by Dave Williams
As they rise to a crescendo of delight, the quality of champagne has often been measured by the size of the bubbles. A steady stream of tiny bubbles has long been recognized as the indicator of quality. Recently, Professor Gérard Liger-Belair, a chemical physicist at the University of Reims, spent time measuring bubbles size and impact on sparkling wines, in particular Champagne. Once a bottle is opened, some one million bubbles form in the average glass of Champagne. These escaping little spheres of dissolved CO2 range from 0.4-4.0mm (.016-.160”) in diameter. Viscosity and the glass can influence bubble size to a degree. Ultimately, his findings indicated that bubbles 3.4mm (.136”) across were optimum at delivering the aroma and flavor of the wine.
Using high speed photography he examined what happened to the bubbles as they form a raft at the top of the wine. Bubbles form a hexagonal pattern on the surface, much like petals of a flower. When a bubble collapses it creates a cavity that strains the adjacent bubbles increasing the likelihood of their collapsing. When bubbles collapse they explode tiny aromatic droplets into the air. The more bubbles that collapse the greater the aroma and flavor impact. Prof. Liger-Belair previously discovered that chilling a Champagne to 39⁰F. reduces the amount of alcohol carried by each bubble which can overpower the expression of more delicate flavors. He also claims that that flutes enhance the flavor of Champagne over wider coupe glasses. However, personal experience with glass size and Champagne would cause me to disagree with this statement. Sounds like more empirical testing is in order!
We encourage you to join us and experience bubbles at our upcoming Champagne event in December!