Champagne bubble acoustics and size distribution may provide details about wine quality

December 5, 2017, Acoustical Society of America
Hydrophone in a champagne glass. Credit: Kyle Spratt

The classic sparkling wine that has rung in countless new years with a bang may have more to its bubbles. Champagne is notable for its iconic cork popping, but the bubble acoustics also play a key role in determining how expensive that bottle should be.

Investigators Kyle S. Spratt, Kevin M. Lee and Preston S. Wilson, from the Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas at Austin, will be presenting their research the acoustical measurements of champagne during the 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, held Dec. 4-8, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

"The point of the project is to study the sounds that champagne bubbles make, and to see what we can infer about the bubbles from the sounds that they make," said Spratt. "Bubbles are very resonant. They basically ring like bells, and the frequency of that ringing depends in part on the size of the bubbles. There is a well-known notion that the quality of a sparkling is correlated to the size of its bubbles, and we are investigating whether the bubble size distribution of a sparkling wine can be obtained from simple acoustical measurements."

The team typically investigates the properties of bubbles and how they relate to underwater acoustics using a hydrophone, a piezoelectric transducer-based device that records underwater sound. They thought a similar technique might apply to the investigation of wine bubbles.

"When we came across the idea that bubbles play an important role in the quality of a sparkling wine, our first instinct was to drop a hydrophone into a glass and see what kind of sound we can hear," said Spratt.

Gathering data proved to be difficult due to the properties of the wine and its bubble mechanisms. "The process of taking measurements in a carbonated beverage was more challenging than we expected, mainly because bubbles form on the hydrophone itself and that can greatly affect the data that is collected," said Spratt. To prevent from altering the properties of the , researchers resorted to using a very small hydrophone.

The champagne flute design is not just to look arbitrarily fancy, having a great deal of effect on . "A wine glass is also a resonant object, so another challenge for us was to make sure that the characteristics of the glass itself weren't biasing our measurements in some way," said Spratt.

However, attempting to take measurements in other containers, especially Styrofoam, left little to be desired. "It turns out the bubble formation process on Styrofoam is completely different than on glass," he said. "So, if you ever have to resort to drinking out of a Styrofoam cup, the bubbles will be quite different."

The applications of this work could prove useful for aiding in the quality assurance testing of sparkling wines and other carbonated beverages. Using the acoustic properties of the bubbles as an indicator for wine quality could prevent errors in commercial manufacturing or packaging that may not be detectable by taste alone.

"The direct application would be as a simple tool that could be used to monitor the bubble size distribution in sparkling wines," Spratt said.

Explore further: The science of champagne fizz: How many bubbles are in your bubbly?

More information: Abstract: 2pPA1: "Champagne bubble acoustics," by Kyle S. Spratt, Kevin M. Lee and Preston S. Wilson, Tuesday Dec. 5, 2017 in Balcony L in the New Orleans Marriott. asa2017fall.abstractcentral.com/s/u/KWLSmDbRs-4

Related Stories

The indiscretions of a champagne bubble paparazzi

February 14, 2012

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 ...

Researchers: Champagne's aroma comes from bubbles

September 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 physicist reveals the secrets of bubbly

September 18, 2012

Gerard Liger-Belair lives in a bubble, and he doesn't care who knows it. Bubbles are his passion. And they have given the 41-year-old French scientist arguably the best job in all of physics.

Recommended for you

X-rays reveal chirality in swirling electric vortices

January 16, 2018

Scientists used spiraling X-rays at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to observe, for the first time, a property that gives handedness to swirling electric patterns – dubbed ...

Quan­tum physics turned into tan­gi­ble re­al­ity

January 16, 2018

ETH physicists have developed a silicon wafer that behaves like a topological insulator when stimulated using ultrasound. They have thereby succeeded in turning an abstract theoretical concept into a macroscopic product.

Slow 'hot electrons' could improve solar cell efficiency

January 16, 2018

Photons with energy higher than the band gap of the semiconductor absorbing them give rise to what are known as hot electrons. The extra energy in respect to the band gap is lost very fast, as it is converted into heat and ...

0 comments

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.