The sound of champagne bubbles can indicate quality
Champagne is the bubbly, alcoholic beverage that is usually poured after the distinctive “pop” of the bottle it comes from. But it’s not just the bottle popping that is of acoustic interest to the researchers at the Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas at Austin.
In what was likely their favorite research study in years, investigators Kyle S. Spratt, Kevin M. Lee, and Preston S. Wilson set out to determine whether the acoustics of champagne bubbles might play a key role in determining how expensive the bottle it came from should be.
“The point of the project is to study the sounds that champagne bubbles make, and to see what we can infer about the bubbles from the sounds that they make,” explains Spratt. “Bubbles are very resonant. They basically ring like bells, and the frequency of that ringing depends in part on the size of the bubbles. There is a well-known notion that the quality of a sparkling wine is correlated to the size of its bubbles, and we are investigating whether the bubble size distribution of a sparkling wine can be obtained from simple acoustical measurements.”
The research team used a very small hydrophone – a piezoelectric transducer-based underwater recording device – to investigate the properties of the bubbles. They found that the type of glass used is actually of significant importance to how the bubbles react. The design of a champagne flute is crafted to have a noticeable effect on the bubble formation of the beverage, as well as the material the glass is made out of.
“It turns out the bubble formation process on Styrofoam is completely different than on glass,” Spratt says. “So, if you ever have to resort to drinking champagne out of a Styrofoam cup, the bubbles will be quite different.”
The findings could prove useful for consumers, who can test bubble acoustics to make sure the brand they’re purchasing is not overpriced.
The team will present their findings at the 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in New Orleans, Louisiana, held December 4th through 8th, 2017.