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How to read champagne tasting notes

Champagne tasting notes can be confusing. How can a glass of your favourite bubbles taste like brioche, honey, apple, flowers and smoke all at once? And how do those aromas and flavours occur in a drink that’s made from just grapes? Discover how to choose a champagne you’ll love, based on these common champagne tasting notes.


Champagne tasting notes: citrus, green apple and peach

Fresh and fruity notes are the hallmark of most young champagnes, demonstrating the varietal aromas and flavours found in the grapes themselves. Citrus and green apple are normally an indicator of the chardonnay grape, one of three used to make champagne. Ruinart is well known for its chardonnay-focused champagnes, made with grapes grown in the Côte des Blancs, a chalk-rich area that’s famous for its superior chardonnay. Fans of fresh, drier-feeling styles of fizz should gravitate towards Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, which is made entirely from chardonnay and has flavours of lemon, peach and white flowers.

Champagne tasting notes: red apple, red berries

Pinot noir and meunier are two red grapes that are used in most champagne blends alongside chardonnay. These two grapes produce more rounded red fruit notes, such as red apple, bruised apple and red berries. Veuve Clicquot Rosé has tasting notes of cherry, raspberry and strawberry, accompanied by the classic warm pastry notes that this maison has become known for.

Champagne tasting notes: bread, pastry and toast

Bread, brioche, biscuit, pastry and toast may seem like unlikely champagne tasting notes, but these are actually very common aromas and can be found in many champagnes. In wine terms, they’re known as autolytic notes. They occur as a result of the wines being aged sur lie (on the lees). Lees are the yeast cells used to convert sugar to alcohol that sink to the bottom of the barrel once spent. Prolonged contact with these spent yeast cells renders the aromas and flavours of the wine yeastier, so notes relating to baked goods are an obvious comparison.

Champagne tasting notes: sap, spice, honey and smoke

These are the more unusual champagne tasting notes that you might find in vintage champagnes that typically spend more time ageing in underground cellars. The flavours change as they mature, turning from fresh and fruity to savoury, spicy and smoky. Dom Pérignon favours these notes. After prolonged ageing – up to 40 years for the P3 series – its champagnes take on a whole new dimension. Aged for more than a decade, Dom Pérignon 2010 tasting notes are sappy, peppery and spicy, while Dom Pérignon 2008 tasting notes are wonderfully complex and aromatic, with aromas of aniseed and crushed mint, woody and roasted notes, and a smoked finish.