When it comes to serving wine, deciding when to decant your bottle can be tricky. Traditionally, the process of decanting is associated with red wines — especially those with a bit of age — as it reduces the presence of bold tannins and sediment while allowing the wine enough time to properly oxidize, resulting in a more pleasurable drinking experience.

But what about white wines? While white wines tend to lack the same tannins of the red counterparts — and oxidize much quicker — there is still merit in decanting that bottle of white Burgundy. To learn more about when and how to decant white wines, VinePair spoke with Jun Xi Chen, head sommelier at Jōji NYC.

Should You Decant White Wine?

Chen explains that, in general, white wines tend to have much more volatile aromatic compounds than those found in red wines. This means that as these compounds are exposed to oxygen, they will become more pronounced.

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“The most common reason to decant white wines is that, usually, they tend to be a bit reductive up front, so the wine could be super mute on the nose,” he says. “In this instance, you would want to decant so the wine can open up more.”

Temperature is also a factor to consider. While a bit of a chill on white wine is desirable, a bottle has the potential to lose its fragrant aromas if it gets too cold, making it taste dull or lifeless. But when poured into a decanter and left to rest for 10 to 15 minutes, the wine is able to breathe and, in turn, become more aromatized.

According to Chen, considering the age, variety, home country, and maturation of the white wine is also beneficial when weighing the option to decant.

“Some older German Rieslings use a lot of sulfur in their production,” he explains as an example. “Oftentimes, I’ll decant those wines so you don’t get the gassy, sulfuric smell of the wine as the process tends to blow this off.”

While Chen recommends decanting older German Rieslings, he argues that, in general, white wines should only be decanted while they’re in their youth. While a young white Burgundy may benefit from a few minutes resting in a decanter, older white Burdungies tend to oxidize very quickly, meaning you could be leaving your bottle to dull away as you await your first sip. And while youthful wines tend to do best in a decanter, Chen notes that there is no need to decant varieties like Sauvignon Blanc and Vinho Verde, as these wines are extremely perfumed even with little to no oxidization.

How your wine was aged matters, too. “If a wine aged in stainless steel, you may want to decant,” Chen says. “Reduction happens with a lack of oxygen and that’s when wines can become super muted, smoky, and mineral-driven with no fruit aromas. But when a wine ages in oak, it comes into more contact with oxygen because the oak breathes.”

How to Decant White Wine

If you do decant, Chen recommends using a narrow decanter with a thin base as opposed to the wide-based decanters often used for red wines. Once it’s in the vessel, allow the wine to rest for 15 minutes before serving to allow it to warm slightly, which will bring out its bouquet of aromas. If you don’t have that kind of time, try swirling or even shaking the wine in the decanter to allow for proper aeration. Don’t fret if you don’t have a decanter — Chen says the same kind of oxidation can be achieved by allowing the wine to sit open in the bottle for one to two hours before serving.

In the end, whether or not you choose to decant your white is entirely up to you, and it often isn’t necessary to achieve the optimal drinking experience. Sometimes, as Chen says, you just “feel fancier when you’re drinking out of a decanter.”