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

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