It’s All About the Bubbles

by Cynthia Sin-Yi Cheng
May 27, 2008

Credits: Photography © Gérard Liger-Belair

Uncorked: The Science of Champagne
Gérard Liger-Belair

Last month, I flew back one day early from vacationing in Hawaii, so I could catch a talk by the world’s leading bubble specialist, Gérard Liger-Belair at the New York Academy of Sciences.

He is an Associate Professor of Physical Sciences at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, located in the heart of Champagne, and the author of the book on bubble science, Uncorked (2004, Princeton University Press).

Liger-Belair shares with us a gorgeous high-speed photo (flash at about 100 microseconds) of a typical bubble train in a glass of champagne, and also answers some practical effervescent questions in the following exclusive Q&A:

What is the ideal glass for champagne?

The ideal glass shape (as concerns the kinetics of flavor and CO2 release) seems to be between that of a flute and that of a coupe. But it also depends on consumer taste.

How do you advise cleaning glasses to guarantee optimal bubble formation?

With hot water but no soap because soap and dish washing liquids prevent the formation of the bubble collar at the champagne surface (bubbles burst before migrating toward the glass edge).

What is the most difficult part of taking the high-speed bubble photos?

You need a lot of patience… it is almost impossible to predict the quality of a snapshot, since bubbles move all the time!

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