Drinking champagne is an experience for all your senses, not just your mouth. When you open a bottle, you will immediately notice the smell but what does champagne smell like exactly?
Depending on the blend and age of the bottle, champagne can have varying scents. Some common scent notes are fruity, floral, earthy, herbal, brioche, nutty, almond, citrus, and freshly baked bread. Fruits like apples, strawberries, and cherries are also common scent notes.
Factors like the grape variety used, blend, carbonation, and autolysis all affect how champagne will smell like.
What Does Champagne Smell Like?
There are a lot of champagne varieties in the sparkling wine world. From flavors to colors to carbonation, there is so much to choose from.
In your quest to find the best quality champagne for hosting parties or a chill Friday night, one might be wondering exactly what France’s sparkling wine smells like.
Different varieties of champagne bottles offer varying flavor and scent profiles. This depends on the champagne house and manufacturer, their blend, and the time spent to age the champagne.
The aroma, scent, or smell of champagne is often referred to as the nose. When people say to nose a champagne, they mean to sniff or smell it to gauge its flavor before actually taking a sip.
There are also the terms aroma and bouquet. The aroma refers to the primary scents of the champagne while the bouquet talks about the underlying secondary scents.
The bubbles and fizz in champagne will help amplify and release the primary and secondary scents. As the bubbles burst, they carry the scent to the nose and get you ready to taste the bubbly.
One also doesn’t swirl a glass of champagne when you sniff it as one does with still wine. Doing so with champagne will dissipate the bubbles much quicker.
While champagne scent profiles vary widely (especially in complex wines), there are common ways a champagne could smell. Some common scents of champagne are floral, fruity, herbal, fresh baked bread, brioche, mushrooms, almond, honey, and citrus to name a few.
To understand the scents a champagne can present, let’s take into consideration what can affect it.
What Champagne Smells Like: Grape Varieties
True champagne produced from France’s historical Champagne region uses three main grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Here’s how the three varieties of champagne grapes result in varying scents:
Chardonnay grapes in champagne give it scent notes of white flowers like acacia, jasmine, orange blossom, and honeysuckle. The nose will also notice the scents of citrus fruits like lemon and grapefruit as well as exotic fruits such as lychee and pineapple.
And depending on the blend, you might make out the smell of apples, pears, spices, and mint.
Another major grape variety in the champagne industry is Pinot Noir.
In the champagne blend, your nose will instantly recognize the scents of white and yellow fruits like apricots and peaches; red fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, and cherries; and finally, black fruits like blueberries and blackberries.
Citrus fruits like mandarins and oranges and exotic fruits such as mangoes and passion fruits are also obvious scent notes.
Floral touches of roses and peonies as well as spices like cinnamon and cloves may also be present.
The Pinot Noir grape variety in champagne will give it a somewhat similar scent profile as Pinot Noir as both varieties are black grapes.
This means you can expect notes of white and yellow fruits, red fruits, and black fruits. Citrus fruit and exotic fruit scents are also prevalent with some hints of flowers and spices.
Blanc de noirs are white wine champagne varieties produced from black grapes.
What Champagne Smells Like: Champagne Autolysis
Another huge factor that determines what champagne smells like upon popping open and in the glass is what’s called champagne autolysis.
Autolysis in champagne and winemaking refers to the reactions in wine while it is in contact with the lees (or dead yeast cells) during the fermentation process. At this stage, the yeast in the wine breaks down, giving it a complex flavor and scent profile.
In terms of scent, autolysis gives the champagne a freshly baked bread aroma. It’s the same thing that happens when one bakes bread that causes the smell of baked bread.
The longer the sparkling wine ages, the more it will develop this bread-like and nutty aroma, no matter the level of residual sugar.
Common Words to Describe Champagne and Sparkling Wines Smell
Here are a few common words you can start using to describe how champagne smells:
- Fruity/Fresh fruit
- Freshly-baked bread
Whether you’re a champagne and sparkling wine novice or a pro, you may as well be curious and ask, “What does champagne smell like?”
Different varieties of champagne have varying scent profiles as they do with their flavor profiles. But generally, champagne can smell fruity, floral, earthy, herbal, freshly baked bread, brioche, almonds, citrusy, and nutty.
Depending on the blend, fizz, age of the champagne, and the scent will vary and change per bottle.