Unsurprisingly, the word decant is thought to have originated around the 17th century as an alchemist term meaning – to pour off the clear liquid by tipping the vessel. However, some still argue that it derives from the French – décanter – to pour from the edge of a vessel. Either definition seems appropriate, as turning water into wine most certainly involves a touch of alchemy. Regardless of the first uses of the word ‘decant,’ the contemporary Merriam-Webster acknowledges that liquid is also separated from sediment. This contemporary addition gives us the very definition of a wine decanter.
What is a Wine Decanter?
At its most basic, a wine decanter is a glass vessel used to decant or receive decanted liquids. But the wine decanter does much more.
What is the Function of a Decanter?
Decanters enhance a wine’s taste, aroma, and clarity. They facilitate the separation of sediment and allow the wine to breathe. In fact, a decanter’s shape is designed to maximize oxygenation. Also referred to as aeration, adding oxygen to wine helps develop the bouquet and soften the wine’s taste.
What are Traditional Decanter Shapes?
For millennia, there were very few wine decanter shapes. The most popular, and still arguably the favorite, is the Standard Wine Decanter. Short or tall, this shape is characterized by a wide bolus and a flat bottom. It also has a longer neck with a pouring and receiving lip. These decanters are always made of glass or crystal.
Other basic decanter shapes include:
A note about carafes: To the untrained eye, standard wine decanters are often confused with a wine carafe. While it is possible to use both to pour wine at the table, the decanter aerates and removes sediment. While a carafe, with a mostly cylindrical shape, serves.
When Do You Use a Decanter?
Decanters work for all types of wine: red, reduced, some whites, and even natural wines. Decanting can help young red and natural wines oxygenate and open up. In comparison, older wines benefit from decanting to filter out sediments and soften the tannins. Sedimentation is a natural precipitation process. The older the wine, the more likely the lees (yeast) and white diamonds (tartrate crystals) settle to the bottom of the bottle.
Decanters as Art
Contemporary wine and spirit decanters are slowly being redesigned while maintaining function. The perfect decanter is now expected to add elegance to liquor cabinets and dinner tables while improving the taste and appearance of the wine.
Variations on a Theme
The traditional swan shape has evolved into trebble decanters that, through curves and curls, create a roller coaster ride for the wine, ensuring maximum aeration and artistic wonder.
Spiral decanters are hand-blown, multi-layered decanters within decanters. Many have cathode tube-like coil structures and funnels for the wine to travel as it escapes its bottle.
These mesmerizing decanters combine spirals, bowels, and funnels to create a maze-like, multi-stage, elongated decanter. Usually supported by a base and tower, tower decanters are reminiscent of cascading waterfalls or, at the very least, a pachinko machine.
These waterfall-like decanters transform one path to many through groves and channels, exponentially increasing the surface area of the decanter.
Artist Charlie Matz is a renowned Chicago-based glass artist that uses animal designs to pay tribute to his version of the ‘glass jug.’
Another trend is the hand-decorated decanter. Usually of a more traditional shape, the decanter is hand-painted or decorated with colored glass for a stained glass look. Many decanters can also be engraved for a truly personalized touch.
Other Decanter Options
Some other decanter options and accessories include.
Electric Wine Decanter
Inspired by the tech age, this wine decanter sits on an electronic base that passes air through a tube inside the decanter, accelerating the wine’s decanting time. True to the 21st century. Many electric decanters have a companion app for your smartphone, allowing you to control the decanting process from the backyard or tub.
Decanters are also good for strong spirits like whiskey and rum. The Globe shape has minimal surface area compared to other decanters. It is suitable for limiting the amount of oxygen. Decanters are also an elegant way to present the range of whiskey, bourbon, and rum colors.
Square Decanters for Spirits
Most spirits are stored in a square decanter. These are usually made of transparent, lead-free, or crystal for a more refined look. It is commonly used to enhance the color of the spirits. This square shape fits nicely in a tantalus, a small wooden cabinet containing two or three square spirit decanters, always under lock and key.
Gin decanters are composed of untextured glass, usually with a magnifying effect to emphasize the clear or golden hues. Tequila decanters let the strong liquid breathe, smoothing out the flavor. A colorless tequila should be smooth, while amber tequilas present well in textured glass. Decanters that hold spirits should also have an airtight stopper to prevent evaporation.
Gone are the days of one decanter for everything. With artistic decanters, these popular silicates ensure functional style and quiet sophistication.