Thursday, March 25, 2010

Debate a Bubble - 40 Million Bubbles In My Glass!

Debate a Bubble - 40 Million Bubbles In My Glass!

Link to Debate a Bubble - Champagne News and Reviews

40 Million Bubbles In My Glass!

Posted: 25 Mar 2010 03:26 AM PDT

Flute close up Many people say that one champagne is more fizzy, or has more bubbles/less bubbles, than another, but is this really true?

Well, the answer is both Yes and No. Confused? Don't worry,by the time you've read this article, it will all be clear.

Champagne starts off as grape juice. It's fermented to produce still wine, in much the same way as any other wine is made. Then, in order to get the bubbles in champagne, the still wine is fermented a second time. This time though, the fermentation takes place in a sealed bottle and the CO2 gas that is produced dissolves into the wine so that when you open the bottle, it's all bubbly.

Making the still wine ferment a second time isn't difficult - it's just a question of adding yeast to the still wine plus some sugar and hey presto the second fermentation gets under way. The amount of gas produced, which determines the pressure in the bottle which in turn plays a big role in the amount of bubbles, depends on the amount of sugar added.

Since champagne makers almost always put in 24 grams of sugar per litre of liquid it follows that  all bottles of champagne will end up with the same pressure inside the bottle and the same amount of bubbles.

In fact  for those of  you who enter pub quizzes or just like trivia, the pressure inside a bottle of champagne just after it's finished the second fermentation is about 6 atmospheres, that's the same as you'd experience if you dived down 50 meters under water, or, I'm reliably informed, the same as in a London double-decker bus tyre.London Double Decker

So exactly how many bubbles will this amount of pressure produce?

I've come across three possible answers:

One study  came up with an answer of 49 million bubbles per bottle, another study said 56 million and yet another said the number of bubbles in a bottle is as high as 250 million.

So what can you say to that?

Not a lot except that layman's logic suggests that you should have between about 8 million and 40 million bubbles in each glass of champagne you drink - enough to give you hiccoughs / hiccups ? ( never did know how to spell that word).

So now we can say that, in theory at least, all bottles of champagne start off with about the same number of bubbles and the same amount of fizz.

What is it then that may change this?

To some extent temperature will affect the number of bubbles, but the main factor is ageing.

As champagne ages some of the gas inside the bottle escapes which reduces the pressure inside. The longer the ageing, the lower the pressure and the fewer the bubbles. For the same reason you'll also get slightly smaller bubbles in an older champagne.

What does this mean for those of you who prefer a champagne that is ' less fizzy'?

Well, you need to look out for a champagne that has been aged longer than average. An obvious choice would be to go for vintage champagne, but in fact there can be quite a difference between the length of ageing even amongst non-vintage champagnes. It all depends on the individual champagne maker.

That's why I always say that the length of ageing is one of the key questions you need to ask before you buy any bottle of champagne. Longer ageing alters the champagne, and not just the amount of bubbles either.

More's the pity then that relatively few champagne makers make this information available and that so few retailers can tell you either.

Well, that's about it on the subject of bubbles, unless you want to really get into the subject by reading UNCORKED. The Science of Champagne by GĂ©rard Liger-Belair, but I suspect that will do for now.

If you have any questions then drop me a line at

Monday, March 22, 2010

How to choose a champagne

If you missed out on my recent Win A Weekend In Champagne competition, don't despair; all is not lost. There will probably be one more competition before the year is out so you'll have another chance.

All you had to do to enter the competition was to share with me the No. 1 question you wanted to ask about champagne or the No. 1 challenge you face when it comes to champagne.

There were stacks of entries and stacks of great questions but although they were all put in slightly different words the theme was the same:

"How to I know which champagne to choose when there are so many to choose from?"

Exclusive champagnes R

"I know that there are lots of different champagnes to try, but I just don't know where to look or what to ask for, so I end up sticking to the names I know or the ones I've tasted before"

I reckon that there are lots of you who feel the same way so I've put together a few tips that I hope will be help. Here goes:

There are 4 things you need to know to give you a clue about what the style and quality of a champagne will be like:

• The quality of the grapes ( there are 3 classifications of quality and these can affect the quality of the champagne: Grand Cru, Premier Cru and then the third category which is simply Cru)

• The proportion of the different grape varieties used in the blend ( more a question of taste than quality. Do you prefer a champagne with more Chardonnay, more Pinot Noir or more Pinot Meunier in it?)

• The length of ageing ( In general the longer the ageing, the ‘better’ the quality, so knowing how long a champagne has been aged is crucial)

• The degree of sweetness which in French is called Le Dosage ( again, this is a question of taste rather than quality, but very important to know so that you get exactly the level of dryness or sweetness you want)

If you know these things you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the champagne will taste like and you’ll know if it’s what you’re looking for.

If it is, then you can decide how much you want to pay to get what you want.

That may sound a bit technical, but it’s not really. Some of this information is shown on the label ( although sadly not all), but if you go to a good wine merchant he/she should know these things and should be able to tell you. If they don’t, then try another shop.

How do you know which type or style of champagne you prefer?

Well there no short cut other than to try several different champagnes and in this process you’ll no doubt get a few bottles that you like less than others. Try not to view this as a disaster, though. As long as you didn’t spend a fortune, and there’s no need to do that to find good quality, then with every champagne you taste you’ll be narrowing down the field and learning as you go along. Then the time will soon come when 9 times out of 10 you’ll be able to try an unknown brand and you’ll get a pleasant surprise rather than the other way around.

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