Lovely bubbly: Price isn't everything with champagne

November 29, 2013
Lovely bubbly: price isn't everything with champagne
The most expensive champagnes weren't always rated highest by experts in a blind taste test. Credit: Shutterstock.

( —Expert wine tasters cannot tell which grapes are in sparkling wines when asked to taste them blind, an Oxford University-led study has found.

And the champagnes they rated highly weren't always the most expensive, showing that you don't necessarily have to fork out when buying champers for your Christmas party.

The scientists tested the claim that the relative proportions of red and white grapes each contribute distinct flavours to champagne. They found that although expert champagne tasters could detect differences between sparkling wines, their perception of the proportions of different grapes in sparkling wines was influenced by other factors instead.

The researchers from Oxford University and the Centre for the Study of the Senses, University of London, conducted a blind tasting experiment. They asked participants to drink a selection of different sparkling wines from black tasting glasses and to report back on the proportion of white grapes in each. The champagnes ranged from blancs de blancs, composed of 100% white grapes, to blancs de noir, from 100% red grapes.

Although the researchers hypothesised that the expert tasters might be better able to distinguish the types of grape in the wine, the results showed that no one was able to accurately judge the proportion of white grapes. Instead, the perceived proportion of white grapes in the wines was dependent on the sugar and alcohol content.

While the expert champagne tasters were not able to judge the percentage of white grapes in the wine, they were able to discern the difference between the wines more readily and rated them differently than did social drinkers.

'We hypothesise that success in blending has made it more difficult for tasters to identify the particular contributions made by each grape variety to the overall flavour profile,' says lead researcher Professor Charles Spence of the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University.

The results reported in the journal Flavour add to previous work suggesting that a complex combination of factors plays a strong role in forming people's opinion on the taste or quality of a wine.

In the case of , the perception of flavour depends on different factors, including price and brand, as well as alcohol and sugar content.

Explore further: New way to identify 'smoked' grapes and wines

More information: Study paper:

Related Stories

New way to identify 'smoked' grapes and wines

January 23, 2013

With climate change sparking concern about an increased risk of wildfires, scientists are reporting development of a way to detect grapes exposed to smoke from those fires, which otherwise could be vented into bad-tasting ...

Expensive and inexpensive wines taste the same, research shows

April 15, 2011

( -- Psychologist Prof Richard Wiseman (University of Hertfordshire) today revealed the results of The Taste Test - a large-scale experiment to discover whether expensive wines are good value for money. The experiment ...

Sequencing study lifts veil on wine's microbial terroir

November 25, 2013

( —It's widely accepted that terroir—the unique blend of a vineyard's soils, water and climate—sculpts the flavor and quality of wine. Now a new study led by UC Davis researchers offers evidence that grapes ...

Drought leaves mark on Chile's wines

May 2, 2012

Chile's vineyard owners are expecting a slightly different taste and aroma to the wines they produce this year as they harvest grapes during an exceptionally long drought.

Recommended for you

Metacognition training boosts gen chem exam scores

October 20, 2017

It's a lesson in scholastic humility: You waltz into an exam, confident that you've got a good enough grip on the class material to swing an 80 percent or so, maybe a 90 if some of the questions go your way.

Scientists see order in complex patterns of river deltas

October 19, 2017

River deltas, with their intricate networks of waterways, coastal barrier islands, wetlands and estuaries, often appear to have been formed by random processes, but scientists at the University of California, Irvine and other ...

Six degrees of separation: Why it is a small world after all

October 19, 2017

It's a small world after all - and now science has explained why. A study conducted by the University of Leicester and KU Leuven, Belgium, examined how small worlds emerge spontaneously in all kinds of networks, including ...

Ancient DNA offers new view on saber-toothed cats' past

October 19, 2017

Researchers who've analyzed the complete mitochondrial genomes from ancient samples representing two species of saber-toothed cats have a new take on the animals' history over the last 50,000 years. The data suggest that ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 29, 2013
The results reported in the journal Flavour add to previous work suggesting that a complex combination of factors plays a strong role in forming people's opinion on the taste or quality of a wine.

and it has nothing to do with price.

It also proves the wind industry is full of bullshit, especially when you read the flowery descriptions of the wine on the back of the bottle.
Nov 29, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1 / 5 (4) Nov 29, 2013
We call that flowery stuff the "legend" when we design the labels, which is one of the things I do for a living. Figure the fancier the label the worse the wine. It needs that fancy label and legend to sell it to the unsuspecting consumer. While not always true, it can at least set off your alarm bells and perhaps save you from buying something you should have saved a few more years and used on your salad instead of drinking.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.