If the confusion over wines is not enough then one has to keep a track of varieties of decanters available for different wines. Read more.
I am a sucker for wine decanters for red wines. The charm of a decanter for me emanates from the childhood memory of a handsome cut glass Waterford piece which was heavy, almost ceremonial. I was further seduced by the practical and simple shapes of Riedel decanters. Their annual editions are fluid lines of sheer seduction.
Utility of a Decanter
Is there a utility factor of a decanter beyond its visual beauty? Yes, definitely, if one agrees that wine in a bottle is an ever changing living entity that has been there for a few years waiting to be opened and appreciated. When opened wine needs to interact with air to reach its optimum potential in developing its primary and secondary aromas and to deliver its full potential richness on the palate.
A decanter serves that purpose beautifully, allowing a faster interaction with air. But, does that inversely mean that there is no need or benefit from decanting a very young wine? A young wine, unlike its more mature counterpart, might sometimes have a strong aspect to its nose which settles into a more acceptable level once it is allowed to mix with air. Of course, there is the added advantage of giving it more than a cursory honour which goes down well with guests as well.
However, when speaking of utility of a decanter, one must not forget its greatest function – allowing the sediment to settle at the bottom of the decanter, letting you serve wine in glasses without having to worry about the sudden appearance of any sediment which one might not be able to see in a dark bottle to start with.
A Standard Decanter
Shapes and designs vary from one manufacturer to another and are often for beauty though they do provide ease of pouring as well. In a functional restaurant or pizzeria one would be served house wine in an open carafe and that is not the same as a decanter either in its appeal or function.
Glass as a material was pioneered by the ancient Romans and when their empire fell and glass production became scarce, majority of decanters were made in metal ranging from bronze to silver or gold; or even earthenware. During the Venetian supremacy in the Renaissance period glass reappeared and the style of a long slender neck that opens to a wide body increased in popularity. At some point in late 18th century the British glass makers introduced the stopper – thereby decanters were used for brandy or heavier whiskies as well.
Ordinarily a decanter would hold contents of a full wine bottle and still leave space for air to permeate. Decanters meant for brandy or other spirits normally have a squatter neck and a fancy stopper too.
They would normally also have a plaque declaring the contents to be ‘brandy’, ‘cognac’, even ‘single malt scotch’, etc and contents in a decanter in such cases would be left in the bottle until they were finished over a period of time.
An old style decanter might come with a rod meant for aiding the decanting process. Wines that have not been filtered or wines that have been aged for a long period naturally get some segment at the bottom of the bottle. Decanting is meant to separate the sediment, most of the sediment would be left in the original bottle but what comes down in the decanter also settles and would stay in the decanter. Modern international wine making techniques have greatly reduced the build up of sediment and that is probably the reason why decanters are no longer necessary.
Tannic wines include impressive names like Bordeaux, Barolo, some complex Cabernet Sauvignon, Port; though wines made of Pinot Noir are rarely decanted. Effectiveness of decanting as a debate has been raging for a while now and there are firm believers for both sides. Some wine experts would praise the aesthetic value of decanter usage while others say that prolonged exposure to oxygen actually diffuses and dissipates more aroma than what it stimulates while the former group says that mixing of the air with wine in a decanter mimics the action of swirling the wine in a glass.
The opinion of a qualified person always carries more weight than practices on a whim. Magandeep Singh, a Delhi based Sommelier differentiates between ‘Decanter’ and ‘Carafe’; the former being for older wines while the latter is for a younger wine to allow it to breathe. "Decanters have narrow necks to reduce air contact while carafes are wider to increase wine surface area in contact with air," he says, while adding that "if a customer desires the wine should be decanted/carafed as it is about the service."
While bottle breathing (opening the bottle a few hours earlier to leave it to breathe) won’t do much for the wine, according tp Singh, he suggests ‘pour it out in a glass jug, leave it there and then pour it back into the bottle.’ Sane piece of advice to an individual wine lover from him would be to buy what you can afford and definitely the same principlewould apply to a commercial outlet but theyjust need more variety, for as Singh remindsus there are decanters for all wines, "Reds,Whites, even Sparkling (the non vintagecommercial bubbly wines), I don’t entirelymind it, even though there are not many takersfor decanted sparkling wine," he concludes.
In a Restaurant
Most restaurants, standalone or partof the F&B of a five star property wouldstock the simplest and easiest to maintaindecanters of slim neck and round bottom – ashaft and half globe bottom style. From timeto time in private homes one gets to see thenew shapes of Riedel or other internationalbrand names that would be sweeping shapesand might look impractical, but are greatfor using as a lot of research goes in to thedesigning. However they are not practicalfor restaurants to stock, and of course areextremely expensive.
A leisure segment hotel such as Amanin Delhi stocks different styles of decantersand carafes in their wine cellar and asuggestion for decanting is made as a regularexercise. But then that is to be expected ofa hotel that boasts custom disgorged SalonChampagne on their wine list.
Kumar Shobhan, F&B, AssociateDirector Food and Beverage for HyattRegency Delhi says they use BormilloItalian Glass decanters and mainly offer theservice at their speciality Italian restaurant,La Piazza, which often hosts Michelin starchefs and has an in house Italian chef whowould regularly be promoting local Italiancuisine. It is a given that they would suggesta decanting exercise if the wine needed it,and honour your request for decanting it inany event.
— Ameeta Sharma