The Fizzling Foam of Champagne
champagne · foam ·non-classical heteronucleation · surface chemistry ·yeast glycoprotein
Onle mØriteencas devictoire,encas dedØfaiteon ena besoin”,“In victory, you deserve Champagne, in defeat, you need it
hampagne is definitely associated to Dom PØrignon (1639–1715) who elaborated the “method champenoise”.
Byblending three wines (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, andChardonnay) in a barrel, he obtained a flat “base wine” thathe bottled with added sugar and yeast in tightly closed bottlesfor a second alcoholic fermentation to produce more alcoholand carbon dioxide. This step of the process, called “prise demousse”, lasts about six weeks and is responsible for thefizzling foam of champagne. The subsequent long ageing onlees (the deposits of dead or residual yeast that sediments out)gives the flavor and bouquet to the champagne. Afterdisgorging expels the lees, the wine is white, limpid (clear),and sparkling, and it is a universal symbol for happiness andsuccess, highly prized for the celebration of very specialevents.Actually, the process of making champagne has benefitedfrom technological innovations. The quality of the glassbottles increased almost accidentally when, after the shortageof wood in England owing to the construction of warships,coal replaced wood in the glass furnaces. The result improvedthe glass annealing and made the bottle
s mechanical strengthmuch greater. Pilgrims of Saint Jalmesway brought backstoppers from Galicia, these were made from the bark of corkoaks, and closed the bottles tightly during the secondfermentation and ageing on lees. These strong and tightlyclosed bottles could withstand the high pressure of carbondioxide generated. Tellier invented the frigorific machineused for the lees disgorging step.Since then, champagne makers have researched theagronomical, oenological, and biochemical aspects, vines,yeast strains, and malolactic fermentation, to name a few.However, for the demanding consumer, the fizzling foam andthe bubbling are definitely the most important organolepticproperties of champagne, even more than the flavor. Gen-erous just after pouring the wine into the flute, the foamshould collapse in a few seconds until it remains as a raft of bubbles at the surface of the wine (Figure 1a,b). Then a holeappearsat thecenterof the raft, whichquickly expandsuntil itremains solely as a bubble collar at the periphery of the winesurface, fed by trainsof bubblesnucleatedat some spotsoftheinner surface of the glass. For full enjoyment, the bubblingshould last as long as the conversation about the celebratedevent.In this context, the Mot & Chandon Company decided toinvestigate the foam and bubbling appearance, and askedphysicists to address the following issues:
How can the champagne foaming properties be inves-tigated systematically?
Why does champagne from a same bottle bubble nicely inone glass and not in another?
Why does the foam appearance of champagne differ fromthose of beer, gaseous water, or soda?
Of all the chemical compounds in champagne, which onesare foam active?
What is the origin of the “gushing”, the dramaticformation of foam that may occur as champagne is beingbottled on bottle-lines?To answer these questions, academic scientists haveinvestigated champagne as just another foaming liquid byperforming experiments on the surface properties, the films,and bubbles, and the foam. The ultimate purpose was to relatethe information gained at different scales. Experiments wereperformed with champagnes, base wines, and model solutionsmimicking the base wines.The wine of Champagne is an acidic hydro-alcoholicsolution that contains a few gL
of glycerol, tartaric andmalic or lactic acids, and amino acids, and at less than gL
concentrations, mineral ions, organic compounds, and, forexample, proteins, glycoproteins, polysaccharides, polyphe-nols and volatile aromatic substances. The pH value istypically 3.0–3.2 and the ionic strength 0.02
. It is super-saturated with carbon dioxide, whose partial pressure in thebottleneck is 7 atm at 20
C in thermodynamic equilibriumwith its concentration in the wine according to an empiricalHenry-like law
depends on thetemperature, the sugar and ethanol concentrations in thewine.
Upon uncorking and pouring the champagne into theflute, the CO
pressure in the wine abruptly decreases to1 atm, and to restore the thermodynamic equilibrium, thechampagne degases. The generous initial foam is due mostlyto the CO
molecules in the bottleneck. Degassing of the wine
[*] Dr. M. Vignes-AdlerUniversity of Paris-Est, 5 boulevard Descartes, F-77454 Marne laVallØe Cedex 2 (France)E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.
, 187–190 2013 Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim