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The Science of Bubbles

How to find “finesse” in Champagne, and the best glasses to drink it from.
By W. Blake Gray | Posted Sunday, 15-Dec-2013

Pop! The Champagne cork just flew off at 30 mph, and as much as 80 percent of the CO2 contained in the bottle raced out into your dining room. Better drink up fast!

Opening the bottle carefully is one of the ways to most enjoy a bottle of sparkling wine, says Gérard Liger-Belair, a physicist who has written a book on the topic.

Liger-Belair became interested in the science of Champagne while languorously drinking a beer after his finals at Paris University more than 20 years ago. He liked the sound, a small popping you can hear as the bubbles burst at the surface. He liked the way they propelled the drink’s aroma into the air. And he found the bubbles at the surface of the glass beautiful.

Many physicists might have been content to study the bubbles of beer. But this was Paris, and a French physicist. So he went to nearby Reims, in the heart of Champagne, to study, photograph and occasionally drink bubbles. There are worse jobs.

While there, he also observed a change in world taste. In the recent past, Champagnes with bigger bubbles were considered better. But perhaps because of the proliferation of sparkling wines made through methods other than secondary fermentation in the bottle, today there is a desire for finer bubbles.

If finesse is what you seek, here’s how to find it.

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