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Why You Should Buy a Decanter, but Skip an Aerator

According to one wine expert and enthusiast, at least

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Woman pouring wine into a decanter VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

Jordan Salcito wants your glass of wine to taste its best. The director of wine special projects at Momofuku and the founder of both Bellus Wines and Ramona beverage company, Salcito was a James Beard Awards semi-finalist for Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional in 2018 and 2019. She gives talks, writes about wine, and works the harvests annually.

For the drinker who is not a certified pro, the world of wine accessories intended to enhance your experience can be intimidating. There’s an array of glasses, all kinds of corkscrews, filters, and jugs and decanters of various shapes and sizes. Which is why, when it comes to wine products, Salcito has two clear, unequivocal recommendations:

Buy a decanter.

These vessels can help wines achieve peak form as they journey from bottle to glass. Salcito cites three different instances when you might decant: when you have an old red, to gently separate the wine from any sediment; simply for “drama” when serving a bottle; or when you have a so-called young red or a white that would benefit from oxygen.

According to Salcito, for a young red, oxygen can help it get to its “moment of deliciousness” faster than waiting 10-20 years. With a white, some bottles get a bit of a “reductive note,” which smells like sulfur or a burnt match. Decanting “more often than not” helps get rid of that.

Just glug the wine into the decanter — there are tons of shapes that work, though you can dive much deeper and nerdily into the specifics. Salcito looks to the storied Austrian company Lobmeyr for its beautiful, if expensive, decanters, calling them “a great gift for somebody who is a wine connoisseur who loves to entertain and serve wine.” It’s super expensive, but for a reason.

“I don’t think there is a company that is more focused on beauty and elegance than Lobmeyr,” she says. “So if you’re going for that splurge, you might as well… get yourself the best.”

For less expensive options, consider Zalto’s geometric Denk’Art Axium Decanter (at around $115 it’s still pricey, but less than Lobmeyr); one with a classic shape from Williams Sonoma ($70); or a Luigi Bormioli style made from break-resistant glass ($50).

Skip an aerator.

These small spouts are sold as a way to quickly “add oxygen” and enhance the flavor of a wine — not unlike a decanter, but without the wait. They are often manually attached to the top of a wine bottle; the liquid passes through the aerator as it flows out. They’re also typically pretty affordable. But that doesn’t mean they’re worth it, or that they always make wine better.

“No aerator I’ve ever tried has improved the taste of a wine for me, and at the end of the day it’s hard to make cheap wine taste pricey with any sort of contraption,” Salcito says.

“Great wines need time to reach their peak, and trying to fast-track that doesn’t do the wine or the consumer any favors. I think of aerators as the snake oil of the wine accessories industry.”

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