Scientific study of champagne bubbles

I’m just back from a weekend in the champagne region of France. I tried to make the most of it, and sampled from several bottles of bubbly from local producers and at restaurants. I even toured the Moët et Chandon building and caves.

Timely, then, that there’s a news article today on a study of how champagne’s bubbles impact on our senses.

French researchers used a mass spectrometer to analyse component chemicals as wines effervesce. Led by Professor Gérard Liger-Belair, from the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne in France [their research] revealed “hundreds” of chemical components in bubbles. Many are “organoleptic” – meaning they affect the senses, through taste, odour, colour or feel. “As champagne is poured into a glass, the ascending bubbles collapse and radiate a multitude of tiny droplets above the free surface into the form of refreshing aerosols,” Liger-Belair wrote.

The authors said the aerosols contained an over-concentration of compounds that were either aromatic, or the precursors of aromas. These tended to be “surface active substances” – surfactants – double-ended compounds with one end attracted to water and another that shuns it.

Photo by Waldo Jaquith via Creative Commons license

Photo by Waldo Jaquith via Creative Commons license

The physics of beer bubbles

This article is a year and half old, but it’s still cool. From ZDNet:

Pouring beer in a mug involves multiply scattered acoustic waves. They are more complex to study [than singly-scattered waves like radar], but they can be used to look at various phenomena, such as predicting volcanic eruptions or understanding the movement of particles in fluids like beer. They also could be used to monitor the structural health of bridges and buildings or the stability of food products over time.

Tasty and helpful.

Photo by Valentin Leroy, University of Manitoba

すばらしい*

*“Excellent”. At least, I hope that’s what it says.

Once again the folks at Qype held a special event for some of the London contributors. You may recall me blogging about the Moët Hennessy wine-tasting event, or the gourmet chocolate event. Last night about six of us were treated to a Japanese food and sake event. It was excellent, top to bottom.

The location and food were provided by Tsuru. It’s a relatively new Japanese restaurant nestled into a business area just behind the Tate Modern in Southwark. It’s a cozy spot, and they made some incredible food. Click that link to see my (and others’) thoughts on the food; in short, it was excellent. I’m definitely planning to go back, probably to try some katsu curry.

The drinks were provided by the lovely Wakana Omija of the Akashi Sake Brewery co., an artisanal sake and shochu producer. Although I’ve always liked sake it was the first time I’d ever been to a proper tasting. It was really fun and informative. For instance, I didn’t know that brown rice is made into white rice by polishing it (basically, scraping away the outer parts of the grain). Did you know that? Huh? Didya?

Although it got increasingly difficult to keep track of everything we tasted as the evening went on, our hosts did a good job of pairing different drinks with different foods. All of it was tasty.

  • As we nibbled on edamame we tried a couple of cocktails: a Kappa Saketini (their Tokiwa rice shochu, Honjozo sake, and cucumber) and a Tokiwa Rhubarb Fizz (Tokiwa again, rhubarb, sugar syrup, soda, and mint). The latter was dangerously tasty.
  • With our seabass carpaccio they let us try both their Daiginjo and Junmai Daiginjo sakes.
  • We were served both warm and room-temperature Honjozo with our nasu dengaku.
  • The most interesting drink of the evening was the Genmai Yamadanishiki aged sake that accompanied the chicken yakitori. Akashi-Tai took the bold move some years ago of trying to make sake from brown, unpolished rice. It turned out to be…well, not good. But they’ve let it age a few years and it’s now starting to develop some complex flavours. It’s challenging, for sure, but when paired with food that’s got similarly strong flavours I can see a market for it.
  • For the sushi platter we got some creamy, undiluted Honjozo Genshusake.
  • I think there was another snort of Tokiwa at the end to finish us off.

All of the drinks were excellent. The Junmai Daiginjo and Honjozo Genshu would be my two favourites from the whole lot, but they all worked well with the food they were paired with.

I’d definitely recommend having lunch at Tsuru. If you’re keen to try some of Akashi-Tai’s sakes or other drinks I’m told that you can get them at London’sJapan Centre , and I can see them for sale online at TheDrinkShop.com.

Big shout to Rob and CaribQueen from Qype for putting on the event. And good to meet/see again the other Qypers!

Here are some photos.

Image from Mex Beady Eyes via Creative Commons license