Science Questions

Why would opening a bottle of shaken champagne at 45 degrees result in no bubbles?

Mon, 3rd Oct 2016

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Question

Paul James asked:

In my more reckless years I had a party piece, which was to shake a bottle of expensive champagne violently for a period of time. Then open it. So long as I opened the bottle at about 45 degrees, there would be no bubble coming out whatsoever. What's actually going on?

 

 

Answer

Caroline Steel attempted to recreate Paul's party trick...champagne cork

Georgia - Right. We’re going to try and recreate this now so are you ready to shake?

Caroline - Yes, I’m ready.

Chris - Mind my car!

Georgia - Let’s go…

Caroline - Okay, right. So I’m shaking it and now I’m going to try and pull the cork off at forty-five degrees… Oh no, I’m going to shake a bit more.

Gerogia - It’s that awful moment when you can’t pull it off.

Chris - It’s not quite F1, is it?

Caroline - Hear we go - it’s slowly edging… Pop.. and yes, there was a lot of foam.

Georgia - We’re filming this and we’ll put the video up later but, actually not that much came out. We’ve still got a bit but it did fizz all over the place. So,should this have worked?

Caroline - Yes, so it should have worked. Because I tilted it at forty-five degrees, I increased the surface area of the liquid inside the bottle so there should have been enough space for the foam to form and not fizz out. But I think what I did wrong was I didn’t quite get it at forty-five degrees because I was trying to hard to pull it off that I didn’t allow there to be enough surface area for the foam to form so it spilled out. So I’ll try again another time but…

Georgia - I’m afraid we’ve only got the one bottle for now.

Caroline - But yeah… I need some practice.

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I regret the intrusion of the hoi-polloi and spumanti-louts into this forum, but one can at least try to  educate them.

Never having poured wine myself, I sought an answer when Bulstrode brought my nightcap. His explanation is, I think, authoritative:

"Bubbles form throughout the bulk of the liquid when the cork is removed, and rise to form a foam . If the bottle is upright the surface area is restricted and the foam is driven into an ever-narrowing neck, so exits the bottle rapidly. If you tilt the bottle the surface area of the liquid increases so the foam is spread out. At around 45 degrees of tilt the spout actually contains liquid, not foam, and the surface area of the liquid in the bottle increases as you pour.   

One should, of course, never shake wine. It is not a homogeneous liquid (despite the appearance of some modern mass-produced "wines") and in its maturity will naturally throw a sediment. That is the reason for the indentation at the foot of the bottle, and why the cellar racks are inclined. 

"Expensive" champagne - or wine of any sort - is an oxymoron, not a tautology. Cook has a collection of minor chateaux but anything we serve at table is either the gift of a grateful nation or the remainder of what your great uncle repossessed from the Third Reich, Sir."

alancalverd, Fri, 9th Sep 2016

video, or it did not happen mrsmith2211, Mon, 12th Sep 2016

When I saw 45° I assumed it was being served in Kuwait or Baghdad and was about to reply it would be better cooled but upon more careful reading I note it refers to the angle the bottle is held not the temperature. syhprum, Tue, 13th Sep 2016

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