Size does matter when it comes to keeping champagne bubbly for longer

The tiny bubbles or effervescence are a big part of the attraction of sipping a glass of champagne. A new study looked at how long it takes for the drink to lose its fizz and discovered that size is everything when it comes to keeping your champagne bubbly for longer.

The bubbles found in champagne and other sparkling wines come from dissolved carbon dioxide generated during a second round of fermentation, which happens inside the bottle. The combination of yeast, sugar and wine produces the gas (and the alcohol content). Although the yeast die within a few months, as the champagne ages over months to decades – called ‘aging on lees’ – complex, sought-after aromas are formed.

But, at the same time, carbon dioxide is gradually escaping from the bottle, causing the champagne to lose its trademark fizz, altering the taste and aroma and, let’s face it, its overall enjoyability. This prompted researchers to look at the process of carbon dioxide loss to determine what factors contributed to champagne’s shelf-life.

The researchers measured the dissolved carbon dioxide concentrations in a collection of 13 different champagne vintages aged between 25 and 47 years and estimated the original amount of yeast-produced carbon dioxide. Each of the bottles was sealed with the same model of metal cap.

To be expected, they found that the amount of carbon dioxide inside the bottles decreased the longer the bottles aged. The oldest vintage, for example, from 1974, lost almost 80% of its fizz. However, the researchers noticed a correlation between bottle size and carbon dioxide level, with smaller bottles losing more of the gas than larger ones.

They devised a formula to calculate champagne’s shelf-life, or how long before it stopped spontaneously producing bubbles when poured into a glass. Their calculations predicted that a standard 25-oz (750-mL) bottle would have a shelf-life of 40 years, whereas a 50-oz (1.5-L) bottle, otherwise known as a Magnum, would last 82 years. The 101-oz (3-L) Jeroboam of champagne was predicted to keep its bubbles for a staggering 132 years, at which point it would be flat.

“A formula was proposed for the shelf-life of a bottle having experienced prolonged aging on lees, which combines the various relevant parameters at play, including the geometric parameters of the bottle,” the researchers said. “Increasing the bottle size is found to tremendously increase its capacity to preserve dissolved CO2 and therefore the bubbling capacity of champagne during tasting.”

The researchers say their results show that champagne’s bubbliness depends on the size of the bottle it’s housed in. They also say their prediction formula is universal, meaning that it can predict the shelf-life of champagne regardless of whether a metal or cork stopper was used to seal the bottle during the aging process.

The study was published in the journal ACS Omega.

Source: ACS

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