“We have demonstrated that the chemistry of those champagne aerosols is quite different than the chemistry of the liquid bulk itself,” says lead study author Gérard Liger-Belair, a professor in the laboratory of enology (wine studies) and applied chemistry at the University of Reims Champagne–Ardenne in France. Specifically, the aerosols are loaded with so-called surface-active compounds—chemicals that are attracted to interfaces between gas and liquid—some of which play a role in conveying the aroma of the wine. (Even when a substance is on the tongue, aromatics contribute to flavor, which is a blend of taste and smell.)
See? Magic! How did they prove this? Keep reading.
Using mass spectrometry, the researchers parsed the chemical makeup of the wine itself and that of the tiny droplets in the headspace, or the area above the liquid’s surface. Those droplets, or aerosols, are sprayed upward in a fountain of tiny jets as bubbles of dissolved carbon dioxide rise to the surface of the champagne and then burst. A typical 0.75-liter bottle of champagne, the study’s authors estimate, contains roughly five liters of CO2 gas, enough to form tens of millions of bubbles.
Mmm, millions of bubbles! What could be better? Surface-active molecules, apparently.
Surface-active molecules, Liger-Belair explains, are drawn to the gas–liquid interface of the champagne bubbles, which are simply pockets of CO2 gas surrounded by liquid, and are then pulled upward to the surface of the beverage when the bubble rises. “A bubble is a perfect trap to get these surface-active molecules,” he says. “Bubbles act like a lift.”
When the bubbles burst, the concentrated surface-active compounds are thrown several centimeters into the headspace, where they can meet a taster’s nostrils. “They are projected into the form of these aerosols, which are overconcentrated with surface-active molecules, some of them showing aromatic properties,” Liger-Belair says.
Simply pockets of CO2? I don’t think so! I’m sticking with the magic explanation. No one is getting me to pay those prices for gas.
Read the whole story at Scientific American.