- Bubbles: a natural chemical reaction
- Champagne: how is carbon dioxide added?
- When do the bubbles appear?
- Does the glass matter for fizzy champagne?
- Does one champagne fizz more than another?
Champagne Bubbles: A Natural Chemical Reaction
If we were to make an initial observation, we would say this: what sets champagne apart from traditional white wine is its effervescence. Indeed, like other sparkling wines, champagne owes its primary characteristic to fermentation, which produces carbon dioxide. This is what makes the champagne fizzy, those thousands of bubbles that tickle our palates.
The small bubbles in champagne are composed of carbon dioxide. Essentially, they could be described as tiny pockets of gas that have remained trapped in a bottle. However, when it is opened, for a bubble to form, there must be a small pocket of air that attaches to an imperfection in the glass, or the presence of a microfiber.
When the champagne bottle is not opened, the carbon dioxide is concentrated in two ways. Some is dissolved in the wine, and the rest remains in a gaseous state. A natural balance is established between these two concentrations. The pressure exerted is therefore proportional to the quantity of dissolved gas. In fact, there are 12 grams of dissolved CO2 for a pressure of around 5-6 bars.
Opening the bottle causes a sudden drop in pressure. This pressure can drop to 1 bar. Furthermore, the liters of dissolved CO2 seek to escape. This is what gives rise to the effervescence of the wine and the sound of the cork. If champagne is fizzy, it's because the pressure suddenly makes it effervescent.
When pouring champagne into glasses, the 11 million potential gas bubbles contained in the bottle come to life. They then rise in the champagne. At that moment, the bubbles responsible for making the champagne fizzy also carry flavors. For some, the appreciation of a good champagne also depends on these bubbles. How can you be sure to make your aperitif sparkle? We provide you with a semblance of an answer to choose your champagne for the holidays.
Champagne: How Is Carbon Dioxide Added?
Carbon dioxide, the origin of champagne bubbles, is not added to the bottles. Its development occurs naturally during one of the stages of its production. Indeed, everything happens during the fermentation stage, known as "prise de mousse."
In the various stages of champagne production, the first step is to put still wine in bottles. The alcoholic fermentation stage then begins. This stage is crucial in the manufacturing process. Indeed, yeast is added to the still wine. This yeast consumes the sugar in the must.
From this point, alcoholic fermentation begins, and this chemical reaction produces alcohol as well as carbon dioxide. The latter remains trapped in the bottle, enhancing the wine's fizziness and its acidity. It is the action of carbon dioxide that makes the champagne fizzy.
The "prise de mousse" will last between 6 to 8 weeks. During this period, the pressure of the carbon dioxide will continue to rise to around 6 bars. Therefore, it is necessary to keep a constant eye on the bottles and their fermentation. Indeed, this pressure is very high, which requires the use of thick bottles with very resistant corks.
When Do the Bubbles Appear?
If you closely examine a bottle of champagne, you will notice that there are almost no bubbles inside the bottle. Indeed, when the bottle is in an aging phase, the carbon dioxide remains in the form of dissolved gas.
It is when you pour the champagne into your glass or flute that the magic happens. Tiny air bubbles form because the champagne cannot penetrate all the microscopic particles. These bubbles serve as a "support" for the dissolved CO2. Thus, the dissolved CO2 uses this tiny bubble to escape. The bubble, in turn, grows by feeding on the gas.
Once it is large enough, it detaches itself from the dust or impurity on the glass. It then begins its incredible ascent. Archimedes' principle carries it to the top of the glass. Contact with the open air causes the bubble's envelope to burst. The aromas of the champagne are completely released, and it is at the peak of its effervescence.
In summary, it is the small defects in the glasses that capture the gas pockets. These contribute to the formation of champagne bubbles. Without these micro-irregularities on the glasses, no bubbles could form, and champagne would be a simple white wine.
Therefore, there is no need to strive for perfectly smooth glasses. On the contrary, fine traces of limestone, tartar, or towel fibers allow champagne bubbles to form. Contrary to the beliefs of many, to have fizzy champagne, you do not need perfectly smooth glasses.
Does the Glass Matter for Fizzy Champagne?
As we have understood, if champagne is fizzy, it is also due to its effervescence. However, one might wonder if it fizzes more in a flute or a coupe? Does the shape of the glass matter?
Wide or narrow, which glass is best for preserving the effervescence of champagne? Tradition dictates that champagne should be tasted in a coupe or a flute. The question is a matter of debate. Some say that glasses should not be too wide or too tall. Others talk about a "pierced" flute to promote effervescence.
The flute was developed by the English in 1750. It is characterized by a long glass with a narrow neck. Its small diameter limits the loss of bubbles, reducing the surface area between the wine and the air. However, the bubbles are larger because they have more distance to travel to reach the air.
It was around 1830 that the Champagne coupe appeared. Elegant but not ideal for tasting, its wide shape causes carbon dioxide to evaporate quickly, dispersing the aromas. The champagne quickly loses its effervescence and taste.
Nevertheless, after reading our article "Champagne: Which Glass to Choose for a Good Tasting?" You will be surprised to learn that the best glass is still a wine glass. Indeed, the oval shape of a white wine glass transports the effervescence aromas perfectly.
Does One Champagne Fizz More Than Another?
Considering that champagne is fizzy in part because of carbon dioxide, it is legitimate to wonder if one champagne fizzes more than another?
As explained earlier, fermentation is the source of carbon dioxide. And the longer it stays in the bottle, the higher the pressure. Therefore, several questions can be asked:
- Does champagne with longer aging, like vintages, fizz more?
- Does extra-brut champagne fizz more than rosé champagne?
The effervescence of champagne will mainly accompany the wine's qualities. However, it can be observed that it does not go well with strong, heavy, or very woody aromas.
On wines with more subtle aromas, such as fresh, exotic, or floral aromas, effervescence is better balanced. As a wine ages, the effervescence becomes more delicate and better respects the complexity of the aromas. This is the case for aromas like dried fruits, ripe fruits, which are developed by old wines.
Therefore, it can be said that effervescence depends on several factors:
- The Age of the Champagne: Bubbles become finer over time. The coarseness of the bubble will disappear in favor of nuance. This is why it takes at least 15 months before champagne can be commercialized.
- Temperature: Temperature also greatly influences bubble quality. To retain all the effervescence in the bubbles, champagne should not be served too cold. Conversely, at room temperature, there would be overly exuberant bubbles, and the aromas would be completely erased. The right temperature is between 8°C and 10°C for young champagne and between 11°C and 12°C for old or vintage champagne.
The appreciation of fizzy champagne is also personal. It's a matter of palate. However, whether or not it contains sugar can give the impression that one champagne fizzes more than another. Thus, an extra-brut champagne with low sugar will have a somewhat bitter taste compared to a rosé champagne. Therefore, for some people, it will fizz more than another. And for you, which one will seem to fizz more than the other? Will it be our Extra Brut champagne or our Rosé de Saignée champagne?
Discover our Brut Tradition
Deliciously fruity, energetic, refreshing, and easy to drink, it is the essential champagne, the safe bet. A classic champagne will never tantalize your taste buds as much.
In conclusion, it can be said that if champagne is fizzy, it is partly due to the presence of carbon dioxide, which gives it its acidity. Furthermore, it is also related to its effervescence and the vigor of the bubbles. Some will appreciate very sparkling champagne, while others will prefer it a bit less fizzy. Since it's all a matter of taste, you can follow our advice to enjoy your champagne in the summer and get the best out of our champagne. To further enhance your tasting experience, come and discover our range of vintage wines.