To Breathe or Not to Breathe?: The 20/20 Rule

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“Let it breath.” This is a staple in wine culture and for good reason. A little oxygen can be beneficial to a wine in ways that can blow your mind, but the dark side of the coin presents quite egregiously. Whether the wine is red or white can determine breathing potential, but both could benefit from a little air time under the right circumstances.

There’s an age old rule worth mentioning here that goes by the name of the “20/20”. Whenever drinking a red wine a safe bet would be to open the bottle and let it breathe for 20 minutes before serving it. Some reds can benefit from longer exposure and even decanting (post about this coming in the future) but 20 minutes is a good medium. White wines are different animal all together. If reds are the Benny Rodriquez of wine, you could call whites the Squints in the game. They’re seemingly harmless, but if you’re not careful they’ll pull a fast one on you and take a quick dive.

The reasons red wines are more appropriate breathers lies in the antioxidant properties of their tannins, which come from the wine skins that give the wine their color during fermentation. White wines aren’t necessarily encouraged to spend time breathing, but it is worth mentioning their serving temperature as it applies to the denominal 20. Too often white wines are placed in the refrigerator to be opened at a dinner party at a later date. Remove them from wherever you are keeping them cool and let the bottle rest at room temperature 20 minutes before serving. This will ensure that all of the aromatic esters will be released from the wine. Too often this rule is ignored and many shun white wine before ever giving it a fair chance. Having said that there are some white wines that are produced where a few extra breaths are par for the course including Sherry, Vin Jaune, and some White Burgundy. Don’t push it with these though, especially with the last one.

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