Some things make wine more of a pleasure – friends, food, Riedel glasses – and these are to be encouraged. Other things make wine less pleasurable. Chief amongst the wine paraphernalia I detest are decanters. I loathe decanters with a furious intensity and during this brief diatribe I will make it clear that decanters are naught but an.
You may be wondering why I say this. Reductive or young wines, reds and whites, often need to breathe before you serve them, and you can achieve this by decanting. Furthermore, maybe you are incapable of pouring skilfully and want to risk ruining an old wine by decanting it off its sediment. Both reasons (except for the second) are perfectly valid things to do.
So, what is wrong with decanters?
Let us make sure we understand what I mean when I talk about decanters. I have put together a small gallery of the hell-spawn articles below (email subscribers and people reading my RSS feed will have to come to the article on Elitistreview to see this gallery). I have added some captions in case you cannot bear to look at the physical manifestations of the items themselves for any length of time.
Let us be clear about this, even the least unreasonable of them are abominations. People make these horrific things and expect our fine wines to suffer being inside them? The bastards!
The main problem with these horrors is that they are literally impossible to clean. Even if you rinse them with hot water and an array of probably toxic, definitely wine ruining cleaning agents the very moment they are empty the wine will leave residue on the inside. Indeed, this happens as soon you put wine in the decanter.
You may not see it at first, but slowly, as you use the decanter more and more, the tannins and colouring compounds from red wine slowly adhere to the inside of your decanter. As more are deposited, even more find it easy to stick to the inner surface. After two or three months of regular use, even with the most scrupulous of cleaning, the decanter will look filthy on the inside.
So, how do you scrupulously clean a decanter? Truth be told, it is impossible!
You cannot clean them in the dishwasher because the entrance to the decanter is narrower than the part that holds the wine. Simply not enough water can get inside the decanter to clean the main body of it. This is particularly true of the sillier decanters I pictured in my slideshow.
Moreover, with a crystal decanter there is the distinct chance, like with crystal glasses, your decanter will explode during the drying stage of the wash. If it manages to stay in one piece, crystal glassware is discoloured by dishwashers.
Dishwashers are out; what about those toxic, wine obliterating chemicals I mentioned earlier? Nice try, but no.
Even with the most bent and twisted of wire-shafted bottle brushes there is simply no way it will be possible to scrub every corner of a decanter with sufficient vigour to remove the staining compounds from the inside of the decanter. Decanters are too perversely shaped (increasingly so with the amount of money you spend on them); you simply cannot reach every nook and cranny in them.
This brings another problem, once those chemicals have gone into the bottle, how are you going to get them out? They will stick to the decanter, especially to the wine-derived compounds you cannot clean out. There is only so much good rinsing will do in such a situation and the result may be poisoning or the destruction of valuable wine. The horror.
Finally, once you have made an attempt to clean the shit, how are you supposed to dry the bleeder. The answer seems to be with a spike. No, not rammed through the forehead of the person who sold you the bloody decanter, but one of these:
What an unattractive and only partially stable object to have in the kitchen.
Naturally, being associated with decanter, they rarely work as intended. Even though you have gone to the trouble of balancing your wet decanter on a spike and kept pets/small children/minor tornados/etc. away from the horrific edifice long enough for any self-respecting piece of glassware to dry, the sodding thing will be slathered with watermarks. You can put money on it.
Decanters also break easily. They often have poorly designed or manufactured spouts so spray wine everywhere. They maybe of such a design that you try to pour from the foul object at increasingly desperate angles until you reach a point that all the wine in the decanter exits in a spume soaking the general area of the table you were trying to pour over.
All of these properties of the decanter are increasingly likely with the increasing amount of money you have spent on the item. All the above render the object, you doubtlessly hoped to impress with, a white elephant. It will gather dust (or the flavour of Mr Sheen, if you have a good cleaner as The Editor and I do) on a corner of the mantelpiece.
Decanters – not only rubbish but also more rubbish the more one spends on them.
Herein lies the solution: get a jug!
I have gleefully replaced all my decanters with one of these:
It is brilliant! It is easy to clean (jugs will go in dishwashers), easy to pour from, holds a magnum and is practically indestructible! Moreover, if you do manage to break one, or even want a matched set, they cost a mere £9.40 each. Result!
You can add to their utility value by purchasing an affordable item known to some as a funnel:
With one of these keenly priced items you can easily fill the original bottle with water, rinse out any nasty sediment from it, then use your jug and funnel in tandem to refill the original bottle with the wine.
If this is a young wine, the advantage of this double decant is that your wine will have received a healthy dose of oxygen. Its characters will blossom as you leave it in the original bottle.
The original bottle is ideal to serve from; people know what wine they are drinking. If you do not want them to know what they are drinking, simply wrap the bottle in kitchen foil! You are then ready for blind tasting larks.
Even better, use the jug and funnel to pour the wine into a different shaped bottle to that the wine came in, wrap that bottle with foil and hoot with laughter as your trickery foxes all your blind tasting victims.