Every time we get a new decanter or carafe in, our office turns into a mini battlefield. We usually all agree on whether or not the piece fits our standards, good quality, good clarity of glass or crystal and of course room to engrave. However the fight begins when we try to decide whether or not it should be called a decanter or a carafe.
For two very similar pieces one supplier will list it as a decanter and the other as a carafe. And so it begins....list the piece as described by the manufacturer...the piece doesn’t have a stopper so it’s a carafe...It does have a stopper so it’s a decanter...but the manufacturer lists one without a stopper as a decanter... This typically goes on for quite awhile until a coin is tossed or one side just gives up.
So really what is the difference between a decanter and a carafe?
Decanters have been in use since Roman and Greek times and were needed not only for serving wine, but also for separating the sediments. If you think back to your high school history classes I am sure you’ve seen pictures of “Amphorae” the large ceramic vessels used to store and ship wine. (other liquids as well). Some of these large jars were well over 3 feet tall and when full would be impossible to easily carry to the table. Decanters were used to take servings of wine to the dinner table - simple concept.
Decanters were made from ceramic, glass or even metal. During the Renaissance the Venetians started creating decanters out of glass and redesigned the decanters to have a long neck and wide body. The idea being that the wine could breathe better. The British introduced the stopper to limit the amount of air. (Wikipedia)
I won’t go into why to decant wine - that’s better left up to the experts rather than an engraver. Actually I would you suggest reading this NY Times article if you want to pick up some expert tips. Make sure you read the whole article, 2/3’s into the article there is a paragraph about “hyperdecanting” - putting wine into a blender to whip it into a well aerated froth. With all the expert articles written about how to decant wine slowly and how to treat the wine gently, the blender method must turn any wine connoisseur into a raving lunatic. I definitely know this would make my in laws go nuts - I’ll have to remember to do this next Thanksgiving!
So with all that said what’s the solution? How are we going to categorize what is a decanter and what is a carafe on our website? We finally decided, any decanter or carafe that has a slender neck with or without stopper will be listed under engraved decanters/carafes. Decanters with short necks and stoppers will be listed as whiskey decanters. Even though decanters and carafes are no longer needed to bring wine from large ceramic jars, they will add an elegant touch to any finely set table or personal bar. They'll also help you disguise the wine, is it the cheapest wine on the shelf or the one of the most expensive? Let them decide for themselves based on taste.