Why use wine decanters or carafes?
A carafe or decanter allows us to taste and appreciate wine to its full potential, it lets the wine breathe and it makes it easier to serve it. Furthermore, the use of a decanter is to filter and separate the sediment from the wine.
There are many types, shapes and sizes of wine decanters and carafes to match glass ranges and personal taste, which means that serving wine via either of both tools is now an affordable and accessible process for all.
What is the difference between a wine decanter and a carafe?
Traditionally one could perfectly make out the differences between a carafe and a decanter. However, nowadays there are carafes in the shape of decanters and vice versa. Also, today we can find decanters in very special and even rare shapes; which are actually thought through and made so for aeration purposes.
The shapes mainly change depending on if the carafe or decanter is made for storing alcoholic or non alcoholic drinks.
The main function of a decanter is to separate a wine from any sediment that may have formed as well as to store and serve it. While its secondary function is to aerate the wine so that its aromas and flavors will be more vibrant upon serving. Decanters have an important role to play when being used for Red Wine.
The traditional shape of a wine decanter is a flat base, with a wide bowl and a neck curved inwards reaching a height of around 30cm. Although nowadays there are many different shapes and forms of decanters; some of them making a great difference in terms of aeration.
A carafe is a vessel or liquid’s container used for wine, water, fruit juice or alcoholic beverages. They are merely a storing and serving tool rather than one that affects the characteristics and taste of the liquid that it’s holding. However, nowadays there are some great Wine Decanters under the name of carafe which perform the job very well.
The use of a carafe is associated to a daily occurrence compared to the use of a decanter.
The most common and traditional shape of a carafe is a long body with a small base to accommodate large volumes of liquid.
When do I use a wine decanter?
Some wines take more time until they are completely decanted. For example, full-bodied red wines with high tannin (the astringent, mouth-drying sensation) need longer to decant, and thus, a decanter with a wide base will increase the amount of oxygen and decant the wine faster.
Following you’ll find a list with some examples of times and types of wine:
- Full-bodied Red Wines: These wines take the longest; about 2 hours. The use of a decanter with a wide base is recommended. (Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Monastrell, Tannat, Tempranillo, etc.)
- Medium-bodied Red Wines: We recommend using a medium sized decanter for about 1 hour. (Dolcetto, Merlot, Sangiovese, Barbera)
- Light-bodied Red Wines: Serve in a small and cooled decanter. Wait about 30 minutes. (Pinot Noir, Beaujolais)
- White and Rosé Wines: Use a small cooled decanter or carafe. Decant them for aeration purposes or use a wine aerator.
- Cheap wines: These wines need rigorous oxygen to improve the aromas. In these cases combining a decanter with an aerator is the best choice. Wait for 1 hour.
- Old red wines: Most will take about 2 hours. Although, some are very delicate and might "turn" from too much exposure. For more information on how long to decant what type of wine we found the cellartracker to be a good source.
How to use a decanter and The Candle Method
Sediment and crumbled cork that can often be found in for example, older red wines and Vintage Ports. So pouring into a decanter can help by filtering and removing any sediment. As well as bitter tastes and flavours that are associated with aged wines.
Pouring wine from the bottle in a way that hits the sides of the decanter so that the surface of the wine has a bigger oxygen exposure. It’s also useful to swirl the decanter by the neck to oxygenate the wine.
There are two ways of removing the sediment. The first way is by placing a stainless steel filter at the top of the decanter to catch the sediment. The second method, mostly used in restaurants, is to use a candle placed under the neck of the bottle in order to see when the wine has sediment.
Standard Glass vs Crystal glass
There are different types of glass used to make decanters. Crystal is often used for large and more artistic decanters given its longer durability, whereas glass decanters tend to be made with thicker walls and simpler shapes and it’s a lot safer to put it in the dishwasher than the crystal decanter.
Crystal decanters and lead poisoning
The amount of lead that transfers into wine from a decanter is incredibly low, due to the short period of time that the wine is in contact with it. Lead-based crystal only becomes a problem when it contains fluid for long-term. Additionally, lead-free crystal is easy to find. Read more about lead.