Bubbles 101: What Makes Sparkling Wines Sparkle?
How many bubbles are in a bottle of traditional sparkling wine before it's opened? Hundreds? Thousands? Actually, there are none!
It is true that carbonation is added to cheap bottles of flat wine to produce a festive fizz, but this method is not common. In fact, most bottles of sparkling wine achieve their effervescent effect in the second part of the fermentation process. There are several methods of trapping the CO2 gas responsible for that signature sparkle, but the most traditional is the Champagne Method.
The Classic or Champagne Method
Using this process over 300 years ago, Dom Pierre Perignon, a Benedictine monk, produced and perfected the Champagne we recognize today. Essentially, highly-acidic base wine is produced using early grapes. This first fermentation results in a flat wine, which is portioned into individual bottles and combined with a mixture of yeasts and sugar. The yeasts digest the sugar, creating CO2 (under pressure and in liquid form), distinctive flavors, and alcohol. Eventually, enough CO2 is produced that the pressure within the bottle can be greater than the pressure in car tires! When the cork is popped on that pressurized bottle, the liquid reacts to the air and about 80% of the CO2 is released immediately as a gas. The remaining 20% is released more slowly, creating cascades of foam and "bubble trains" along the sides of your flute.
Is wine simply more enjoyable when accompanied by the sound of popping corks or the sight of foaming bottlenecks? Champagne flute manufacturers think so: extra effervescence can be forced through etching the inside of a glass flute. Similarly, when towel fibers or dust cling to the inside of a flute (thanks to static electricity), CO2 gas trapped by the fibers (or the etching) is released in addition to the naturally occurring bubbles, forming elaborate and attractive chains within your beverage.
The fizz does more than create a mood- researchers believe the CO2 gasses bring subtle flavors and bouquets to the nose and mouth of the consumer more effectively than still wines. Perhaps this accounts for why sparkling wines are credited with a boldness, richness, and depth of flavor, with which their still cousins can't quite compete.
Or maybe we just love that we can not only smell and taste sparkling wines: they offer an encompassing sensual experience for the eyes and ears, as well.
The next time you're at a dinner party, you can show off your fresh fizzy facts by bringing a bottle of bubbles from Vino as a gift for the host- and another to share with the other guests! In the meantime, we are happy to ship and deliver locally! Please contact us to learn more, and take advantage of the knowledge of our friendly staff to help you choose the best bubbles for your buck!
- Adam Linet