What the Bubbles in Your Champagne Can Tell You About the Quality of Your Beverage

Chinese waiters pour champagne into glasses during a promotional event in Beijing on June 30, 2017. Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

It's almost New Year's Eve, which means it's time to celebrate with your favorite bubbly beverage. If you're looking to indulge in some of the best quality sparkling wines this holiday, look past the price tag. Instead, pay close attention to the bubbles.

Both the sound of the bubbles and the size of them may shed light on the quality of the wine, according to scientists at the Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas in Austin.

"There is a well-known notion that the quality of a sparkling wine is correlated to the size of its bubbles, and we are investigating whether the bubble size distribution of a sparkling wine can be obtained from simple acoustical measures," Kyle Spratt, who led the research at UT, said in a statement.

Spratt and his colleagues used a hydrophone—a microphone specifically designed to be used underwater—to measure how the bubbles sounded in both a cheap sparkling wine made in California and the more expensive, Moët & Chandon, The Guardian reports. They tested the sound in two types of glasses: a champagne flute and Styrofoam cup.

12_28_Hydrophone in Champagne Glass
This is a hydrophone in a champagne glass. Credit: Kyle Spratt

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Testing the bubbles was far from an easy task, the authors noted in a statement. One of the main challenges lied in the instrument itself. If the researchers used a typical-sized hydrophone, it's likely it would alter the size of the bubbles and therefore, skew the data. To compensate for this, the team used a smaller-sized instrument. The results of their findings—which were presented at the Acoustical Society of America's annual meeting in early December, revealed that the bubbles "ring like bells" and the more pricey bottle had smaller bubbles, NPR reports.

"From the acoustical data we could tell that the bubbles in the fancier champagne were small. Slightly, that there is less variation in bubble size and that there was more bubble activity in general," Spratt said, The Guardian reports.

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More experiments are needed to further confirm Spratt's preliminary results. In the future, he hopes his findings could help to avoid mistakes or defects during manufacturing that aren't necessarily detectable by only taste, according to a statement.

Before you decide to dish out big bucks for the New Year celebration, think twice. Bigger bubbles might not mean less desirable quality. In a study published in January, French scientists found that bigger bubbles may indicate a tastier beverage. The results—which are published in The European Physical Journal of Special Topics—are "remarkable" because "it undermines the popular belief that the smaller the bubbles, the better the champagne," lead study author Gérard Liger-Belair, a chemical physicist at the University of Reims, told The Telegraph. "Small bubbles were the worst in terms of aroma release," he added.