Dramatic as they may appear and intimidating as they can be to use, decanters for wine tread the fine line between pretension and functionalism. The ostensible purpose of a decanter is to aerate the wine prior to being served and separate it from its sediment: a classic crystal decanter will have a wide base to allow for greater air exposure. Dozens of variations in shape, size and artistry make the decanter a medium of expression.
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Wide Base Decanters
Decanters are generally made of crystal, whether handblown or machine-made. The quality of the latter can be quite high, and are an affordable option. Be wary of lead crystal, as the lead could leach into the wine. The combination of a wide base and long neck is a Venetian technique that lends an elegant aesthetic to a decanter that can be both classic and contemporary. An optional stopper can halt the aeration process.
Some decanters have a dome inside the decanter itself, on the base of the decanter, which allows for increased oxygenation of the wine. The taster may also be better able to observe the colour of the wine. A small finger-hold inside the base allows the wine to be poured with greater ease.
A globe-shaped decanter with an angled spout may be swivelled, just as a regular globe may be tilted, in various directions so as to facilitate the aeration of the wine. The glass on the globe may itself be etched with a design of a world map, to accentuate the theme.
Miniature versions of the larger classic decanter may be given to guests for a personalised experience of the wine. Individual decanters may contain two glasses worth of wine and also simplify work for the host in that each guest refills his glass himself.
Because a decanter is often displayed as a showpiece in addition to providing aeration, decanters can have an extravagant, "look at me" quality intended to draw attention. This might take the form of a long-necked "swan" decanter, dove-shaped decanters and cobra-shaped decanters that must be turned a particular way to pour the wine from the thin elongated neck.
Magnum and Oversize Decanters
Decanters need to accommodate the amount of wine available: if the decanter is too full, it cannot do its job. Therefore, for larger sized wine bottles, a magnum or ultra magnum wine decanter may be necessary. The design objective is to provide maximum breathing room for the large quantity of wine.
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