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What keeps the bubbles together?

by Gogo on October 2, 2009

in All wines

As you might know from my previous post, last week I had opportunity to visit Berlucchi winery in Franciacorta. Cristina Ziliani, daughter of one of the Berlucchi’s founders, was our guide and showed us their cellar. It is a dark and moist labyrinth packed with millions of bottles of wine that slowly and patiently try to get some bubbles – and become the sparkling wine.

If you do not know details of the traditional method of producing sparkling wine, the following video might get you interested in the subject.



Here is a short summary: Cristina takes one bottle and keeps it upside down. It is a bottle where the yeast, introduced few years ago, have completed the second fermentation and enriched the wine with carbon dioxide (CO2). Yet, while the bottle remains tapped, the bubbles can not be seen since the CO2 is dissolved in the liquid. Then she shows us the dead yeasts that are sedimented in the bottle’s neck near the tap. Before you sell the bottle, you should disgorged it, or in other words remove the sediment, otherwise you would get a cloudy wine. She uses an ancient way called Dégorgement à la vollée, where you quickly turn the bottle and in the moment that the air bubble trapped in the bottle comes to the neck but is still below the sediment, you open the crown cap. She is skilled, so she does not loose much of wine and the sediment is expelled out.

Now the real surprise. She carefully poses the open bottle on the table and nothing happens, it remains calm and quiet. But, as soon as she knocks the bottle with a fork, the foam exits and forms a 4 m high fountain jet! WHAT A JOY!!! It was such a surprise for me since I did not expect it at all.

Then, I started to wonder (professional deformation of every physicist). What the hell is keeping the bubbles together when you open the cap? And why the vibration you induce by knocking on the bottle change suddenly the solubility of CO2 in the wine? I will try to find the answer and post it very soon.

In the meantime, enjoy some photos from Berlucchi’s cellars and see how sparkling wine can be successfully paired with food.

In Berlucchis wine cellar

In Berlucchi's wine cellar

The second fermentation starts in horizontal bottles

The second fermentation starts in horizontal bottles

The oldest bottles are on safe

The oldest bottles are on safe

The bottles are now turned automatically

The bottles are now turned automatically

Finger-food

Finger-food

Lettuce risotto with chanterelles

Lettuce risotto with chanterelles

Suckling pig roll on mashed potatoes

Suckling pig meat roll on mashed potatoes

Cellarius Rosé paires great with the meat roll

Cellarius Rosé paires great with the meat roll

Small panettone (muffin) with zabaione sauce

Small panettone (muffin) with zabaione sauce

Petit-fours

Petit-fours

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