A Quick Summary on Decanting White Wines

  • Many white wines don’t need to be decanted.
  • However, some white wines taste and smell better after you decant them for a short time. 
  • Sommeliers will decant white wines if they think they need to open up.
  • White wines can be decanted in a shorter amount of time than red wines. 
  • Just like red wines, there are proper ways to decant white wines. 

Don’t be afraid to decant your favorite white wines. Some white wines will taste and smell even better after decanting. 

To help you choose which wines to decant and which ones to enjoy fresh, continue reading below. You’ll learn how to decant white wine like a sommelier and get a perfect pour every time. 

When to Decant White Wines

Most white wines taste and smell perfectly fine if you don’t decant them. However, there are a few white wines that will benefit from spending time in your decanter. 

Some white wines, such as sauvignon blanc and pinot gris, have subtle citrus and tropical aromas. These aromas come from thiols, which are delicate compounds that evaporate easily. 

Read more: Guide to Decanting Your Red Wine

white wine in a decanter with two glasses of white wine.

If you decant a bottle of young sauvignon blanc, its tropical aromas will go away after a short amount of time, leaving you with a dull wine. It’s best not to decant these wines and enjoy them fresh after opening the bottle. 

Other white wines, such as white Burgundy, chardonnay, viognier, and full-bodied whites, do well when decanted. These wines have more complex aromas, higher alcohol levels, and may need some time to open up before expressing their amazing characteristics. 

Other white wines that should be decanted are white wines that have been reduced. Reduction happens when a wine doesn’t have enough exposure to oxygen during fermentation. This leaves a faint sulfur, eggshell, or burnt matchstick smell. 

For these wines, a few minutes in your decanter can make a world of difference. The unpleasant smells of a reduced wine will quickly go away, leaving a perfectly good bottle of wine behind. 

Another good time to decant your white wine is if it’s too cold. Sometimes, a white wine may be a little too cold if left in the fridge or ice bucket. If so, just pour it in your decanter for a moment to warm it to the perfect temperature. 

How to Decant White Wines

Once you know that your white wine is ready to be decanted, it’s time to start decanting. To do this properly, there are a few steps to take. 

white win in a decanter

Make Sure Your Decanter is Clean

A dirty decanter can really harm your wine tasting experience. This is because any residue or leftover wine stains will interact with your wine’s flavors and aromas and throw them off. 

White wines are especially delicate and susceptible to outside aromas. If your decanter is perfectly clean, you won’t have to worry. 

Chill Your Decanter Ahead of Time

White wine likes to be served colder than red wine. Place your decanter in the fridge or fill it with ice beforehand. The cold temperature will chill the glass or crystal, making it easier to maintain your wine’s desired temperature. 

Pour Your Wine Slowly

Pour your wine slowly so there’s no splashing. This also helps slow down the aeration for more delicate white wines. 

Even though white wines don’t have the same sediment as aged reds, you should still check for any particles at the bottom that you could remove. Some white wines, especially organic or unfiltered white wines, can have some organic particles or spent lees at the bottom. You can easily remove them once they’ve collected at the neck of the bottle. 

Trust Your Nose

As your wine decants, check your wine’s aromas with your trusty sense of smell. If you can smell the fruit, flowers, and secondary aromas balancing perfectly together, then your wine may be ready to enjoy. 

Selecting the Perfect White Wine Decanter

Each wine behaves differently when you open it. Some wines express themselves most in big open glasses like bold red wines and Burgundies. Others, like high-acid whites such as riesling, prefer smaller glasses that will condense their delicate aromas. 

Just like wine glasses, decanters also come in all shapes and sizes. Some wines do well with smaller decanters while others like wide bowls for maximum aeration.

decanter glass white wine grapes outdoors nature

Typically, white wines need much less exposure to air than red wines. And sometimes, too much exposure will result in their subtle aromas evaporating into the air over time. Decanters with smaller bases are perfect for these varieties. 

Aged white wines, with their delicate flavors already well-developed, need even less aeration. For these wines, a simple, thin-necked decanter will do the trick. 

Best Decanting Times for Your White Wine

Like when decanting red wines, each wine‌ has its own preferred decanting times. By following this easy guide, you’ll find the best decanting times for your favorite wines. 

Older White Wines (5 Minutes or Less)

Like aged red wines, aged white wines also develop complex compounds and flavors over time in the bottle. When you open them, they will slowly lose their delicate aromas over time. 

Decant these wines for a brief moment, just to let all their complex aromas come through. Be careful not to over decant these special wines. 

Floral White Wines (5 to 15 Minutes)

These wines, such as riesling, gewurztraminer, albariño, and muscat may benefit from a quick decanting. However, it’s best to keep the decanting time to less than 15 minutes. 

Rich and Full-bodied White Wines (30 minutes)

These wines have rich flavors, high alcohol, and bold aromas that come alive when opened up in a decanter. Full-bodied white wines are delicious and are some of the most age-worthy white wines on the market. 

These wines include warm-climate chardonnay, viognier, marsanne, and white Bordeaux blends. By decanting these wines for 30 minutes, you’ll get them to open up, especially when they’re young. 

More on Decanting White Wines

When thinking about decanting your white wine, it’s important to trust your first smell. If your wine smells delicious immediately after opening, ‌enjoy it fresh. 

close up of two wineglasses

However, if you smell any sulfur smells or if it smells tight and not expressive enough, then reach for your decanter. Chances are, after a few minutes, your wine will open up and taste and smell much better than when you opened it. 

When you buy your wine, you can ask a sommelier or another wine expert about decanting times. They will be intimately familiar with your wine and can tell you if you should decant it or not. 

Or, another great method is experimenting at home. Choose two or three of the same bottles of wine. Try one freshly poured from the bottle, another decanted for a few minutes, and another for longer. See which ones you prefer. 

After all, your own sense of smell is the best indicator for choosing to decant or not. It’s always up to you and your preference.