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01.28.2007

The Science of Sparkle

bubbles.jpgIt still comes as quite a surprise to me just how much high-tech investigation goes on about the bubbles in Champagne. Physicists and material scientists can't be blamed, however, for preferring discussions of laminar flow and fluid dynamics in the context of a glass of sparkling wine rather than, say, diesel outboard motor exhaust in freshwater lakes.

A few months ago I brought you the latest findings on why and how bubbles actually form in Champagne. This month, courtesy of Harold McGee and his blog, News for Curious Cooks, we now know more about how the shape of the champagne glass affects effervescence.

Of critical concern to those who get paid to think about such things, there is apparently a very real effect on how quickly a champagne effervesces in the glass that is determined by the ratio of the diameter of the glass itself and the height of the glass. These physical properties determine the rate that the carbon dioxide gas leaves solution to form the pleasing sparkle that we all know and love.

And they figured it out by adding tiny little reflective beads to a bottle of champagne, pouring the doctored solution into glasses and shooting laser beams through them. Cool, eh?

I can't say I fully understand it all, but if there are smarter people than I out there engineering a better champagne drinking experience, more power to them. Incidentally, I'm still waiting for someone to come up with some real research results like this that show how subtle variations glass shape really affect the experience of drinking still wine.

Thanks to Jack at Fork and Bottle for the tip.

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The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud