Decanters have a long history associated with them. Similar to a carafe, decanters have played an important role in serving wine. Dating back to the Roman times, decanters were filled with wine from an Amphora, which is a vase like ceramic jug with two handles and served from the table. The decanters were easier to handle by one person or servant. glass decanters were pioneered by the Romans but due to limited amount of glass, silver, gold and bronze were used. The Venetians also used glass decanters during the Renaissance period. The design style of decanters allowed for more air to interact with the wine. They usually have a long slender neck and wide body. In 1730 the British glass makers added a stopper to limit the exposure to air. The designs haven’t changed much since then.
Decanters add many factors to their usage. One of the main reasons was that the Amphora’s contained sediment on the bottom of them from the aging wine and by using a decanter; you can filter out these sediment particles to prevent serving them in a person’s glass. Not only was filtering a factor but the size and shape of the decanters allowed it easier to pour.
Another factor was that the wine was aerated. When you aerate a wine and allow it to breathe it mimics the effects of swirling the wine in a glass. The stimulation and movement of the molecules in wine trigger the release of more aromas. Aerating is more beneficial to wines containing more tannin and is very tannic in nature.
Decanting wine and the effectiveness of using a decanter is debatable and many people have mixed reviews. While many claim that prolonged exposure to air can diffuse a wine more than stimulate, other believe there are benefits. Some also believe that although great for very tannic wines, delicate wines like Pinot Noir and Chianti can be harmed through decanting.
In the end it is a matter of opinion. I personally like the look and feel of the decanters and it adds a little class to the wine serving process. The aesthetic value of the decanter adds that certain flare to a party or get together. Decanters aren’t just for wine. Many use decanters to hold their Single Malt Scotches, Cognacs and Whiskeys. There are many styles and designs to choose from.
Further reading: Weddings and Champagne: History & Customs
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