Understanding the Purpose of a Decanter
A decanter is a vessel used for serving and storing wine. While it is not strictly necessary for casual occasions, it has become a staple at formal dinners and other events. Understanding the purpose of a decanter is essential to knowing how to use it properly. The main reason for using a decanter is to separate any sediment from the wine. This is especially important for older wines, which are more likely to have sediment as a result of the natural aging process. Decanting also allows the wine to breathe, which can help to enhance its aroma and flavor.
Selecting the Right Decanter
When choosing a decanter for a formal dinner, it is important to consider the type of wine that will be served. Different types of decanters are suitable for different styles of wine. For example, a wide-bottomed decanter with a broad base is ideal for young wines, as it allows them to aerate and release their full flavor potential. Conversely, a tall, narrow decanter is better suited to older wines, as it allows sediment to collect at the bottom without disturbing the wine. The material and design of the decanter are also important considerations – crystal is the most common material, and a simple, elegant design is a safe choice for formal occasions.
The Decanting process
When it comes time to decant the wine, there are a few important steps to follow. First, the decanter should be cleaned and dried thoroughly. Next, the wine bottle should be opened and the cork removed. It is recommended to carefully pour the wine into the decanter at a steady pace, while using a light source to ensure that any sediment is left in the bottle. If sediment is present, it is better to stop pouring the wine and use a filter. Once the wine has been transferred to the decanter, it should be allowed to breathe for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
Presenting and Serving the Wine
When it is time to serve the wine, the decanter should be carried to the table by the host or sommelier. It is customary to hold the decanter by the neck, so as not to leave any fingerprints on the bowl. The decanter should be placed in the center of the table, and the host should pour the wine for each guest in order of seniority. The host should also take care to serve an equal amount of wine to each guest, and avoid overfilling the glasses. It is considered poor form to serve wine that has been left in the decanter for too long – if any wine remains after the guests have been served, it should be discarded.
Cleaning and Maintenance
After the formal dinner is over, it is important to properly clean and maintain your decanter. Crystal decanters should be washed by hand in warm, soapy water, and dried with a soft cloth. Avoid using abrasive sponges or harsh detergents, as they can damage the crystal. If your decanter has become stained or discolored over time, you can use a specialized decanter cleaning product, or try filling it with warm water and a few drops of white vinegar or lemon juice. For long-term storage, be sure to cover the decanter with a clean, dry cloth to protect it from dust and scratches.