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Summertime Sipping: Chilled White Wines Explained

By Linda Colvin Esther Bricques Winery

Summertime brings to market the new releases of white wines that were harvested the season before, and most people think of sipping only white wines when the weather turns hot.

White wines come in many flavors and are often served chilled, especially when the temperatures start to climb.

An easy drinking patio wine, not as heavy as a robust red, can be just the ticket for summer sipping in the afternoon or evening. One of the questions frequently asked is what temperature should a white wine be served at.

If the wine is too cold, there will not be as much flavor to it, as part of the flavor comes from the aromas, which are not apparent when cold temperatures suppress the wafting of fragrances to the nose. And of course, if it is too warm, it is not comfortable to drink.

As a rule of thumb, keeping the wine at refrigerator temperature and bringing it out 20 minutes before serving should provide just enough chill. Of course, if you are out on the patio, a chilled sleeve around the bottle will hold those cooler temperatures against the hot summer afternoon as the afternoon or evening winds on

Many think of white wines as sweeter, but crisp in nature. Since they are created with only the juice and not the whole berry, they lack the tannins of red wines, which means there is no “pucker” quality to beverage. But the sweet part is often confusing. In the US, wines that have no detectable sugar in them are labeled as “dry,” meaning all the sugar in the original juice was consumed by the yeast during fermentation, leaving no sugar available for the consumer.

But many will drink a dry wine and consider it sufficiently sweet enough to satisfy their sweet tooth. This is where Mother Nature plays a slight trick on us. Our brain perceives both the fruitiness of the beverage, along with the alcohol, as “sweet,” even though there is no sugar present. What a treat to have the sensation of sweetness, without the sugar!

So, if you are looking for a refreshing, yet dry, white wine but don’t want the bracing crispness of a Pinot Gris or a Sauvignon Blanc, aim for the fruitier versions of the white varietals, such as a Viognier, a dry Gewurtztraminer, a “naked” Chardonnay, as is fermented in Washington State, or even a dry Riesling. There are also blends of various combinations of these varieties readily available in white wine selections.

And if you wish to experiment, check out the differences in flavor of an icy, cold white wine, let it warm up and sample again. You might be surprised at the changes in the fragrances and flavors!


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