The indiscretions of a champagne bubble paparazzi

Feb 14, 2012
This is a photograph of a typical flute poured with champagne and particles acting as bubble nucleation sites freely floating in the bulk of the flute (called fliers), thus creating charming bubble trains in motion in the champagne bulk. Credit: Photograph by Alain Cornu -- Collection CIVC

The innermost secrets of champagne bubbles are about to be unveiled in the Springer journal European Physical Journal ST. This fascinating work is the brainchild of Gérard Liger-Belair, a scientist tackling champagne bubbles from both a physics and a chemistry perspective. Based at the University of Reims, in the heart of the region that gave champagne its name, the author is appropriately affiliated with the 'effervescence team of the molecular and atmospheric spectrometry group' and the 'oenology and applied chemistry' laboratory.

To understand what appears to be a harmless phenomenon such as the fizz in champagne, the author studied the role of the carbon dioxide (CO2) throughout its journey from the bottle to the glass. Precisely, Liger-Belair focused on the second fermentation stage, resulting in the CO2 dissolution into the wine – aided by the addition of yeast and sugar before sealing each champagne bottle – to the stage where the gas escapes through tiny bubbles popping on the surface of the wine in the glass.

Armed with a high-speed camera, the author produced a series of visually appealing close-up snapshots of the hidden life of these bubbles at every stage of their short existence to analyse the forces at play. He first explained the process underlying their birth through a process called nucleation, triggered by the tiny impurities inside the champagne glass. He then followed their rise and attributed their extinction when they burst on the surface of the liquid in the glass to the cohesive forces between molecules of the liquid called surface tension.

Understanding the source of fizz provides clues on how to fine tune production. For example, the bubble size can be reduced by a factor that can be calculated by taking into account fermentation sugar levels. However, the method remains fundamentally the same as the one developed by the 17th century Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon.

Explore further: Could 'Jedi Putter' be the force golfers need?

More information: Liger-Belair G.,The Physics behind the Fizz in Champagne and Sparkling Wines, European Physical Journal ST (EPJ ST) 201: 1, DOI 10.1140/epjst/e2012-01528-0

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Champagne gases different out of a flute versus coupe

Feb 08, 2012

Champagne just isn't champagne without its bubbles, and a study highlights the effects that champagne glass shape and temperature can have on carbonation upon serving and the drinking experience. The full report is published ...

Researchers: Champagne's aroma comes from bubbles

Sep 28, 2009

(AP) -- Don Ho was right. It is the tiny bubbles. A team of researchers - in Europe not surprisingly - found that Champagne's bursting bubbles not only tickle the nose, they create a mist that wafts the aroma to the drinker.

Champagne bottle gets green makeover

Sep 14, 2010

Go to Google looking for "green wine," and you'll be greeted with a flood of information on how the global wine industry is taking steps to green its grapes, bottles, processes and more. Many wineries are eschewing pesticides ...

Divers find 200-year old champagne in Baltic wreck

Jul 20, 2010

Now that's some vintage bubbly. Divers have discovered what is thought to be the world's oldest drinkable champagne in a shipwreck in the Baltic Sea, one of the finders said Saturday. They tasted the one bottle ...

Recommended for you

Could 'Jedi Putter' be the force golfers need?

Apr 18, 2014

Putting is arguably the most important skill in golf; in fact, it's been described as a game within a game. Now a team of Rice engineering students has devised a training putter that offers golfers audio, ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Apr 17, 2014

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Kinedryl
5 / 5 (3) Feb 14, 2012
..process called nucleation, triggered by the tiny impurities inside the champagne glass.. their rise and attributed their extinction .. to the cohesive forces between molecules of the liquid called surface tension.
Apparently, nothing new is presented here.

More news stories

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...