The art of champagne

Here’s something for you to keep in mind when you’re toasting over Christmas and the New Year! Did you know that a standard bottle of champagne contains 5 litres of pressurized carbon dioxide? It turns out that the key to champagne lies all in the carbon dioxide.

Terry and Sherry of WellBeing TV talk about the best way to pour champagne to keep the carbon dioxide in and the effect it has on the body.

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The WellBeing Team

The WellBeing Team

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Champagne

The art of Champagne

Is there any field of human knowledge and endeavour that spawns more self-indulgent posturing than wine appreciation? I mean is it really germane to enjoying the wine to purse your lips, suck air like a dentist’s vacuum across the wine trapped in your mouth and pronounce that it is a nuanced, cheeky little merlot with woody overtones grown on the south side of the vineyard by a vintner named Sven who requires a hip operation?

Fear not wine lovers for the next time you are confronted with a self-obsessed sommelier you will have bit of wine knowledge of your own to share: you will know how to pour champagne and you will have the science to back yourself up.

As is fitting this research was done by French researchers from the University of Reims. The crux of this research was that the carbon dioxide (CO2) that is trapped in champagne is central to the champagne drinking experience. A standard champagne bottle contains about five litres of dissolved CO2. The release of pressure that occurs when you remove the cork means that the liquid is supersaturated with CO2 and the gas escapes in the familiar bubbles.

These bubbles are essential to the champagne experience. They make the drink appear alive and vital, release the aroma (“nose”), create a unique sensation in the mouth, and create a sharp taste as CO2 is converted to carbonic acid in the mouth. So the aim is to retain as much CO2 as you can in your champagne and that is significantly impacted by how you pour.

Champagne flutes are shaped as they are in order to reduce the surface area via which CO2 can escape. Pouring also has a major influence on CO2 content in two ways. Firstly the length of the tongue of liquid from the bottle to glass determines how much surface area is exposed for the gas to escape from. Secondly, if there is lots of turbulence as the wine hits the glass that can trap air bubbles which speeds up loss of CO2.

As you aim to conserve CO2 then, you want a short tongue of liquid and not too much splashing. Hence, the ideal pouring method for champagne to enhance its experience and retain CO2 is to tilt the glass on its side and pour the champagne gently from close to the glass. This reduces surface area exposure, reduces air entrapment, and maximises CO2. In fact the French researchers found that champagne poured in this way has double the CO2 content of champagne that is just splashed into the glass from a height.

Many champagne fanciers and connoisseurs favour the splash and dash method, but in the end it is all for show and does not give the wine its full opportunities. Of course it’s all up to personal taste in the end, but it would seem that some taste testing is in order.

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The WellBeing Team

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