What's The Difference Between Decanting And Aerating?

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 main 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 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.