10 Questions: Wine Decanters

With Mark Baulderstone, Managing Director of RIEDEL Australia & New Zealand

We’re going right back to basics, talking about what makes RIEDEL the brand it is: elaborate yet functional wine decanters.

Mark Baulderstone pouring red wine with Ayam Decanter

Mark Baulderstone has been working for RIEDEL since 1995 and is now the Managing Director of RIEDEL Australia & New Zealand.

We asked him ten questions about our collection of decanters and why it's such an important part of wine enjoyment.

  1. Why should you use a wine decanter?

There are two reasons why people should decant, depending on the age of the wine. You decant older wines to remove sediment, and because the wine has been trapped in a tight container for a long period of time.  Exposure to air is beneficial because it allows the wine to breathe and give a full expression of fruit.

The lesser known reason is to aerate young wines. Movement and flow speed up the ageing process, and the only way to do this is to get them out of the bottle. Get the wine into a decanter and get some air and some bubbles in it.

  1. If you know a wine would improve with age but you want to drink it straight away, what can you do?

Pour it in the decanter then give it a good shake. Don’t be scared to get it moving if it’s a young wine, allow it to breathe and really start to express itself. The intention is to see bubbles in the wine; if you put your ear to the wine, you want to hear a snap, crackle and pop. These are the sounds of the proteins and CO2 burning off, which allows the wine to improve, become more aromatic, and show more fruit.

  1. How long should you decant for?

To talk in very broad terms, the younger the wine, the more time it needs, and the older the wine, the less time it needs. But if you can be prepared and allow anywhere between 1-2 hours in a decanter, your wine will improve dramatically. If it’s a decanter that comes with the feature of being able to aerate faster, this can obviously speed up this process.

  1. Why does RIEDEL make so many extravagantly designed decanters?

It's about theatre! There’s an enormous amount of theatre involved. Of course you could use a jug, but how uninspiring. It is so much more fun bringing something like Eve to the table, and adds ceremony whether you’ve spent $30 or $300 on the wine inside. 

  1. Is there a difference in the way they work?

But some of our pieces are made specifically for young, punchy wines, like Mamba, Boa, Escargot, or Ayam. The design creates a vacuum in the decanter and you end up with air pockets that cut the surface of the wine and aerate it faster. Older wines will be completely punished in these decanters, and are better suited to our more traditional pieces.

  1. What should someone consider when they want to buy a Riedel decanter?

Depending on your budget, choose a decanter that fits in your home, and that you feel is easy to use, wash, and take care of. Most importantly, use it regularly so it doesn’t get dusty and dirty. Nothing worse than having to clean your decanter because it has dust in it.

  1. Can you keep your decanter in the box to keep dust out?

You can, but it’s going to smell when you pull it out of the box, same with your glasses. If you leave it in the packaging, they will smell of cardboard which means you’ll always need to rinse them anyway.

  1. How do you prepare your decanter before you use it?

The best way to rinse your decanter is by what we call seasoning. You rinse it out with some water then a little bit of wine – though perhaps don’t do this if you’re drinking a very expensive wine! This gets rid of any impurities in the decanter and gets it ready to use.

  1. What’s the best way to clean a decanter?

Carbonated water works the best, because the carbonic acid eats away at any stains in the decanter, so a cheap soda or mineral water is perfect.  If you wash it soon after use then you won’t need to worry about stains. The only exception is if you’ve enjoyed a particularly rowdy dinner party, perhaps simply rinse it and upend a bottle of soda water in to soak overnight.  This goes for cleaning your glasses too: if in doubt, wash or stack in your machine the next day!

  1. What if your decanter already has red wine stains in it?

We provide decanter beads that remove stains.  We don’t recommend that you use these on our snake decanters though, as the beads can get stuck in the tail.