A Christmas Bubble Story
By Anthony F Alvarez
It’s the most Wonderful time of the Year, a chance to partake in a number of joyous events with co-workers, friends and family. It’s also a time to reflect, rejoice and to remember the true meaning of the holiday. When I think of the holidays, only one wine comes to mind, SPARKLING. Whether it be Champagne, Cava, Prosecco or others, nothing yelps celebration like a glass full of bubbles. Why? Early on in my experience with wine, I asked one question about sparkling wine. “What do the bubbles actually add to my experience?”
According to Gérard Liger-Belair, a professor in the laboratory of Enology (wine studies) and applied Chemistry at the University of Reims Champagne–Ardenne in France, as written in the American Chemical Society’s “The Journal of Physical Chemistry B”, notes that effervescence plays an important role in the look, taste, aroma and mouth feel of champagne and other sparkling wines.
I have long been of the understanding that there are as many as 35 to 40 million bubbles in a bottle of proper Champagne. Have I been wrong all along? The answer may not be as simple as sitting around on a Saturday afternoon counting bubbles in a glass then extrapolating the numbers in a bottle. Liger-Belair suggests, that much of the carbon dioxide escapes from the bottle and glass without forming bubbles at all. He also suggests that the temperature of the wine is also a factor in determining the number of bubbles. Liger-Belair advocates, the temperature, the process of creating the sparkling wine and the size and position of the glassware all play into the final numbers of bubbles in the glass. Meaning, the process in which it is made, whether traditional champagne method or other manual processes, the temperature at the time of pouring, and the stemware play an important part of the number of bubbles experienced. The answer is not precise, but according to Liger-Belair, you should experience about 1 million bubbles per glass. Which extrapolates to about 8-10 million per bottle. What to do next Saturday?
So that’s the bubbles, but what flavor do the bubbles add? Bubbles do more than tickle your tongue and your nose. They add flavor to the experience! The bubbles themselves actually taste different than the liquid remaining in your stemware. Think of them as a flavor train, not to your palate, but to your nose. In the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal, Liger-Belair suggests that the effervescence is filled with “so called surface-active compounds”, chemicals that are attracted to interfaces between gas and liquid—some of which play a role in conveying the aroma of the wine. (Even when a substance is on the tongue, aromatics contribute to flavor, which is a blend of taste and smell).
So let me put it in a manner we non-scientists can understand. When you open a bottle of Champagne or any other sparkling wine, you are not only ready to begin a party, you are releasing a party from the bottle. The bubbles themselves are on a journey, to all of your senses. And, don’t worry. There is no scientific proof that bubbles make you inebriated faster, just be cautious of how much you have.
One last thing, be careful opening that bottle of sparkling wine. The speed of the cork in an uncontrolled release can reach up to 25 to 30 mph. Here are the steps to opening that bottle of sparkling wine. You’ll need a clean towel:
Step 1: Remove foil from the bottle
Step 2: Cover the cork with a towel and place your thumb firmly on the top of the cork.
Step 3: Twist the cage wire 6 times counter clockwise while your thumb is firmly in place.
Step 4: Hold the cork and wire firmly in your hand and twist the bottle slowly with your other hand.
Step 5: Your cork will release with a wisp instead of a pop
If you want the pop, just make sure the cork is not pointed at any human or pet.
As you traverse the final days of the year, always be cognizant of your alcohol consumption and utilize the myriad of ride-share services, for your safety and the safety of others. We at The Vineyard Wine Market wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a Happy Holidays.