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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 ( “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. (

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.

2 Responses

  1. Greetings. First I want to say that I genuinely like your webpage, just discovered it last week but I’ve been following it ever since then.

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    • Thank you very much for your positive feedback … I am pleased to inform you that there is another article to be published this week which addresses the topic of decantering wine and another social experiment.

      A recent wine tour to Langhorne creek wine region in South Australia is in progress and also next month stay tuned for the social experiement for Rose wine.

      Kind Regards


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