Essential Wine Accessories (that won’t break the bank) – Part 2

If you’re a budding wine drinker (or you know one) looking to ensure you have the most essential wine accessories, but without laying out big bucks, this is the right guide for you.

PART 2 – Something to pour the wine into – decanter

Posh decanter
Posh decanter

Decanters are a statement and the centrepiece of every wine aficionado’s dining table. Showing off aside, there are two main reasons to decant a wine:

1. To separate the wine from its sediment

If a wine – particularly red wine – is mature, it might well have developed some sediment. It’s perfectly harmless, but can taste unpleasantly crunchy, and looks quite unsightly.

Sediment is usually the sign of a well-made wine that hasn’t been fined or filtered too much; these techniques remove tiny solid particles that might eventually fall out as sediment, but they also take out some of the flavour compounds which made a wine so enjoyable.

Vintage port is a great example of a wine that throws a sediment.  It’s usually bottled quite young and not opened until after a few decades.  Look at this contraption:

Port Decanting Cradle
Port Decanting Cradle

Turning the handle slowly tilts the bottle, and hopefully the sediment is visible from the light of the candle, so you can pour the wine but stop it just before the sludge.

Sediment is far less common with white wine, and usually comes in the form of white crystals.  Again these are natural and not harmful – they are tartrate crystals, and their occurrence is often due to a positive quality decision by the winemaker.

2. To let the wine breathe

Here are two statements for you to evaluate, true or false:

A: Virtually every wine will benefit from some time to breathe

B: Simply opening a bottle is a perfectly fine way of letting the wine breathe

Whaddya think?

Well it is all down to opinion, but I reckon that A = True and B = False

As a general rule, the younger the wine the more time it needs to breathe properly.  This allows chemicals in the wine to react with oxygen in the air and hence aromas and flavours are unlocked.  Tannins taste softer, so young red wines really do benefit.

And as for just opening a bottle of wine to let it breathe, so little of the wine comes into contact with air that the effect is almost negligible over a few hours.  If you don’t have any sort of decanting device to hand, then just pour a glass and that will speed things up!

A word of caution for older wines – if fully decanted, which might well be desirable if they have thrown a sediment, they will go out of condition if left for too long.  I have experienced something similar at vertical tastings where wines have been poured out well in advance of tasting, and some from the last millennium were already deteriorating.

So, if you are on a budget, what sort of decanter should you go for?

I would argue that a simple glass jug will do a fine job, without costing the earth.  So how about this:

Ikea Vanlig Pitcher
Ikea Vanlig Pitcher

Less than 5 Euros/Pounds/Dollars etc – and stackable!

Now, if you want to take a bottle of wine to a dinner party or BYO restaurant, but also want to decant it to show it at its best, what do you do?  Double decanting is the answer!  So you’ve poured the wine into your glass jug / decanter, and want to get it back into the bottle without spilling.

The budget wine accessory you’re looking for is a Stainless steel funnel:

Stainless Steel Funnel
Stainless Steel Funnel

Part 1 looked at something to open bottles with

Part 3 will look at something to drink the wine out of…



One of the things I really enjoy about wine is how it changes between pour and finish — the evolution of wine.  This might be as simple as a bit of air opening up the fruity flavours of something simple, or observing a tightly wound young red unfurl its wings.

For this reason, when I know I’m going to have more than a single glass in a bar or restaurant, I will order several different wines at the same time.  With whites, temperature is key…as a wine warms up its flavours become more expressive, acidity slowly takes a back seat, and any residual sugar will become more apparent.

If you love Alsace Riesling as I do, the difference between a producer’s standard offering and one from a Grand Cru vineyard will become more obvious.  If the wines are too cold eg straight from a domestic fridge – then you might not think there’s much of a difference.  “Why the fuss?” you might ask.  Once they get to 10℃, you’re thinking “Now I see the difference”.  And a few more degrees higher, “Wow, I’m over the regular stuff, Grand Cru is where it’s at!” is what you’re saying.

In my imagination, anyway.

For dry wines, obviously sweetness doesn’t come into it – actual sweetness doesn’t, that is; some wines can taste sweet if they are particularly fruity.  Where a wine has been oaked in some way (see upcoming post on oak in wine), then if served too chilled it can taste bitter.  For me, 10C is too cold, but if it gets poured at that temperature then the changes in the glass can be thrilling.

Here are 3 fantastic Chardonnays sold by the glass at Ely Wine Bar in Dublin:

  • Domaine Marc Colin et Fils Saint-Aubin La Fontenotte 2011
  • Shaw + Smith Adelaide Hills M3 Chardonnay 2012
  • Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay 2011



For reds, temperature is also very important, but so is exposure to oxygen.  If you have a decanter, or even a basic glass jug, you can get so much more taste (and therefore value) out of a full bottle if you decant it.

Of course, if you’re at an establishment which has a great selection by the glass, you won’t have to do that – pouring into a glass is sort of a mini version of decanting anyway.

Tasting wines at the same time gives you the opportunity to see how they evolve side by side – give it a try!