I came across this interesting article regarding a dispute about the age old ‘spoon in the champagne bottle’ trick.
It’s an old wives’ tale that dangling a silver spoon down the neck of a champagne bottle will preserve the bubble.
Or is it?
Some people swear by it while others think it’s a load of tosh. So, although we had never (knowingly) left a bottle of bubbly unfinished, a group of curious MCC quaffers decided to see if this was true.
A case of sparkling wine later and we set about designing the experiment.
- -Opening two bottles.
- -Pouring a standard glass from each and photographing the wine in the glass.
- -Drinking the wine and recording our impressions – this was a terribly important step and one we had to repeat often.
- -Returning the bottles to the fridge, one with a spoon in it and one without.
- -As the bottles cooled down over the next few hours, recording the temperature in the bottle before repeating the process until the bottles were empty.
Of course, at each photograph-and-taste stage we also needed to open a control bottle afresh – just so that we had a comparison of course.
The experiment was repeated with many bottles over several weekends. It was a struggle, but we’ll do anything for science.
Once we had exhausted the crate (and a few extra bottles bought in), we scanned and digitally processed the photographs and then (i) counted the bubbles in each glass and (ii) measured the size of all the bubbles. All we can say here is thank heavens for software!
From the data, we could plot a bubble size distribution graph. This sounds impressive, but it is actually just a histogram with bubble size (diameter) along the bottom and the number of bubbles on the vertical axis .
There were two very interesting results that we found when we did this.
Firstly, the shape of the curve did not change and was a characteristic of the wine that we used and it didn’t change, regardless of how flat the wine was.
Secondly, and for this experiment, more importantly, the number of bubbles was higher when the spoon had been dangled in the glass when compared to bottles with no spoon.
This let us conclude that indeed, hanging a metal spoon down the neck of the bottle DOES preserve the bubbles!
Sure a cork or champagne stopper is better, but of you have lost the cork, or your partner has not had the foresight to give you a champagne stopper, a spoon will save at least some of the sparkle.
So now we have an answer, and like all good scientists, we need to explain it.
What we think is happening is that the spoon is acting as a radiator and when it hangs in the bottle, the air inside the neck of the bottle cools faster than the air inside a bottle without the spoon. Because we had measured the temperature drop inside each bottle we could confirm this.
Now, colder air is denser than warmer air, so the bottle with the spoon gets a ‘cold plug‘ on top of the wine sooner than the bottle without the spoon. The weight of this colder denser air means that less gas can escape so the bubbles are preserved. In addition, cold bubbly keeps more of its carbon dioxide in solution than warm.
Do you have any theories on the spoon and champagne theory? Let me know.