White Wine … testing the theory of serving temperature and the effect on taste

I chose Chardonnay for this social experiment (11/11/09).  A big factor for this was that two of the “social experiment” panel are chardonnay lovers.  Another reason is I am a little inexperienced with Chardonnay and thought this could be an opportunity to taste a few different bottles (so I purchased without bias).

 The Experiment

To test the theory that white wine which has been stored in a domestic fridge (average temperature of 5 degrees Celsius) beyond one week can taste like a completely different wine as oppose to the same wine being chilled for an hour (or alternatively chilled on ice for 15 minutes).


The Panel

Joe Phillis – Wine appreciator and good friend.  A chardonnay lover.

Tanya Denning – Wine appreciator and good friend.  A chardonnay lover.

Mary Seely – Wine appreciator and good friend.  A chardonnay apprentice.

Caroline Offord – Author of this blog and a wine appreciator.  A chardonnay apprentice.


The Wines

Stoneleigh 2007 Chardonnay (Marlborough, New Zealand) $19.95

Half Mile Creek 2007 Chardonnay (Vic, Australia) $8.95


The Process

The panel was unaware of the experiment and there were 3 bottles covered up in brown paper bags:

  • Unmarked bottle # 1 – Stoneleigh Chardonnay – stored in the fridge for 9 days at 5 degrees Celsius
  • Unmarked bottle # 2 – Stoneleigh Chardonnay – stored in the fridge for 2 hours at 5 degrees Celsius
  • Unmarked bottle # 3 – Half Mile Creek Chardonnay – stored in the fridge for 1 day at 5 degrees Celsius

 The Panel’s Review

I was the only person on the panel who knew wine # 1 and # 2 were the same and the difference was the bottles had been chilled in different ways (refer to “the process” above). The experiment was a success and each wine tasted different – I could not believe it myself as I was sceptical prior to the experiment!

The panel applied a standard scoring system to each wine   Appearance (3) Nose (7) and Palate (10) which helped to stimulate conversation about the wines and ensure equal attention was given to each tasting.  Here are the questions I asked the panel at the end of the 3 tastings:

 Which wine was the favourite?

All three agreed that the preferred wine was the 3rd one – Half Mile Creek ($8.95).

 Why was this wine the favourite?

“The first wine tasted too young and had a weak palate and also had a spicy aftertaste” – Mary

“I agree. The second wine was an improvement and it was pleasant however the 3rd wine was closer to a typical buttery chardonnay with a lot of characteristic the way I like it” – Tanya

“Yes the third one was the most flavoursome.  My palate was reminded of caramel Jerseys ” – Joe

 Which wine do you think was the most expensive?

The third one – all agreed that Half Mile Creek ($8.95) tasted the most expensive

 What would you say if I told you the 1st and second wines were exactly the same but chilled differently?

Absolutely no way!  A flutter of excitement broke out amongst the panel at this point and I admitted I had been sceptical as well and when I discovered the second wine tasted totally different it was hard to contain myself for the remainder of the tastings. 



The panel confirms that serving temperature has a significant bearing on wine appreciation. The theory was that often at home or in restaurants, white wines are commonly served far too cold.  According to the WInePros website (http://www.winepros.org/consumerism/serve.htm) “Knowing the basic chemical phenomena involved helps to set some ground rules. Lower temperatures mean less volatility, therefore weaker aromas, but also brighter acidity, so a stronger impression of dryness and astringency and a diminished sense of fruitiness and sweetness.”

Full, dry whites are often refrigerated too long and served too cold. It is better to give these wines a timed chill of 15 to 20 minutes, rather than store them typically in your fridge.   Stick to this habit and your Chardonnay will display more aroma and a richer flavour.

Fruity, dry whites, such as Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, dry Muscat, dry Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Grigio and dry rosé are crisp and refreshing at 10-13°C. (http://www.winepros.org/consumerism/serve.htm)

Refrigerators can vary greatly and average 5°C, but ideally white wine should be stored at 7-9°C degrees Celsius.  However ,there is no need to go and start adjusting your fridge at home for your wine, an ideal and efficient alternative is an ice bucket for chilling your wine bottles.



The key points to consider are:

  • To get the most out of the aromas and flavours of your white wines and be aware of the variety, i.e. don’t leave your dry whites in the fridge for prolonged periods, rather treat them with the same respect as you do for your reds and be mindful of the ideal storing and serving temperature.
  • Put your high acidity wines in the fridge an hour before drinking (i.e. Chardonnay) or just place on ice for 15 minutes prior to serving.
  • You can be less fussy with the more fruity whites like Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc – they can be chilled for a few days or even left in the ice bucket.

Wine tasting in Bordeaux

This article has been submitted by Penny Long

So…for purely for research purposes …I signed up for a guided walk involving wine tasting in the Entre-deux-Mers (between two seas) region of Bordeaux, near the Garonne River.

In the morning, we took a two hour leisurely stroll over the hills and through some vineyards.  The first winery we went to was Château de Grand Branet, a 17th century château in Capian, where we tasted, OK drank, some reds with a delicious picnic lunch in the Château hall (asparagus, pâté, foie gras, bread, freshly cracked walnuts and cheese).  A lovely lady called Blanche served our picnic:  there is also bed and breakfast accommodation available in the actual Château from only 65 euro.  The Estate has been classified as Premières Côtes de Bordeaux red appellation; and it produces merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes.

Unlike Australian wines, the bottles are marketed using the appellations (or official regions) of the vineyards.  Bordeaux is renowned for red wines, although roses (remember claret, “clairet”, a dark rose popular years ago – perhaps 1980’s – maybe same vintage as Nik Kershaw?), and a few whites are also made in the region.  Most bottle labels do not indicate the grape varieties used in each wine ie percentage of cabernet, merlot etc.

At the second chateau, Château de Marsan, we tasted a selection of red and white wines al fresco, whilst sitting on a terrace in the late afternoon sun.  The Gonfrier family came from Algeria, bought their first vineyard in the early 1960’s, and so they are relatively new to the industry.  I believe it is a “Château” in name only and that the word “Château” is used purely for marketing purposes.  The processing plant was massive (géant/giant), in comparison to Château de Grand Branet (nain/dwarf) there were large numbers of large vats (stainless steel and concrete), oak barrels and the bottling plant was also very big.  I particularly liked the rose at this Château.

Apologies for not making any tasting notes to describe the wines but I enjoyed them all – quelle une surprise!

See websites for more info:



The walking wine tour was booked through Bordeaux Tourism Office.

Wine Tasting tips – basics

There are a few basics to remember when tasting wine :

* Avoid wearing strong deodorant and perfume

* It is recommended to not brush your teeth before hand, mainly to let the plaque assist in protecting your teeth enamel from the acidity and of course the toothpaste will alter your taste buds.

* When drinking/tasting sparkling wine use good glasses but especially DO NOT clean with any detergents.  Instead rinse or soak with hot water and dry with a quality linen towel (regular tea towels can leave lint or residue which can flatten your bubbles)

* white wines should not be kept in the fridge for long periods of time as the taste will change (and an expensive bottle may end up tasting just like a $10 bottle).  Ideally up to 1 week is fine, chilling on ice or in the fridge for an hour prior to drinking is sufficient.

Sparkling Wine

Today I tried 7 sparkling wines (4 white and 3 red):

Tigress Pinot Noir Chardonnay (Tas) N.V

This wine had a good first impression as a fresh and cleansing sparkling wine, easy and light to drink.  This wine would be ideally suited to someone who is not a great lover of sparkling wine because of its mellow characteristics and very soft bubbles.  The taste was not lingering. An afternoon delight.

Bird in Hand Pinot Noir 2009 (Adelaide Hills)

This sparkling looks attractive and the rose colour is visually appealing and unique, as a  result of leaving the fruit in the skin for longer to add to the colour in the wine making process.  I found the smell very sweet and was intrigued…  this sparkling has a high level of bubbles (more than I prefer) with a young taste.  I can see this wine appealing to a large audience for its uniqueness and sweet qualities which can be rare for sparkling wines.

Janz Tasmanian Premium curvee N.V

This is a good popular all round wine and it retained its bubbles in the glass nicely – 10 mins after pouring.  A very enjoyable sparkling and can highly recommend it – a winner for a dinner party.

Blue Pyrenees “midnight” curvee Chardonnay 2002

A pleasant and refreshing sparkling

Crosser “Piccadilly Valley” pinot/chardonnay (2006 Adelaide Hills)

This was my favourite sparkling for the evening ! enough said

Fox Creek “Vixen” sparkling red ( McLaren Vale)

An old faithful and a good solid crowd pleaser.  A sweet appealing wine and a safe bet for a dinner party or special occasion.

Peter Rumball sparkling red

This is a classic sparkling and perhaps one of the originals which has definitely stood the test of time !

Majella sparkling shiraz (Coonawarra)

This wine has the aroma of a regular non sparkling Shiraz and with very subtle bubbles could almost fool you into thinking it is just a Shiraz… however pleasant to drink and enjoyable.