Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Choose The Best Crystal Decanters and Glass Decanters

What is a Decanter?

Do you enjoy having people over to dinner and serving them a great bottle of red wine or port? Or keeping some of your favourite scotch whiskey or cognac on the sideboard or wet bar in case friends decide to pop over for a drink or you fancy a snifter after dinner? If so, then you should definitely look at buying a great wine decanter or a whiskey decanter.  You will find that there is a huge selection of decanters to choose from, ranging from very expensive cut lead crystal decanters to contemporary glass decanters that are very affordable. Decanters vary immensely in shape and design, and are usually big enough to contain at least one standard sized bottle of wine. So what actually is a decanter and when would you use one? In basic terms, a decanter is a receptacle for wine or spirits that are then used to serve them. It has to be said that having a beautiful lead crystal decanter on your dinner table or sideboard is far more visually appealing than having to look at the average wine bottle, so there is a strong aesthetic reason for decanting wine, as well as the more practical considerations.

Why Decant Wine?

Decanting wine is a subject that causes wide discussions and varied opinions among the top wine experts. The main reasons why red wine and port is decanted are to remove any sediment that may have formed in a bottle of red wine that would not be too pleasant to drink, and also to aerate the wine or allow it to ‘breathe’. The opinions on which red wines are improved by being decanted and how long before serving you should decant wine differ widely, as decanting too early can damage a fine red wine and decanting  too late does not allow the wine the chance to fully develop its richest taste and aromas. It is most commonly believed that robust young reds such as Barolos, Bordeaux, Syrahs and Cabernet Sauvignons that benefit the most from being decanted, but more delicate wines such as most of the white wines and red wines like Pinot Noir or Chianti could be damaged from decanting.

The reason why wine is allowed to ‘breathe’ is that by exposing it to the air causes oxidation and evaporation, which is thought to help to release to full aroma of the wine and soften tannins present in the wine, making it feel smoother to drink. However, too much oxidation will just make the wine taste stale and flat, and some wine experts argue that the small amount of time that a wine is generally decanted for does little to soften the tannins present in the wine. The best time for tannins to soften is when the red wine is actually being made or aged in wooden barrels, and one of the reason some wines are aged in wood barrels is that air can seep through the wood into the wine creating a chemical reaction to polymerise the tannins giving the wine a much smoother taste in the mouth. So decanting wines may not alter the tannins present, but it can help to dissipate other undesirable compounds and intensify the fruit characteristics.

History of Decanters

The history of wine and spirits is a long one and wine has been drunk since ancient times. In antiquity wine was stored in large clay pots and clay pots that once have been excavated from Ancient Egyptian tombs that once contained wine that was destined to be drunk at royal banquets. However, it was the mighty Romans who first extensively used glass vessels, and wine would be poured from the large amphora where it had been stored into these Roman glass decanters for use at the table. After the fall of the Roman Empire, production of glass fell away, so during the Dark Ages and early medieval periods wine decanters were generally made from metals such as gold, silver and bronze or from clay pottery.  It was the Venetians who reintroduced glass-making to Europe during the Renaissance and they designed elegant glass decanters with a wide body and a long, slender neck that allowed for a larger surface area of wine to react with the air.  In the 1670’s a man called George Ravenscroft created a new way of making glass that utilised lead oxide. This new lead crystal that was produced was stronger, heavier and more lustrous than earlier glass, and allowed further expansion of the crystal making industry. Another development for decanters came in the 1730’s when British glassmakers invented the decanter stopper that limited too much exposure to the air.

Wine Decanter

Wine Decanting Tips

So if you have bought yourself a sparkling new crystal decanter, what do you need to think of when you are decanting wine?  If you are having friends around or holding a dinner party, you will need to think about decanting your bottle of red wine between twenty and forty minutes before you intend serving it.  Make sure that there is a good light source when you decant the wine, so that you can see that you only pour clean wine into the decanter and leave all of the sediment in the bottom of the bottle.  How much you spend on a wine decanter is a matter of budget and personal taste, but consider before you buy whether or not you want to be able to wash it in the dishwasher or by hand, if you want to match your decanter with the rest of your crystal and tableware, and whether you prefer old-fashioned vintage decanters or sleeker, more modern designs.

Whiskey Decanters

Some spirits such as scotch whiskey, cognac and brandy are also stored in decanters with stoppers and you can even buy whiskies bottled in fancy decanters with stoppers. If you are looking to buy a whiskey decanter, you will find that they are usually square shaped glass or crystal flasks designed to hold the decanted spirit and then used to serve. Square bottomed decanters were popularly preferred for whiskies as they can contain the greatest volume of liquid in the smallest space.  Square spirit decanters are often fitted with faceted ball stoppers, and come in many different designs and patterns of lead crystal.

Choosing Crystal or Glass Decanters Online

You can buy crystal and glass decanters in top stores, but one of the best places to look for a great crystal decanter is online.  Amazon has a huge selection for you to browse through today, and you can choose from decanters in all sizes and shapes.  If you fancy a really traditional decanter why not consider a ships or captains decanter?  These crystal decanters have very heavy, wide bases that were designed to stop them from sliding around or tipping over when the ship entered rough waters. If you like modern, clean glassware, there are some really beautiful glass decanters that are clean and contemporary looking and will really add some modern elegance to your dining room.  Amazon also offers crystal and glass decanters from the top crystal manufacturers such as Waterford, Riedel, and Ravenscroft, so if you are looking for a very special addition to your home, you know where to look.  You can also buy decanter sets that include matching decanters or matching glasses, and may come with accessories such as a tray or a wooden box to store your decanters in.  Crystal decanters also make wonderful wedding gifts or get a decanter engraved for that special wedding anniversary or retirement present?

Image Tomas ER Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported

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