Photo:Roberto Maggioni |

Who doesn’t enjoy a glass or two of bubbly every once in a while? Champagne or prosecco, dry or sweet, bubbles are key, so it’s not a surprise that ensuring there are many (and that they last) has been the goal of winemakers for centuries. Because we know it: over time, sparkling wines gradually lose their effervescence. 

Recent research by the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, as published in the journal ACS Omega, sheds light on how the size of the bottle significantly influences its ability to retain carbon dioxide (CO2), and consequently, its sparkling quality. Sparkling wines, including champagne and prosecco, owe their fizz to the presence of CO2, a byproduct of a secondary fermentation process that occurs within the bottle. This process is initiated by the combination of yeast, sugar, and wine, leading to the production of CO2.

Interestingly, while the yeast responsible for this fermentation dies off within a few months, the wine continues to develop complex flavors as it ages; however, during this aging process, CO2 gradually escapes from the sealed bottles. The study meticulously measured CO2 levels in champagne bottles from various vintages, some aged for several decades. Not surprisingly, the findings confirmed that older bottles contained lower levels of CO2; bottles over 50 years old could lose almost 80% of their gas.

A pivotal discovery of the research was the relationship between a bottle’s volume and its CO2 retention capacity: larger bottles preserve their fizz for a longer duration. Specifically, standard 750 ml bottles were found to maintain their sparkle for up to 40 years, 1.5-liter magnums for 82 years, and 3-liter jeroboams for an impressive 132 years. This insight not only enhances our understanding of sparkling wines’ aging process but also suggests that, when it comes to maintaining effervescence over time, bigger indeed might be better.

But the study of the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne isn’t the first to focus on the fizz of great wines like champagne or prosecco. The meticulous study of champagne effervescence brought to light the specificrelationship between the type of cork used and the method of pouring, shedding new light on how these factors can significantly influence the quality of the bubbly beverage. It has been discovered that the selection of an appropriate cork plays a pivotal role in maintaining the effervescence of champagne over an extended period. This is due to the cork’s ability to effectively seal the bottle and preserve the dissolved carbon dioxide, the gas responsible for creating those delightful bubbles. Researchers have found that certain types of corks, particularly those crafted from high-quality materials like natural cork or composite materials specifically designed for champagne bottles, exhibit superior sealing properties, thereby helping the champagne retain its effervescence for longer durations.

Moreover, the pouring technique employed during the serving process has been identified as another crucial determinant of champagne quality. The manner in which champagne is poured into the glass can significantly impact the formation, size, and longevity of bubbles, thereby influencing the overall sensory experience. Studies have revealed that a gentle, controlled pouring method helps maintain a steady release of carbon dioxide, resulting in a finer effervescence characterized by smaller, more numerous bubbles. Conversely, aggressive pouring techniques or improper handling of the bottle can lead to excessive agitation of the liquid, causing larger bubbles to form and dissipate rapidly, thereby diminishing the champagne’s effervescent charm and altering its taste profile.

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