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January 30, 2007
For Best Performance, Wear Wool
filed under: Ramblings
This important discovery just in from the French: Bubbles in Champagne are excited by bubble-formation hot spots located in hollow cellulose fibers such as those found in cloth and textiles, including wool. These bubble "nucleation" sites are responsible for creating the bubble strains that course up your Champagne flute in animated streams. The more cellulose pockets in a stray fiber, the more animated the bubbly "regime," as the French dubbed it, will be.
This all led Sharon Begley, a WSJ writer who recently reported in on the subject, to recommend that readers leave Champagne flutes out prior to pouring so that stray fibers from guests' clothing can waft into them. The subsequent bubbling "regimes," which can last from seconds to minutes, will be much improved, she reasons, if stoked by the occasional stray fiber or two that may settle into the glass courtesy of your coworker's fuzzy wool cowl neck.
Now, I probably ought to add here that Begley also quite reasonably suggests that the same effect can be achieved with much less waiting around time by toweling off the glasses before your party. However you do it - depositing the fibers in the glasses yourself courtesy of a towel or waiting patiently for your guests' clothing to do the trick - getting some extra fibers in your flutes should definitely improve your bubble watching experience.
The Frenchies, who reported on the topic lately in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, closely examined the bubbling regimes of Champagne from esteemed producers Moet & Pommery (helLO they've got a great job!) before reporting that the magnitude and duration of bubble streams are directly related to the number and size of gas pockets inside the fibers. Basically, the more pockets, the more combinations of bubbles you get: triplets, quads, and so on - up to a whopping 12 bubbles at a time!
Right before the pocket gives up (meaning its gas has been used up by the bubbs), the bubbles settle into a single stream of slowly rising soldiers, which is your cue that the show's over and it's time to knock the good stuff back.