Wine 101 — Wine, Weather and Song

Like many, my taste preferences when it comes to wine change with the weather. On hotter days I prefer white, pink or sparkling wine, while on cooler days I reach for the red. This past weekend I got a good lesson — a Wine 101 of my own, if you will — on how most people’s tastes for wine also change with the weather.

This weekend was Winnipeg’s inaugural Interstellar Rodeo, a music festival featuring Sarah McLachlan, Blue Rodeo, Dwight Yoakam, July Talk, Vance Joy, Tanya Tagaq and many more. After four successful years in Edmonton, the fest expanded to Winnipeg this year (and by all accounts was pretty darn fantastic).

The festival has a big food-and-wine component, and I was asked to be the wine curator — meaning I chose a wine to be paired with each artist, which was then for sale by the glass while that artist performed.

My main lesson (as I fretted in the back of the bar tent about whether people would buy into/dig the pairings), was the wines did better or worse depending in large part on the weather.

Both Friday and Saturday at the fest were scorchers — temperatures climbed into the mid-30s — while Sunday was decidedly cooler, only reaching the low 20s.

The Niagara Cabernet-Merlot blend I chose to go with singer-songwriter Hawksley Workman ended up being a bit of a dud with the crowd — it was a sunny Friday evening, too hot for a weighty red. But the most popular wine of the weekend, a not-too-dissimilar Coonawarra Cabernet-Shiraz I paired with up-and-coming Aussie artist Vance Joy, sold out in short order. The main difference? Joy played Sunday, when it was about 15 degrees cooler.

It wasn’t just the red wines that were affected either. On the steamy Friday night, I had chosen an unoaked Washington State Chardonnay to pair with Sarah McLachlan, and it sold out. Meanwhile, I had chosen an Ontario unoaked Chardonnay for Sunday night headliners Blue Rodeo, and it didn’t sell nearly as well, despite the fact there were more people there Sunday than there were Friday.

Obviously I couldn’t have predicted the weather months in advance, and I had to pick both whites and reds to keep folks happy. But I guess the Wine 101 out of all of this, mainly for me — is that I’m not the only one whose wine preferences change based on the weather.


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