree completely. I use the stoppers more than many, for just that purpose. Also, being a bit of a "traditionalist," I do not use anything but my decanters - no clean bottles, no other glassware, but then I've got a ton of different decanters, that it's not a big deal. Just got 3 more for my birthday, so I need to put them into use, and quickly!