Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Here's the Dirt on Champagne Bubbles

"Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right."
Mark Twain

Next time you take a sip of your favorite champagne or sparkling wine remember that it's dirt and grime that causes the bubbles to form inside the champagne flute. 


Gérard Liger-Belair, an associate professor of physical sciences at the University Reims Champagne-Ardene, used sophisticated photographic equipment to observe what really happens inside a glass of champagne. 

The bubbles consist of carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolved in the liquid during the fermentation process. Scientists have long known that these CO2 molecules need a niche of some sort to form bubbles. In a perfectly smooth glass, the molecules would evaporate singly and invisibly. Conventional wisdom is that tiny pits and gouges in the wall of a champagne flute serve as bubble-formation sites. But Dr. Liger-Belair found that the imperfections of an average wine glass are too small for that purpose. Instead, what gives birth to the bubbles are dirt and dust particles on the glass surface, or cellulose strands from the dish towel used to dry the glass. These specs of grime are the perfect gathering places for the CO2 molecules.

Wow, isn't science fascinating. 

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