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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Several years ago I ordered an expensive white white (Chardonnay, probably) at the Ritz hotel in Paris. They decanted the wine, which surprised me and my companions. Can you tell me if there could have been a technical reason for that? Or was it all for show?
—Dave, United States
White wines are rarely decanted, but I wish they were more often, especially full-bodied whites like Chardonnays. Just like red wines, whites can really open up and blossom with exposure to air.
When white wines are decanted, it’s generally for one of three reasons. The first is what I just described, to allow the wine to be more expressive. The second reason is to warm up the wine from a bottle that’s colder than its proper serving temperature. The third reason is “the show” that you mention. I’ve never seen a white wine—even an older one—decanted to separate it from any sediment (which is typically a characteristic of aged red wines), but I suppose someone with some inside knowledge might use it for that trick, too.
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