A wine decanter is a glass vessel which is used to hold and serve wine. When you decant wine something magical happens. You turn a pedestrian thing in a showpiece, an elegant presentation of wine. But decanting wine is not all just about appearances, it can also cause a magical transformation in the wine as well, helping to optimize your experience of a fine wine. When learning how to serve wine, a wine decanter can help bring you into the big leagues of fine wine presentation.
There are three primary uses for a wine decanter which will be listed below. There is a great deal of controversy amongst wine enthusiasts about which wines should be decanted and for how long they should be decanted prior to serving. While there are no absolute rules for decanting wine, there are some general considerations to consider.
- Presentation – There is something very elegant and beautiful about a wine being served in a pretty decanter. It serves to highlight the wine and let your guests know that they are in for something special. Both red and white wines look beautiful in a clear, crystal wine decanter. While this is a purely aesthetic reason to decant a wine, it does aid in the presentation of fine wines and, besides, enjoying fine wine is an aesthetic pastime anyway, is it not?
- Aeration – The act of decanting a wine exposes the wine to oxygen in the air. In the bottle, the wine in its long rest has been largely devoid of oxygen exposure (except for the small amount inside the bottle and the miniscule amount that diffuses through the cork). Oxygen can cause dramatic changes in a wine and when a wine first breaths its first breaths after its long sleep amazing things can happen. Just the act of pouring the wine into the decanter exposes the wine to air but most decanters also increase this aeration of the wine by providing a large surface area of wine to air contact to allow the wine to continue to absorb and react with air. While long term exposure to air can lead to oxidation which is not usually desirable, in the short term it can do wondrous things for some wines.
- Removing Sediment – Most people agree that wines that are excessively filtered by the producer prior to bottling loose much of their depth and complexity. Therefore, most fine wines are not filtered or only lightly so. These wines tend to throw a sediment, a solid that precipitates in the bottle, particularly with aging. This is a perfectly normal thing and actually a sign that the wine is alive and natural and hasn’t been excessively filtered.