The twenty-minute rule

In the last posting of Vintages release tasting notes (WVN 241) I referred to the practice of serving red wines in a slightly chilled state.

This requires some explanation…

In the Old World it was always the practice to serve wine at room temperature. This generally meant wines were served at the temperature they achieved when removed from the (coolish) cellar, wherever that may have been.  Invariably this temperature was below the air temperature but above the temperature inside the refrigerator.

All this is to say a temperature of 11-13 degrees was likely the norm for red wines and somewhat cooler for whites.

How does this translate to today’s practices?  This is where the twenty-minute rule comes in…

The twenty-minute rule is normally associated with the notion of spending 20 minutes each day on some form of personal improvement activity – building knowledge, building your network, doing a physical activity such as running or walking, pursuing  a new business idea, etc.  In other words, using a small amount of time each day on a continuous, disciplined basis to work towards a personal goal.

In the world of wine the twenty-minute rule has its own meaning.  This is a rule I learned from commentary made by Véronique Rivest, a Canadian who was a finalist in the World’s Best Sommelier competition in 2013.

Rivest has a reputation for her down-to-earth manner and her brilliant palate and she occasionally is heard on radio as a wine expert. On the occasion I speak of she articulated one of the most valuable and simple pieces of wine lore I have encountered: the twenty-minute rule.

The Rivest twenty-minute rule goes like this:

  • For white wines keep them in the refrigerator until 20 minutes before you plan to serve. Take out the bottle and place it on the table. This way the wine will warm slightly so the aromas and flavours have more expression in the glass.
  • For red wines put the bottle in the refrigerator 20 minutes before you plan to serve so the contents cool slightly. This way you will achieve some form of Old World room temperature, just as you might if you had just pulled the wine from your cellar. The wine will present freshness that will delight, regardless of the age or grape variety.

Try it… it works!

To see Mme. Rivest in action watch this video:

It’s a spellbinding, if not humbling, 12-minute performance.  Despite the pressure she retains her poise


à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2016.

Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

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