Perhaps I wasn’t concentrating hard enough at wine school, but I never really understood how the bubbles in Champagne worked. There always seemed a little bit of alchemy in there somewhere.
I understood how the bubbles got there, be it a lengthy second fermentation in bottle or the shameless addition of carbon dioxide in the case of less distinguished sparkling wines. I could analyse whether they were fine or fat and if they persisted in the glass or faded quickly. However that was all about production techniques and mouthfeel, not about the flavour of the wine and Champagne always felt like a bit more than the sum of its parts.
There was little doubt that fine, persistent bubbles are best, but this recent BBC article puts some serious science behind that impression. According to this new research “there are up to 30 times more flavour-enhancing chemicals in the bubbles than in the rest of the drink”. It also helps explain why it really is worth investing in some decent champagne flutes as these encourage a steady stream of bubbles and hence ensure maximum flavour impact.
There is little doubt that Champagne can be a magical drink and now we know, the magic is all in the bubbles.