Check out the new, mobile-friendly WineSpectator.com!
Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
While I agree that stemware can significantly enhance the wine consumption experience, I'm curious about decanter shapes. Are there specific shapes for different varietals, or are different shapes primarily due to aesthetics and presentation?
—Brandon R., Seattle
The purpose of a decanter is to maximize the surface area of wine so that it has exposure to oxygen. Beyond that, it's all about aesthetics.
My advice is to look for a decanter with a wide base, which offers stability (also, a carafe-shaped decanter isn't going to let the wine breathe much more than it does in the bottle). Thin glass offers more clarity than thick glass, but it will also be more fragile. Consider the balance of the decanter and whether it might hurt your wrist to slowly pour wine from it when it's full. If you abhor greasy fingerprints, consider some of the models with handles. And as beautiful as some decanters are, if the only way to get the last few drops out is to completely invert the thing, well, that's not the best idea if you have a white tablecloth.
Lately, I've become enamored of those "duck-shaped" decanters. The incline makes it easy to pour the wine, down to the last drop. Oh, and if you have trouble cleaning stains out of your decanter, consider using some well-diluted bleach with lots of hot water to rinse.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Passionate about wine? Wine Spectator magazine is looking for an enthusiastic copy editor in the New York office.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions
New! Ratings Flash | New! Unfiltered