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Wine decanters

decanter-2Wine decanters are one of those elusive aspects of wine service that serve to add a touch of class – but that many people don’t know the reasoning behind. In fact, for most modern wines, decanters serve little purpose other than aesthetic. But there are historical reasons for decanting wine, which may still be important in some modern wines.


Decanters have been used since the beginning of wine – and the glass decanter has its origins as far back as ancient Rome. The modern decanter – a glass vessel with a large bowl at the bottom, a narrow opening, and a stopper – is virtually unchanged from designs perfected in the early 18th century.


The primary purpose of a decanter is to offer up a clear wine, free of sediment. Most modern wines are fined during the winemaking process, using a variety of ingredients that bind to sediment-causing particulate, resulting in a clear wine that doesn’t produce sediment, even if laid down to age. These wines do not require a decanter. Some wines still use a traditional process, however, and over time may accrue sediment as the particulate matter settles out of the wine. A general rule of thumb is that Old World reds, as well as New World reds labeled as ‘traditional’ or ‘ancient method’, which have been left to age for more than 10 years, should be decanted. For these wines, the wine is carefully and gently poured from the bottle into the decanter, leaving the bottom eighth of the bottle (where the sediment has settled) behind.


decanterDecanting is also often used as a way of aerating the wine – mingling oxygen with the wine to soften the wine somewhat, to warm it up, and to release more aroma. Most restaurants use decanters for this purpose in the modern age, and for younger wines or wines that have been fined, this is the best use of a decanter. For home use, however, many people have begun to turn to on-bottle aerators, which can add more oxygen to the wine in a shorter time, and remove the need for a decanter.


Of course, the reason most people use decanters is to add an extra aesthetic element to their wine service. And for this purpose decanters still remain an excellent choice. Wine simply looks beautiful in crystal, and pouring wine from a crystal decanter adds to any experience.


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