I get asked now and again why champagne is one of my very favorite beverages. If I don’t suspect a trick question, I’ll answer truthfully, either with my short list or my long list as to why. Near the top of both lists is the superficial similarity in sound and foam between champagne being poured into a glass and the sound and foam of the ocean. As it turns out, this comparison isn’t just aesthetic. In research carried out in Reims, France, a 2009 study found that the flavor and aroma of a given champagne are carried and formed by the bubbles themselves. The beautifully written study states that,
“As champagne or sparkling wine is poured into a glass, the myriad of ascending bubbles collapse and radiate in a multitude of tiny droplets above the free surface into the form of very characteristic and refreshing aerosols. (…) By drawing a parallel between the fizz of the ocean and the fizz in Champagne wines, our results closely link bursting bubbles and flavor release; thus, supporting the idea that rising and collapsing bubbles act as a continuous paternoster lift for aromas in every glass of champagne.”
Aside from the stunning use of paternoster imagery to describe bubbles carrying aroma in a glass, this lovely report goes on to describe hundreds of chemical compounds that are only made discreet by virtue of being carried in aerosol form through the liquid bulk of the champagne and released at the surface. Within the liquid itself, the compounds remain a messy mass until a bubble comes along to lift them to greater heights.
Far from demystifying the wonder of champagne, I find this line of inquiry a fascinating intersection of scientific investigation, interesting methodology, tradition, culture, aesthetics and economics. Also, it provides third-party validation of my own oft-repeated simile between the ocean and champagne, and I like that.
And thus it qualifies as an End Of Year Happy for 2012.