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When to decant white wine – ask Decanter

Does white wine benefit from being decanted? Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier gives his view.

Ask Decanter: When to decant white wine

Barbara Lorenzo, from London, asks: Which styles / ages of white wine would benefit from being decanted, and would you decant them for a shorter time than reds?

Steven Spurrier, for Decanter, replies: There are three reasons for decanting:

  1. to allow the wine to breathe
  2. to separate it from any deposit
  3. because a decanted wine enhances the anticipation of pleasure.

White wines seldom throw a deposit, except sometimes tartaric crystals, and because they don’t have tannins the need for aeration is rarely necessary. So while the main reason is aesthetic, decanting should please the palate as much as the eye.

One problem is that white wines need ice buckets more than they do decanters, so it is mostly older whites that are decanted, where the cold temperature is less important, even for mature sweet wines which will be showing layered complexity.

The Bordelais often decant their dry whites as well as their reds; the Bugundians never decant; Hugh Johnson decants old Riesling; and a restaurant I knew in Paris always served Champagne en carafe. I would decant young and old white Rhônes and mature Alsace Rieslings, and both at the last minute.

Steven Spurrier is Decanter’s globe-trotting consultant editor.


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