Decanting wine is a process where the wine is poured out of its original bottle and into a glass or crystal container. This process allows the wine to aerate, bringing out all of the infused flavours and making the wine more aromatic. Decanting port and older red wines also removes the sediment, which is very displeasing to taste. There are four basic decanter styles that lend themselves well to port wine.
Traditional Port Decanters
These decanters are made in the classic "admiral's style" shape -- a wide round bottom with a long, thin neck, which lends itself to staying secure on table tops during sea voyages. Traditional port decanters are made from glass rather than crystal. The long neck present in these decanters allows you to gently pour the wine out of its original bottle slowly down the curved sides of the glass container, which is supposed to keep the port wine from "bruising." Some types of traditional port decanters also come with a removable filter on top to help keep sediment from rushing out of the original bottle when it is poured.
This style of decanter traditionally is not meant for the long-term storage of port wine. Typically, crystal decanters are meant to be used at the time the bottle of port has been opened and is ready to drink. Many types of crystal decanters are available on the market, but it is best to use one that comes in the admiral's style shape of a traditional glass port decanter rather than one that is designed more for use with spirits.
This style of decanter is very similar to a traditional port decanter. The main difference is the bottom, or body, of a ships decanter typically is made with more of a squared than a round shape. The wide base and long, narrow neck of a ships decanter lends itself well to allowing a freshly decanted bottle of port wine to breathe, which brings all of the infused flavours to the surface and provides a more enjoyable tasting experience.
This style of decanter is also known as a "hoggit" decanter. Hoggett decanters have a narrow top and wide bottom just like traditional port and ships decanters. The main difference is Hoggett decanters are placed into a wooden base before being put down on a table or counter top. This comes from an old tradition of drinking port wine where the decanter is removed from the base and passed around to everyone at the table, which makes sure no one "hogs" the wine.
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