Probably being the most universally accepted benchmark of charm and exclusivity, champagne has still many secrets to reveal.
Leaving the myriad of oenological characteristics to much more entitled experts, we present a few physical peculiarities that were studied by Gérard Liger-Belair at University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne. Still, we bet these scientific queries will help you to appreciate the frizzy wine even more next time you treat yourself to a precious bottle!


Keep the glass straight or tilt it?


Infrared images of the concentration of carbon-dioxide gas released as champagne is poured into a flute glass held either a) vertically or b) at an angle. Lots of gas (blue/green) is wasted if the glass is held upright, but less (orange/yellow) escapes when tilted

This is surely the first tricky question each of us must have wondered at least once when pouring champagne. Well, actually thanks to the absorption of infrared light by carbon dioxide (CO2), researchers were able to verify that the chilled beer-like pouring fashion preserves much more gas inside the liquid, which is an essential point to enhance the fragrance when sniffing before tasting.


Laser tomography captures the flow patterns in champagne. If the glass has been throughly washed, there is no effervescence (a). But if the glass is slightly dirty, you get a lot of bubble trains (b). These trains help to bring the wine’s aroma to your nose.


Large coupe or thin flute?

With the same method, it turned out that while the former is too gas dispersive, the latter results to be too greedy in terms of aroma. The best compromise would definitely be the geometry of a tulip-shaped wine glass, shorter than the flute and curved inwards at the top so that to preserve the CO2.



Laser tomography reveals the myriad of champagne droplets projected above the surface of a coupe-shaped glass

The role of dust:

Here comes the most spectacular part: researchers at University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne verified champagne would behave like still wine when served in a perfectly cleaned glass, i.e. rinsed with formic acid so that no alien particle could deposit on its sides. Conversely, very tiny fiber residuals and dust grains act as the optimal formation sites for bubble trains.




Not only effervescence gives rise to perky flow patterns of bubbles, but it plays a crucial role in enhancing the diffusion of aroma and originating the unique “perlage”. Indeed, the bursting bubbles naturally contain many surfactant agents (i.e. compounds that lower the surface tension) which are released together with the wine aerosols, providing an aromatic boost to the vapors as well as a slightly different taste from that of the bulk liquid. A “dirty” glass of champagne could then yield two flavors, the first being appreciated without even swirling it.


Ludovico Latmiral

We would like to thank “Physics world” and the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne for the cue to the topic.



“Physics world”, December 2015: