WTF Fun Fact 13598 – The Science of Champagne Bubbles

Champagne toasts at celebrations are iconic, but have you ever wondered about the perfect straight-line rise of its bubbles? Scientists at Brown University and the University of Toulouse have uncorked the answer, revealing the science behind the behavior of bubbles in our favorite carbonated drinks.

Carbonation’s Mysteries Unveiled

In the world of carbonated drinks, from soda to beer, the bubbles’ behavior varies. But Champagne and sparkling wine stand out. They feature a continuous rise of gas bubbles, rushing to the surface in a single-file line. This phenomenon, called a stable bubble chain, contrasts with beverages like beer, where bubbles often take a more chaotic route upwards.

Researchers were intrigued: What caused Champagne’s bubbles to ascend in such an orderly fashion?

Surfactants: The Science of Champagne Bubbles

Delving deeper, the study unveiled that the straight rise of bubbles in Champagne and sparkling wine is due to the presence of soap-like compounds called surfactants. Surfactants reduce tension between the liquid and gas bubbles, facilitating a seamless and straight rise to the top.

Roberto Zenit, a senior author on the study, explains, “These protein molecules that impart flavor and uniqueness to the Champagne are also responsible for the stability of the bubbles they produce.”

Apart from surfactants, the bubble size too determines its stability. Larger bubbles in drinks cause a smoother ascent, forming stable chains similar to those with surfactants. This revelation establishes surfactants and bubble size as the key determinants in the formation of stable bubble chains in carbonated beverages.

This bubbly research isn’t just for beverage enthusiasts. Understanding the science of bubbles, especially stable bubble chains, has broader applications in fluid mechanics, a field that studies the behavior of fluids.

For instance, technologies employing bubble-induced mixing, like water treatment facilities, could benefit from this newfound knowledge. Furthermore, the study might pave the way for a better comprehension of natural phenomena, such as ocean seeps where methane and carbon dioxide are released from the ocean bed.

Experiments Worth Raising a Glass To

Researchers brought an array of beverages to the table, including Pellegrino sparkling water, Tecate beer, Charles de Cazanove champagne, and a Spanish-style brut. They utilized a plexiglass container with a needle at its base, enabling them to pump gas and create diverse bubble chains.

By systematically adjusting surfactants and bubble size, they found that both these factors independently contributed to transforming unstable bubble chains into stable ones. Additionally, numerical simulations on computers were conducted to delve into intricate details like surfactant quantity in gas bubbles and precise bubble velocities.

Champagne Bubbles in the Future of Fluid Mechanics

While enjoying that next glass of bubbly, one can marvel at the fluid mechanics at play. Researchers are keen on diving deeper into the behavior of bubbles, especially in their application to fluid mechanics. As Zenit summarizes, they aim to explore the movement of bubbles and their significance in both industrial applications and natural scenarios.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “Why do Champagne bubbles rise the way they do? Scientists’ new discovery is worthy of a toast” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13141 – Making Champagne Secular

As you likely know, champagne production for the masses started with a Benedictine monk named Dom Perignon. And while it might seem odd that we have a French Abbey to thank for our New Year’s bubbles (after all, he made it so they could be mass-produced and shipped worldwide), it actually took time for the drink to lose its religion and to make champagne secular.

How champagne became secular

Fr. Dom wasn’t the reason champagne was associated with religion, to begin with. In fact, he’s one of the reasons it became a worldwide phenomenon.

You see, bubbly was not only difficult but dangerous to produce because bottles would explode. For a long time, sparkling wine was confined within the walls of the institution that made it. That is until the French kings got involved. Eventually, it became a celebratory drink for things like baptisms and coronations.

As VinePair (cited below) puts it:

“Before the abolition of the French monarchy, France’s royal family had longstanding ties to the Champagne region. The multi-century connection began in 496, when reigning monarch Clovis I was baptized in a small church in Reims. The city and that exact spot (which was eventually replaced by a grand cathedral) went on to become the traditional location for French coronations, and cemented the link between region and royalty.”

In other words, wine from Champagne (pre-bubbles) started out as a holy wine.

Of course, red Burgundian wine was long the official celebratory wine of France. But when secondary fermentation was discovered by Dom Perignon in 1668, things changed…slowly.

Rise of the champagne industry

In the 18th century, King Louis XV became a champagne lover, making it very fashionable. It was also chic because he made sure it was the only wine that could be sold in glass bottles (which also made it dangerous because of all the exploding glass, but that’s not really a matter for kings to care about).

Eventually, if you wanted to be cool in France, you had to buy wine from Champagne.

At this point, champagne had made it out of the Abbey walls and into castles. However, this is all pre-French Revolution, in a time when kings and Catholics ruled.

Then came the Revolution. Heads came off, heads of state were replaced, and people became far more skeptical of powerful institutions, including the church.

There’s no one moment (that we know of) when champagne became untangled from production by religious workers, but the Revolution certainly changed the nature of all things elite.

Marketing secular champagne

By 1796, George Washington was serving champagne at a state dinner.

And, according to VinePair, “Within a century, one didn’t even have to hold office to toast with Champagne. In the latter half of the 1800s, increasing supply and better worldwide distribution channels made Champagne a commodity most middle-class families could afford…The period also saw significant marketing efforts from Champagne houses to place their bubbles as the celebratory beverage. The images and language on many bottle labels targeted newly engaged couples and soon-to-be parents…”

It was no longer associated with religion, but with any kind of celebration.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Religion, Royalty, and Bubbles: How Champagne Became the Go-To Drink for Celebrating” — VinePair

WTF Fun Fact 13140 – Champagne and NYE

Have you ever wondered why champagne became associated with New Year’s Eve? Sure, popping the bubbly does seem festive, but one doesn’t suggest the other’s presence…or does it? Champagne is difficult to make, and real champagne only comes from one small region in France (called Champagne). Thanks to the association of champagne and NYE, the production of the beverage actually shot up between 1800 and 1850 from 300,000 to 20 million bottles a year!

Why are champagne and NYE associated?

Sixteenth-century European aristocrats loved to pop the champagne. It didn’t hurt that their king Louis XIV loved it as well. Champagne was once part of religious rituals (but more on that in the next fun fact). Obviously, it became a secular celebratory mechanism.

Dom Perignon may have been a monk, but as the creator of the elite new bubbly drink all those centuries ago, we might also say he’s the father of parties. He made the bottles safer and the drink easier to produce, which also made them cheaper to create and sell.

By the 1700s, champagne could be marketed to those in the relative middle class because the price of creating it went down. And as you can imagine, people being able to afford things made them more popular. And champagne because associated with joy for all.

It’s all about the bubbles

Whether you’re drinking real champagne or sparkling wine from elsewhere in the world, that festive feeling you get from hearing the cork pop (although it’s not supposed to make a noise if you open it properly) is one that goes back centuries. The bubbles as well (although sometimes indicative of a dusty glass) feel celebratory. And so does New Year’s Eve.

As champagne production rose, exports rose. Champagne was a smashing success – even for ship christenings. This is just another way it became associated with joyous celebrations.

And if you’ve ever tried to pour a glass, chances are you’d had to struggle with those bubbles overflowing. Your cup runneth over, as they say – which is a toast to good luck and fortune for a reason. Champagne and NYE are a marketing match made in heaven.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Why everyone drinks champagne on New Year’s Eve” — Business Insider