Champagne Bottles – the Bubbles inside them!
Before we start our article on the bubbles of Champagne, if you would like to see our family produced Champagne products, please click HERE.
Popping a Champagne Bottle
Who doesn’t love popping open a bottle of fine Champagne, it is associated with partying and celebration, but behind all this there are some interesting physics behind the bubbles so bear this in mind when you open up your bottle of bubbly.
The Pop of a Cork
A pop of the cork could be said to change a mood of those in the room. The pressure that had been increasing through the course of the fermentation is released very suddenly with the result that the equilibrium is no longer there. The fun part of enjoying your Champagne, are the processes that realign this system, those being fizz, bubbles and pops.
The question you may well ask is where did the pressure come from in the Champagne bottle? Well the answer is a strange one – micro-farts. The yeast that is in there feeds on the sugar that is in the wine, the by product from the yeast is carbon-dioxide.
Within each bottle of sparkling wine the microbes from the yeast produce a minimum of 10 grams of carbon dioxide in the bubbly. This, when you consider is a small space with the bottle, is roughly 3 times the pressure that you would find in a car tyre. Due to these conditions the carbon dioxide is able to dissolve in the Champagne..
Champagne Bottle Pressure
As you loosen the cork the cork will be forced out by the pressure of the gas in the bottle. The cork then shoots through the air from the Champagne, and this can be up to a speed of around 50 kilometres per hour or so, as reported by Gérard Liger-Belair who is from Reims University.
Liger-Belair has devoted much of his time to the science behind Champagne, and he sees a glass of bubby as a ‘fantastic playground’, although he does add that he never drinks Champagne.
Rather, he enjoys a glass of Champagne with infrared imaging, laser tomography, mathematical models and high speed cameras.
Champagne Cork Speed
His measurements reveal that the speed of the cork will be dependant on the temperature of the Champagne itself. Carbon dioxide is much more soluable when the temperature is lower, so a higher temperature means there is greater pressure which in turn means a faster ejection speed from the Champagne.
The ideal drinking temperature for Champagne is around 8-10 degrees Celsius, and the speed it is ejected at when it is this temperature is approximately 40 kmh. In France, Champagne is rarely drunk at a temperature warmer than that.
The moment the cork leaves the Champagne a few wisps of fog appear at the end of the bottle, a truly great sight I’m sure you will agree! At that moment the pressure in the neck area of the bottle decreases suddenly by a factor of 5, and a sudden temperature drop of around 80 degrees takes place.
For a brief instant the temperature in the Champagne label is at -70, and elements of alcohol and water condense as the temperature goes back towards room temperature.
Champagne Bottle Fizz
The next step of course is the fizz that comes out of the Champagne! This process is when the carbon dioxide that is dissolved with the wine begins to escape. If you were to let the fine Champagne within the bottle go completely flat it would take approximately 10 hours to complete. Not only that but you would find that there was 6 litres of gas dissolved in your Champagne.
Champagne must be poured correctly!
When poured incorrectly too much fizz will come out of the bubbly. The best approach is a simple gentle stream, and if you can pour this into a glass that has been tilted it will minimise any hard contact and will preserve the bubbles. The worst thing you can do is pour the Champagne directly into the middle of a flute which will stir up the Champagne and cause an excessive release of carbon dioxide.
Even when you take every precaution a huge amount of bubbles can come from the Champagne. In fact a team of scientists used super computers in order to model the speed that bubbles form in various liquids and also how they interacted with each other. As you can see quite a bit of research has gone into your Champagne.
Champagne Bottle Bubbles
The bubbles are a vital component in the make-up of your birthday Champagne, this is the opinion of scientists from the Sorbonne University based in Paris. The theory goes that as they burst, small droplets of the wine go into air over the surface which improves the experience of when you drink your bottle of bubbly.
Two mechanisms were identified that help produce droplets. The first one is the actual bursting of the surface of the bubble, here a dollop is thrown up that is incredible small, roughly 40 times smaller than the width of a hair. Another is when the bubble shape collapses, here a jet roughly 10 times larger than droplets is created in your Champagne.
The theory goes that these tiny droplets that are ejected are a crucial part in the tasting of your Champagne. The reason being is that when the evaporate they help diffuse the aroma of the wine in the air. This is according to Elisabeth Ghabache would wrote in a paper in an associated journal Physics of Fluids.
The debate that links to this is how exactly should a glass of Champagne? Some insist that it should be drink in a narrow flute, while others prefer a tulip shaped coupe.
Liger-Belair is adamant that Champagne should not be drunk from a coupe. The reason for this is that he has gas chromatography alongside infrared images that highlight that a flute has the ability to funnel the aroma of the carbon dioxide into the exact place where a drinker consumes it the most effectively. Although he does state that if the concentration is too high it will become a nuisance, so a middle ground for the drinking of the Champagne is recommended.
Even then, the manner in which the flavours interact with taste buds and also the nose is a very individual thing. So you can see that when it comes to drinking your Champagne it is a fine art indeed! A great deal of research has gone into it, how much is scientifically proven or not is open for debate, but at the very least it makes interesting reading. So next time you decide to order a glass of Champagne at a birthday party, you will be all the wiser for it!