Re-post from January, 2009
In the case of wine, pouring the wine into the carafe from the wine bottle, also assists in the decanting of the wine. Decanting is the process of removing sediment from the original wine bottle by pouring only the clear wine into a serving container. Since most white wines and some young red wines are produced to be consumed within two to three years, not a lot of sediment builds up in the wine and decanting is not really necessary. But for older red wines, sediment assists in the maturing of the wine and must be decanted before it is drinkable. While sediment, (crystals of potassium bitartrate, commonly known as cream of tarter), formed from the fermenting of the wine will not hurt your health, it does have a gritty taste and may affect your taste of the wine.
Wine has been mentioned in our earliest recorded history. In Genesis 9:20-21 of the Christian bible, Noah planted vineyards, drank and got drunk. Ancient Greeks used casks, goatskins, and amphorae to store wine. An amphora was a very large clay jar or vase that had a large oval body, narrow neck and two handles that attached from the body to the lip on the top. A greasy rag was used to plug the cask or goatskin and olive oil was poured on top of the wine in the amphorae to help stop air from fermenting the wine. But it didn't really work, and wine had to be used fairly quickly, or it would turn into vinegar. Servants used a smaller version of the amphorae to serve wine at the dinner table. While still made of clay, a single person could lift and pour wine into individual drinking containers.
There is historical evidence that glass was discovered in 5000BC in Syria and there is evidence of a glass vase from Mesopotamia, dating 1500BC. With the establishment of trade routes during the The Roman Republic (500BC - 27BC) and the Roman Empire (27BC - 476AD) , glass production increased tremendously. Light weight serving containers made out of glass were used to transport liquids. After the fall of the Roman Empire, glass production decreased. Serving containers were still made out of clay, but also of bronze, silver and gold. During the Middle Ages, wine was produced mainly by the very rich, such as kings and noblemen, and by priests and monks for church services. Because of the method of storing wine and the quick aging of the wine, wine consumption was mainly local or within short distances of the wineries, a few days travel by horse and wagon or by boat. Then, in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, several developments lead to our modern day wine production. Late in the Renaissance Period in Venice, Italy (late 1500s, early 1600s), glass blowers revived the art of making wine bottles. In the 1600s, the French started using wine bottles and corks (first used as stoppers by the ancient Egyptians) to store wine. In the 1700s in Germany, grapes well past the time for harvesting, were used and produced an unexpected sweet tasting wine. Madeira shippers in Spain, attempted to add brandy to wine as a wine preserver, thereby being able to ship wine over longer distances. And in the early 1730s in England, glass stoppers were first invented. This lead to the aging of wines, and because sediment build-up in the older red wines, the decanter.