Not long ago I was at a local restaurant and over the evening our table ordered a bottle of white wine to start and then a bottle of red wine later. When the server brought the white wine (a Chardonnay) she also brought a bucket of ice to keep the white chilled. This is standard practice in a lot of restaurants. The server never asked about decanting the white wine. However, when the server brought the red wine, decanting it was discussed.
One of my pet peeves about wine service (I have said this before) is that many restaurants (and people in general) serve white wines too cold and red wines too warm…More about serving temperatures later.
The whole experience brought me to the question: “Should white wine be decanted?”
There are three reasons we decant wine:
- To allow the wine to breath – much more important with reds.
- To separate the wine from any deposits or sediments.
- Besides the benefits to the wine, decanting is fun and builds the anticipation of pleasure and enhances the conversation amongst those tasting the wine.
Decanting White Wines
Decanting red wines is something I do naturally, although it does depend on the age of the wine. Too much decanting can damage the flavor of older wines. White wines seldom have sediment except sometimes tartaric crystals form. These are the white crystals you sometimes find on the bottom of white wine corks, or they cluster in the bottom of the bottle. These crystals do not mean the wine is bad. I intend to write an article on these crystals in the near future. There is little, if any, reason to decant white wines to separate the sediment other that what I mention here.
Reasons to decant white wines: The wine is closed or too tight. Most white wines served at the proper temperature produce or emit enticing aromas. If you pour white wine in your glass and it lacks aromas, decant it. Also if the wine is too cold it will restrict the wine.
Certain whites such as Chardonnays can express themselves very differently after decanting. I suggest you experiment with your favorite whites. Try one not decanted, then try it decanted for 20 minutes and 30 minutes and judge the difference in taste after each sample.
If your wine is too cold you have another reason to decant whites. As I mentioned earlier, lots of restaurants (not all) tend to serve white wine way too cold. The reason we want our wines at the correct temperature is because the temperature can dramatically affect the way a wine smells and tastes.
Here are some guidelines for wine serving temperatures that should serve you well:
- Sparkling wines should be served cold at 45 degrees
- Chardonnay and most white wines should be served at 50 to 60 degrees
- Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling served at 45 to 55 degrees
- Light reds served between 55 to 60 degrees
- Cabernet, Merlot and other heavier reds should be served between 60 to 65 degrees
If any wine is too warm – say at room temperature – you may decant the wine and immerse it in water and ice and let it sit until it reaches the desired temperature.
Some white wines have attractive aromas right out of the bottle, but they really open with time in your glass. If you need the wine to be at its peak when served (for example: with a course at a dinner), you may want to decant the wine in advance to optimize the tasting experience.
Decanting wine isn’t something you need to do every day. However, you should be aware of the situation, the type of wine and then make a decision to decant or not. Decanting wine is a practice that can certainly add to your enjoyment on occasion.
As always I appreciate your support of our wine blog and encourage you to share it with family and friends. If you are reading this blog for the first time please consider subscribing while you are on the website. This way you’ll get our reviews and articles in your email. If you care to share your comments on this blog posting or other topics please do so in the comments section below.
Until next week,