Wine Aerator vs. Decanter: Pros & Cons

When wine is exposed to oxygen just before serving, undesirable molecules within the wine change and evaporate. That’s why people swirl wine around in their glass. 

By increasing the surface area of the wine, the amount of oxygen the wine is exposed to increases. It’s called aeration and it enhances the wine’s flavor and scent. It’s also referred to as “letting a wine breathe.” Deciding to aerate your wine is a no-brainer, then. But deciding how to do it is a little trickier.

While swirling wine in a glass works just fine, there are faster and more effective ways to aerate wine, and having a good understanding of what are tannins will help you along the way. Two wine accessories, specifically: the aerator and the decanter. Both succeed in aerating wine, but they each go about it differently. They each also have some unique benefits that the other doesn’t.

So let’s look at what a wine aerator is, what a wine decanter is, and the ever present discussion of wine aerator vs decanter. Then, brace yourself. Because we’re going to pop the brain right out of your gigamind. We’ll show you some wine aerator decanters. Yes, combinations of the two. Are they the best of both worlds or masters of none? We shall see.

What is a Wine Aerator?

A wine aerator is a device that forces wine through a funnel of pressurized oxygen. Doing so aerates the wine instantly. The pressurized air also accelerates evaporation by vigorously rushing through the wine. But this vigor means aerators aren’t suited for fragile wines like old reds and delicate whites.

Wine aerators are either bottle-stopper aerators that fit into the opening of a wine bottle or handheld aerators that are held above or placed on the wine glass. To use one, you pour the wine through it.

What Is a Wine Decanter?

A wine decanter serves many purposes. Foremost, it decants wine by exposing wine to lots of surface area. Like how a wine glass does, but on a much bigger scale. Which makes it far more effective. And secondarily, the act of pouring wine into a decanter is used to identify and avoid serving sediment in mature red wines.

The increased surface area a decanter provides wine is also used to increase a wines temperature if it came out of the cellar too cold. White wines that are reduced, or have flavor profiles and scents that are compromised, can be slightly improved with a brief decant. And finally, decanting is a pleasure to behold. The glassware is beautiful and the choreography of decanting is charming to anyone who values the tradition and history of wine.

Wine Aerator vs. Decanter

So which is right for you, the aerator or the decanter? It depends what you’re looking for and what kind of wines you drink. Let’s break down the pros and cons.

Wine Aerator Pros and Cons

  • Aerates wine immediately
  • Can get a decent one for $10 to $20
  • Small and easy to clean and store
  • Not good for aged red wines
  • Not good for white wines
  • Not terribly attractive
Wine Decanter Pros and Cons
  • Allows the decanting of more delicate wines like mature reds and whites
  • Can be used to increase a wine’s temperature
  • The glassware itself is beautiful and adds to the wine experience
  • Can take up to 3 hours
  • Large, unique shapes make decanters harder to store and difficult clean
  • On average, more expensive than aerators
The big takeaway here is that wine aerators aerate wine immediately and cost less. If you don’t drink very expensive wines and you’re just looking for a simple way to get the job done, pick up an aerator. We’ve got a list of the best wine aerators right here.

If you do occasionally pick up a complex, old red wine and if you like the look and feel of the traditional wine service experience, then pick up one of these best wine decanters. Be careful, though. It’s easy to start collecting the darn things. Some of us know from personal experience.

And if your mind still isn’t made up, then you should look into wine aerator decanters.
Wine Aerator Decanters

Wine aerator decanters are shaped like decanters but have an aerator fixed to the opening. But it’s a simpler kind of aerator, one that maximizes surface area through pouring. The wine isn’t forced through a funnel of pressurized oxygen. It’s poured over nodes that disperse it outward or turn it into a spray of small droplets which cascade down the sides of the decanter.

The wine then comes to rest in a vessel that maximizes its surface area. If you’re going to use one of these, just know that it’s not going to be necessary to decant the wine for very long after pouring it through the aerator. Probably 10–15 minutes. Also note that you should still not be pouring aged red wines or delicate, light-bodied whites through the aerator. 

Wine Aerating vs Decanting: Whichever You Choose, You'll Be Okay

The great part about aerating and decanting wine is that you don't have to be in the process of becoming a sommelier to do it. It's easy! Though if you do want to, we've got some great resources on sommelier classes and courses, sommelier certification levels, and prepping for the master sommelier exam (or any other level of certification). Sorry, went off on bit of a tangent there. The point is, this is all easy. You don't need any special training to make your wine taste like you paid 100% more for it. 

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