The Science of Champagne

Champagne owes much of its allure to its tiny bubbles. Unlike other wines, champagne undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, during which the yeasts in the wine consume sugars and produce carbon dioxide, which dissolves into the wine. When opened, the carbon dioxide can begin to escape. Bubbles form in the glass around imperfections, either due to intentional etching of the glass or impurities left behind by cleaning. Once formed, trails of bubbles rise to the surface, swelling as more dissolved carbon dioxide is absorbed into each bubble. The bubbles then cluster near the surface of the champagne, occasionally popping and creating a flower-like distortion of the surrounding bubbles. The gases within the bubbles contains higher concentrations of aromatic chemicals than the surrounding wine, and the bursting of each bubble propels tiny droplets of these aromatics upwards, carrying the scent of the champagne to the drinker. For more beautiful champagne photos, I recommend this LuxeryCulture article; for more on the science of champagne, see Chemistry World’s coverage. Happy 2014! (Image credits: G. Liger-Belair et al.)

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