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08.24.2009

Testing the Old Spoon in the Champagne Bottle Trick

I don't know exactly when I was first told, but for years I've "known" that if you want to keep a bottle of opened Champagne from going flat, you drop a silver spoon into the neck of the bottle, handle first. Sort of like knowing you shouldn't go swimming for an hour after you eat, this trick with the spoon seems to be yet another proclamation from the infamous Department of They.

You know the one. "They" say you shouldn't go outside on a cold day with a wet head, because you'll catch a cold. Why not? Well that's just what they say.

Half the time, such conventional wisdom seems quite astute, and has even been proven to be right (I think someone actually did prove that wet heads in cold weather will increase the likelihood of catching a cold). The rest of the time, of course, it's utter hogwash.

I've never known which the old spoon trick actually was, or whether it mattered if the darn spoon was silver or not. Most of the time these days I have a rubber or a metal stopper to use. But on occasion when I don't, or when I'm away from home, I drop a spoon in the bottle just to be... well... safe, I guess.

Turns out I wasn't the only one with the passing notion that this business with the spoon might be a bunch of crap. Some of the science minded folks at Twee Jonge Gezellen estate in South Africa found themselves without enough to do last week (it is Winter down there, after all) and when challenged by the folks at GoTravel24 to actually prove their contention that the spoon trick actually worked, they decided to put this technique to the test with a bit of rigor.

Their test involved opening two bottles, pouring some wine from each, and then putting them back in the fridge, one with a spoon, the other without. The bottles were then removed at regular intervals, the temperature measured in each, new glasses poured, and photographed each time, along with a control glass poured from a brand new bottle.

After all the wine was good and drunk (and the researchers had recovered from being drunk as well), the photographs of the glasses were analyzed to count the bubbles to see whether, in fact the spooned bottle held more fizz over time.

I'm sure some full-time scientist could find all sorts of faults with the methodology -- certainly there are a lot of variables that determine how many bubbles are in a glass of sparkling wine, but for what it's worth, they saw a significant difference.

I'll let them share the final result. Read the full article.

Thanks to Kumkani winery for the link.

Comments (16)

Wink Lorch wrote:
08.25.09 at 12:52 AM

Thanks, Alder! As a wine educator, I've been asked this question so many times and attempted some lame experiments but never as detailed as the Kumkani guys did - good for them! So, at last we have an answer, but not as to whether the spoon needs to be silver - I guess only for a certain quality of bubbly ;-)

Kasey Carpenter wrote:
08.25.09 at 1:20 AM

Note too that a study was done awhile back that proved that the amount of bubbles in your glass was affected by how clean or dirty it was. A sterile glass with perfect walls gave off no bubbles as there were no diatomic "tubes" aka dust particles that the CO2 could cling to and emanate from. So one could reason that the inclusion of a spoon would increase the surface area, therefore releasing more bubbles than just the glass. And if said spoon had the numerous microscopic scores/marks (and surface dirt/dust) typical household silverware accumulates over the years, you give the CO2 more surface area and more sources for collection and eventual bubbles.

Methinks if anything, the spoon actually spends more CO2 than just an idle glass, though the appearance of more bubbles being cast off would lead one to believe the spoon was "preserving" them. I'd construct some sort of test to see which glass goes flat sooner. My guess would be the glass with the spoon, as it would be casting off more bubbles by volume.

my non-scientific recollection of a study published somewhere on the ever-reliable Interweb...

Francesco wrote:
08.25.09 at 8:28 AM

Good point Kasey, I remember from organic chemistry lab that in order get to distilled water to bubble you had to put a wooden stick into the hot water. Its pretty much the same concept. The impurities in the stick are what made the water bubble.

Alder wrote:
08.25.09 at 9:18 AM

Kasey,

Thanks for the comments. It's important to note that the spoon in this case is placed in the neck of the bottle and doesn't come into contact with the wine. Also I believe the desired effect here is exactly OPPOSITE the one you reference (here's the story you're talking about) -- which is to say that the spoon seems to PREVENT the C02 from coming out of solution quite as fast as it would otherwise. The idea being that if you keep the CO2 in solution in the bottle longer, when you pour it you get a glass of bubbly that is less flat.

Georgia wrote:
08.25.09 at 9:19 AM

I've had luck using an ordinary table fork with bottles of sparkling wine...

chefee1 wrote:
08.26.09 at 3:32 PM

See the link below for an article by scientists who have disproved this theory.

http://www.stanford.edu/dept/news/pr/94/941221Arc4008.html

Also - Herve This in his book "Molecular Gastronomy" goes into great detail as to why this theory is just plain old bunk

Rosehill wrote:
08.26.09 at 8:32 PM

Thanks for that counter-result @chefee1... I wasn't sure the physics used to explain this working was correct. But having fully open bottles being the most effervescent was the biggest surprise... maybe oxygen is contributing to further aging and fermentation?

Arnaud H wrote:
08.26.09 at 10:33 PM

As a Frenchman I used to swear by that theory, but I've had to admit over the years it doesn't seem to quite work as well as I was led to believe. The Mythbusters team also tackled that one in one of their shows and debunked it in a December 2004 episode.

Dylan wrote:
08.27.09 at 7:19 AM

That was pretty neat. I appreciate little wine/culinary tricks like that. For example my entire life changed when I found out I could smash the side of a garlic clove against the broad side of my knife, rather than peeling by hand. I'll definitely try this next time with champagne or, at the very least, propagate it to all of my friends.

vinosseur wrote:
08.27.09 at 3:08 PM

I have often heard of the silver spoon trick as well, but have never tried it, so I found it interesting to read the results from somebody else trying this!
I have found that using a good champagne closure, then giving the bottle a quick, gentle shake seals the bottle extremely well and also preserves the bubbles longer. Caution when opening the next day!

-cheers

Dianna wrote:
08.28.09 at 3:24 AM

Perhaps I'm out of step here but surely yesterday's champagne is about as appealing as cold turkey sandwiches after Christmas day!

Simona wrote:
08.30.09 at 5:56 AM

I agree with Dianna ... If I open a bottle of Champagne, then I don't need anything to close it again, it would be useless as the bottle is empty :)

vinosseur wrote:
08.30.09 at 6:09 AM

haha!
This is true. At home I rarely leave Champagne unfinished! However, these tricks can be useful for those who work in the field and have to unfortunately store opened Champagnes until the next days service... I suppose I also could start finishing the Champagne myself ;-)

rs wrote:
08.30.09 at 11:52 AM

?Fact or Myth? Lingering in wet clothes, going outside in cold weather with wet hair or just being
cold can increase your chances of getting a cold.

Answer: Myth

"No, being out in the cold or being cold or having wet clothes does not increase your chance of
having a cold or the flu," said Dr. Jon Abramson, chairman of the department of pediatrics at
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

"This is one of the myths that do exist both about the common cold or the flu, and clearly from a
lot of studies this is not the case."

Since this myth persists, the likely reason behind it is the rise in cases once the temperature drops
in the United States.

"It is true, however, [that] the flu virus circulates mainly in the fall and the wintertime, and that
therefore, you do see a lot more flu during that time than the rest of the year in temperate
countries, such as the United States," said Abramson.

While the viruses are more common during these times of the year, the consensus among
physicians seems to be that this is caused by people staying indoors to avoid the cold -- not from
the cold itself.

http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=5718776

Is It True That Lingering In Wet Clothing Or Being Exposed To Cold Temperatures Increases
My Chances Of Getting A Cold?
Jon Abramson, M.D., Prof. and Chairman, Dept. of Pediatrics, Wake Forest University Baptist
Medical Center
February 27, 2008


Dr. Jon Abramson answers the question: 'Wet Clothing Increases Chance of Cold?'

Answer: No, being out in the cold or being cold or having wet clothes does not increase your
chance of having a cold or the flu. This is one of the myths that do exist about both the common
cold and the flu, and clearly from a lot of studies this is not the case. It is true, however, the flu
virus circulates mainly in the fall and the wintertime, and that therefore, you do see a lot more flu
during that time than the rest of the year in temperate countries, such as the United States.


http

Alder wrote:
08.30.09 at 11:55 AM

Well there you go, then. Department of They, wrong again. Have They ever been right? What about Chicken Noodle Soup for colds?

Nancy wrote:
08.30.09 at 1:58 PM

You've missed the most obvious question: Who ARE these people who can't finish their bubbly???

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