Wine 101: Serving Temps for Summer Whites

There’s nothing quite like cracking a chilled bottle of white wine on your deck, in your backyard, or on the balcony on a hot day.

But serving/pouring your wine at the ideal temperature will help you enjoy the wine to its fullest, maximizing and balancing all those great flavours that the winemaker packed in the bottle.

Very generally speaking, the lighter-coloured the wine, the cooler it should be served. Pinot Grigio, sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc and the like, do best when well-chilled. Most refrigerators are about 2-3 Celsius — these whites typically do best at round 6-8 C.

Aromatic grape varieties such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer bring more complex aromas than, say, Pinot Grigio, and as such need a degree or two more to fully express those nuances. Around 7-8 C also works well for unoaked Chardonnay.

Richer, rounder white wines such as Viognier, oak-aged Chardonnay, or Pinot Gris, meanwhile, can be served a bit warmer — say, 9-11 C (try dry rosé around this temperature too).

And just to mention reds in passing, it never hurts to chill a red for 10-15 minutes, but especially when the mercury rises outside. A warm-ish glass of red wine is never fun, but you might just be surprised what a little chill can do for a red, especially lighter varieties such as Gamay and/or Pinot Noir.

Just to be clear, these are just rough guidelines — if you like your bubbly warmer and your buttery Chardonnay ice cold, so be it. And nobody wants to sit on a patio fretting over a bottle of Niagara Riesling or B.C. Pinot Blanc with a thermometer, wondering if things are at just the right temperature.

If you’re going to be sitting outside, try this: first, grab your well-chilled wine from the fridge and a bucket with some ice. Pour yourself a glass and leave the wine out of the bucket, then taste the wine from your glass as it gets warmer.

When your palate tells you it’s tasting just right — when the wine has warmed up to the point where all the flavours are really singing — pop the wine in the ice bucket to retain that general temperature. Move the bottle in and out of the bucket as needed to retain that perfect serving temperature.


Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the wine columnist and literary editor for the Winnipeg Free Press. He’s on Twitter and Instagram at @bensigurdson.

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