By Catherine Abbott
Only seconds after I advised my mother to point the uncaged champagne bottle away from my sister’s face—two days before her wedding—the cork exploded, surging at a speed of up to 50 mph. Those small corks are holding in pressure three times that of an automobile tire, so of course when you unleash that “brut” force, the cork will fly and the bubbles will flow. In fact, the American Association of Ophthalmology even provides recommendations for how to safely open champagne bottles to avoid eye injuries.
The pressure is also dependent on the temperature. So if you’ve ever had warm champagne, you’ll be happy to hear that the colder the champagne, the lower the cork popping velocity. Another study suggests that shaking the bottle slightly decreases the pressure inside for about half a minute. While I don’t recommend trying this particular trick at home, I do recommend keeping your bubbly nice and cold.
Champagne wouldn’t be champagne without the bubbles. There are an estimated 15 million bubbles per glass, all created through the chemistry of fermentation. The carbon dioxide that creates those bubbles is one of the by-products of the yeast and grape juice. During the primary fermentation, the carbon dioxide is released. The fermented grape juice then goes through a secondary fermentation process in its sealed bottle to create the unique fizz of sparkling wine.
Physics and chemistry aren’t the only reasons we should appreciate champagne, though. A study published by Antioxidants & Redox Signaling shows that champagne consumption may counteract memory loss. The high levels of phenolics and lack of flavonoids are what the researchers believe responsible for this advantageous effect. I’ve been conducting human trials, and so far I have no concrete evidence that champagne helps my memory. That does not mean I won’t continue to enjoy 2–3 glasses a week, as recommended through this study and other research regarding champagne and heart health at the University of Reading.
So on this New Year’s Eve, open your cold champagne with caution, drink with spirit, and make memories to last a lifetime.