Champagne - the Bubbles within it!

We all love popping open a bottle of fine Champagne, there is no other drink that is closely associated with, but behind all of this there are some interesting physics within the bubbles to bear in mind the next time a bottle is cracked open.

The Pop of a Cork

There’s no doubt the popping of a cork instantly lifts the spirits of those in the same room. Behind this the pressure that had built up during fermentation is suddenly released with the equilibrium suddenly dispersing.

Champagne Pressures

An obvious question is where this pressure came from? The answer is one you probably aren’t expecting – micro-farts. The yeast in the bubbly feeds on the sugar in the wine, and this in turn forms the by product that is carbon-dioxide.

Each bottle will produce approximately 10 grams of carbon dioxide in the Champagne. When you consider the small space that is available in the bottle, this equates to roughly 3 times the pressure you would find in a car tyre, this in turn enable the carbon dioxide to dissolve in the Champagne.

Champagne Bottle Pressure

As the cork is loosened it is forced out by the pressure of the gas in the bottle. The speeds it is ejected is approximately 50mkh.

The speed of the cork will depend on the temperate of the Champagne. Carbon dioxide dissolves more easily when the temperature is lower, so when there are high temperatures the pressure is greater which results in a faster ejection.

The chemistry of wine

As soon as the cork flies from the bubbly it will be followed by the customary wisps of fog at the end of the bottle, a sight that every Champagne drinker loves to see! Following this of course, out of the Champagne comes the fizz! Here the carbon dioxide that has been dissolved in the Champagne tries to escape.

Pour the Champagne correctly!

When incorrectly poured the bubbly will produce far too much fizz. The ideal way to do this is a gentle stream, and even better is when it is poured into a glass that has been tilted. The worst possible way of course is to pour it quickly into the middle of the flute which releases a large amount of carbon dioxide.

Even if you take every care and precaution, you can still have a large release of bubbles from the Champagne.

Champagne Bubbles

The bubbles are an essential part of your Champagne. As the bubbles burst there is a small release of the wine which dissipates into the air which helps improve the experience of drinking your Champagne.

There are two mechanisms behind this, first, when the bubble bursts a small portion of the wine is thrown through the air. Secondly, when the shape of the bubble collapses, a jet is created in the Champagne. These processes are an crucial part in the tasting of your Champagne which would otherwise be missed by the average drinker. As these droplets evaporate the aroma is diffused thus improving the overall experience.

Pouring Champagne

A debate has raged for some time as to how the Champagne should be poured, some insist it should be a narrow flute, while others prefer the tulip shaped coupe.

One argument goes that the flute helps funnel the aromas into the nose of the drinker, purists however argue that the bubbles remain longer in the tulip shaped glass. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference and perhaps very few would notice a difference in a blind taste test.

So, next time you order a glass of bubbly, you should be all the wiser for it!