Is it safe to use a lead crystal decanter?

Ask Dr Vinny

Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.

Dear Dr. Vinny,

We have some beautiful old Waterford lead crystal decanters which we've rarely used. My wife is afraid to use them for decanting wine because of her perceived risk of lead poisoning. Is this perceived risk justified, or can we decant away?

—Mark Mershon, Miami, Fla.

Dear Mark,

You can decant away, but only if you promise me that you don't use those decanters for long-term wine storage. It takes a long time—months or years—but eventually the acids in the wine will leach some lead from the glass. You'd have to drink a whole bunch of this lead-infected wine to have any dangerous effects. But it's safe to use these decanters for a few hours at a time.

—Dr. Vinny

Ask Dr. Vinny

More In Dr. Vinny

Should I be worried about small temperature and humidity changes in my wine cellar?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice for wine storage and a helpful tip for …

May 29, 2020

Is it normal for old wine to be cloudy?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains where sediment comes from and strategies for …

May 27, 2020

I love screwcapped wines, but I had two stored on their sides that started leaking. Is that common?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains proper storage for wines with twist-off caps.

May 25, 2020

What are wine tasters trying to communicate when they describe “texture”?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny explains the concept of "texture" in wine, and how …

May 22, 2020

Can I grow wine grapes in Ohio?

Wine Spectator's expert Dr. Vinny offers advice and resources for anyone considering …

May 20, 2020

What’s the best way to keep an open bottle of wine at the ideal serving temp?

Wine Spectator 's expert Dr. Vinny offers some tried-and-true methods for cooling down a …

May 18, 2020