"leesy" note in champagne?

Contextually when people say champagne has “leesy” notes… I had gotten the sense many people use it to mean bready / yeasty / toasty smells. But recently I got Le Nez Du Vin kit and the “Wine Lees” smell (#33) to me smells very sweet and fruity, almost like a cherry/vanilla soda kinda scent.

So this got me questioning whether I am understanding what people actually mean when they say a champagne has a leesy taste and/or smell. Thanks.


Although extended aging on the lees gives all kinds of autolytic aromas to a wine, I myself prefer to say “bready autolytic notes” or “toasty autolytic notes” when I’m speaking of those specific aromas and flavors. I think people usually use just the term “autolytic” to cover those.

Usually what shorter aging on the lees gives the wine is that slightly sweet, subtly creamy character - which turns into more yeasty with more age, before turning full-on bready / nutty / toasty in quality. When I use the term “leesy” it’s either that creamy or slightly yeasty overall character.

But it’s a wild world when it comes to wine terminology and its usage. I myself try to be as clear as possible, but many people don’t - or even do not know themselves when they are being rather hard to follow or decipher!

But anyway, none of these terms are wrong in any way. The aromas that range from sweet and fruity, creamy and yeasty to toasty, nutty and bready all come from the yeast autolysis and that autolyzed yeast is just wine lees. So all these aromas, in essence, are both leesy and autolytic!


Thanks so much for your detailed answer! I guess unlike saying something resembles lemon or green apples or pear, leesy is much more open to interpretation… could mean any number of properties that are developed by lees aging.

1 Like

I usually smell it more times than taste it, but hard to say, it goes both ways