Though the bottle of wine in the middle of the dinner table has a classic look about it, another fashionable way to serve wine is with the use of a decanter. Whether or not a wine needs to be decanted is a non-issue with modern wines. Nearly all have been filtered through egg whites or fine sediment, which removes any grit from the aging process. If you have the means to purchase an old wine bottled before the introduction of wide-spread filtration, consider yourself lucky. And watch just how often your pricey decanted wine goes around the table, or you may not get a sip!
The main purpose of decanting now is to allow the wine to breathe. Therefore if you wish to buy a wine decanter, it is best to look for a vessel with both purposes in mind.
A critical component to look for in purchasing a decanter is to purchase a clear container. Even with modern wines, it is best to check for sediment if you are already going to decant. A clear vessel allows you to examine the wine as it is poured and check for sediment. If a bit of sediment begins appear in the wine poured, the clear decanter allows you to know when to stop pouring.
Size and Shape
Even if the decanter you are considering is lovely, take its dimensions and form into account. Nearly every decanter has the capacity to hold a standard 750 milliliter bottle. If you should purchase a vessel not specifically designed to decant, be certain its volume is in reasonable excess of 750 milliliters. It is never good form to have your decanter of wine splashing each time it is moved.
The shape of the decanter is just as important. Since the basic reason for decanting now is to permit the wine to breathe, a wide neck is something to consider. This will allow the wine to have greater exposure to the air in a minimal amount of time. Allowing a wine too much exposure to air will begin the process of souring; newly born vinegar is not a choice beverage to serve. Not all wines need to breathe; older red wines benefit from the process, while most others do not. Breathing does little to no damage to any wine, provided it does not sit open for several hours.
Your Own Tastes
Despite the fact that decanting is now a matter of choice, having a decanter of wine on the table is just as exquisite as a fine bottle. That is where your own aesthetics take charge of the situation. Would you prefer a decanter that is short and round, or long and sleek? Do you want to purchase one or each, to match with your place settings? The possibilities are limitless, even within the parameters. And the search can begin as soon as your next trip to the antique store.