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Masters of Champagne

Taste Science

Sipping the sky: the intricate chemical make-up of Champagne.

As your jet calmly continues its journey through the night sky, edging closer towards the glittering lights of Dubai, it’s time for one last toast. You and your business partner excitedly pop open a fresh bottle of Dom Ruinart 2004 Champagne and take a sip, delighting in its sweet aromas, floral notes and citrus edge.

To success, to good health! You clink your glasses and sit back. This glass of Champagne tastes even more delicious than before, but that’s not possible. Is it?Well actually, yes –and it could all be down to the bubbles.France, 2009. A team of scientists from the University of Reims discover that bubbles are essential to producing the highest quality Champagne. In the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’, they publish findings on the chemical fingerprints of Champagne that suggest its flavour lies mainly in the bubbles, with these tiny air pockets containing up to 30 times more flavour than the Champagne itself.

‘As champagne or sparkling wine is poured into a glass, the myriad of ascending bubbles collapse and radiate a multitude of tiny droplets above the free surface into the form of very characteristic and refreshing aerosols,’ the scientists write.However, it isn’t just the bubbles that give your Champagne its exquisite flavour. For instance, the practice of sipping from a flute is not just for aesthetic purposes, although the flute is certainly more elegant than most other wine receptacles. The rough glass at the bottom of your flute is fuelling the nucleation of the bubble stream, causing more bubbles (and therefore flavour) to soar to the top.

Then there’s the matter of how your Champagne is poured. With high altitudes reducing our ability to taste sweet and salty foods by approximately 30%, as discovered in a study commissioned by Lufthansa, you want to release as much flavour as possible, and just the way you hold your glass can influence this process. On-board your private jet, do you choose the traditional method for your next glass, keeping it still and flat while the cool liquid flows from the bottle, or do you tilt it slightly?
According to research, the latter technique is best for bringing out the Champagne’s sweet, aromatic flavours. Findings from the Group for Research in Engineering Science reveal how the fizz in Champagne comes from repeated fermentation, which produces high amounts of carbon dioxide. When the wine is bottled up, the carbon dioxide is trapped, and so dissolves into the wine. Then, once the bottle is opened, it is released to create bubbles.

Therefore, with bubbles the key to unlocking flavour, for the finest taste you want as much carbon dioxide as possible. The researchers find that pouring Champagne in the traditional way is actually less effective at preserving carbon dioxide. Hold your glass at a slant, however, and much more gas will be released while you pour. It’s simple: more bubbles, more flavour.

Back to your flight. As you sip your Champagne, enjoying the approaching view of the twinkling Dubai skyline on-board your Cessna Citation Latitude jet, unbeknownst to you your senses are embarking on a journey, with every step influenced by factors such as your environment, the bubbles in your Champagne and even you –how you pour, and what into.

As you finish your last glass, the pilot prepares to land the jet. The time has almost come. Full of anticipation (and Dom Ruinart), you ease back into your seat to enjoy your last minutes in the air.

There’s time for one last glass, you say? Oh, go on then.

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