De zogeheten champagne-kenners prijzen fijne mousse steevast aan als een kwaliteitskenmerk. Maar daar zijn niet alle geleerden het over eens. Zo vindt de Franse prof. Gérard Liger-Belair van de universiteit van Reims: hoe groter de bubbels hoe beter. Want dan ontstaan er meer aroma’s.
Myth dictates that the smaller the bubbles the tastier the champagne. But research from Professor Gérard Liger-Belair at the University of Reims suggests that when it comes to bubbles it’s a case of “the bigger the better”.
Their findings were published in The European Physical Journal Special Topics which examined the effervescence process in champagne. They concluded that the level of carbon dioxide found in the liquid phase was a crucial element for the visually appealing bubbling process. More on the science of food and drinks can be found in the article ‘How Safe is Safe? Analytical Tools for Tracing Contaminants in Food’.
The average glass of champagne forms 1mm bubbles, but 3.4mm across the surface is said to be the greatest size. This increases the release of carbon dioxide into the air above the glass and enhances the subsequent release of aerosols. The aromatic mixtures in the release of the bubbles contribute to the distinctive smell and flavour. So, the bigger the pop, the more aromas that are given off.
Several factors are at play when achieving the perfect bubble size in a glass of sparkling wine, including the complex process of first and second fermentation, the temperature and even the pressure.
Liger- Belair’s research showed that by decreasing the viscosity it would improve the drop evaporation, which again influences the size of the bubbles. Also look out for the type of glass you choose, preferably a flute according to those in the know, if you want to influence size and subtle flavourings.
Scientists at the University of Texas have taken these studies one step further and have conducted experiments into the sound of bubbles in sparkling wine. Measuring the pitch and frequencies of varying bubbles, they were able to determine bubble sizes. Results showed the ‘smaller the bubble, the higher the pitch’ and even the angle you pour your favourite glass can affect the results.
Another bubbly myth is that the older the champagne the better the taste. However, during the storage of a corked bottle the fluid progressively loses its gas pressure and dissolves. This aging leads to smaller bubbles, which clearly is not the way to go if you’re after a tasty tipple. Therefore, science tells us that not only should we be drinking bigger bubbles, but we should be drinking them quicker.
Luckily for the average champagne consumer the cheaper alternatives like cava and prosecco sparkling wines typically have bigger bubbles and therefore increase the flavour and aromas. Perhaps it’s time to put science to the test and find out for yourself.