The Science of Bubbly; January 2003; Scientific American Magazine; by Girard Liger-Belair; 6 Page(s)
Pop open a bottle of champagne and pour yourself a glass. Take a sip. The elegant surface fizz-a boiling fumarole of rising and collapsing bubbles-launches thousands of golden droplets into the air, conveying the wine's enticing flavors and aromas to tongue and nostrils alike. A percussive symphony of diminutive pops accompanies the tasty mouthful, juxtaposing a refreshing carbonated chill and a comforting alcoholic warmth. Such is the enchantment of bubbly, the classic sparkling wine of northeastern France's Champagne district, a libation that has become a fixture at festive celebrations worldwide.
Among the hallmarks of a good champagne are multiple bubble trains rising in lines from the sides of a poured glass like so many tiny hot-air balloons. When they reach the surface, the bubbles form a ring, the socalled collerette, at the top of a filled flute. Although no scientific evidence correlates the quality of a champagne with the fineness of its bubbles, people nonetheless often make a connection between the two. Because ensuring the traditional effervescent personality of champagne is big business, it has become important for champenois vintners to achieve the perfect petite bubble. Therefore, a few years ago several research colleagues from the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne and Moet & Chandon and I decided to examine the behavior of bubbles in carbonated beverages. Our goal was to determine, illustrate and finally better understand the role played by each of the many parameters involved in the bubbling process. The simple but close observation of a glass filled with sparkling wine, beer or soda revealed an unexplored and visually appealing phenomenon. Our initial results concerned the three main phases of a bubble¿s life-birth, ascent and collapse.