A matter of texture in liquids: program lecture on bubble dynamics

Twenty-nine French kings were crowned in the city of Reims, and the school in the city where the HEG classes took place had served as the headquarters for General Eisenhower when the armistice was signed. But, Reims is more popularly known as a city that produces the famous sparkling wine.

Reims cathedral
Reims cathedral

The bubbles in a glass of champagne originate from tiny invisible foreign particles present on the surface of glass derived from air or the cloth or tissue used to clean the glass – when viewed at high magnification tiny strands of these particles can be seen trapping the carbon dioxide gas from the liquid to create a train of bubbles1. So, when the glass is cleaned with a strong cleansing agent like acid, champagne does not generate any bubbles! 1

The bubble trains in the liquid popping on the surface with a crackle, each shooting-up a small jet of champagne, raise questions: do these bubbles constantly mix the aroma compounds in a glass of champagne, and do these jets carry tiny molecules of champagne aroma in a way that makes for a unique experience? As the tiny jets of fluid settle down they reveal a single sheet of bubbles the average size of which is influenced by the shape of the glass. Infrared imaging reveals that the escape of carbon dioxide which produces the bubbles varies depending on how the champagne is poured and into what shape of glass1. Does the quality of texture in a liquid matter?


5dIMG_3997Click to enlarge

When asked, a member of a champagne house while acknowledging its importance said they don’t do anything to directly control the fine dynamics of bubbles other than what their traditional method of champagne making calls for. In a room full of people describing what they taste, one person who looked like he was enjoying the moment as much as any other seemed content to just look at the bubbles and talk about it.

The only classroom lecture on champagne that was delivered during the HEG program was not one on terroir or production, but one by a physicist whose interest to watch, photograph and study bubbles in sparkling beverages lead him to an academic career in a region now famous for the bubbles in its wine, but which at one time back in history only produced still wines, so much so when bubbles were discovered accidentally in the wine, there was an effort to eliminate them since they were considered undesirable1.


1. Uncorked: The Science of Champagne by Gérard Liger-Belair 


8 thoughts on “A matter of texture in liquids: program lecture on bubble dynamics

  1. Shrutika Sankar

    Love the article -especially having just read the book.

    Are you expecting to answer any of the questions in your blog? If so I just finished reading (gess where) that in sparkling wines usually the best effervescence is when the bubbles are tiny and legion. Do you disagree?

    1. Bala

      Post author

      Thank you. I hope to answer questions in the blog based on discussions that arise from it such as the one you just started. For me, bubbles that are small, roughly uniform in size, in thin layer, and not too many in number, appeal from the standpoint of texture.

  2. Sudha

    This reminds me of the joy of salmon roe sushi!!! The pleasure is in experiencing the shape, form, texture and taste of the roe in my mouth and then popping them ever so gently, to feel the taste explode. Similarly with champagne, for me, the visual of the bubbles is satisfying in itself and is also the harbinger of the pleasure they will offer the palette.

  3. Jyothi Thomas

    Wow, A sparkling way to start 2014 , great learning Madras Bala , ! Love the pics you add too. Keep it flowing ... Cheers - Bon Appetite !


    The scientist in you and your interest in food and wine reflects in this article. Thought provoking and also will one more observant while pouring out wine in a glass.Watched the bubbles in my glass of wine but never questioned it nor was I curious enough to learn about it earlier.Next glass of wine I have will be a different experience alright. Nice way to gain knowledge. I normally inhale slowly the fragrance, let it sink and savour the smell it and then take a small sip and let the taste wash down. Thinking of it realise the bubbles indeed tickles the taste buds. Will watch out next time. Thanks for the scientific explanation in simple with pictures, easy to connect .


I look forward to reading your thoughts...