Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Science of a Champagne Bottle

I love champagne.  My close friends know this well and now you do too.  My current favorite is Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.  I'm fanatical about it probably to a fault.  I used to be all about Dom Perignon but once I tasted Veuve, it was over in a hurry.  Plus, I couldn't find vintage 1998 so regularly anymore and that started to annoy me.

While I knew the champagne bottle was shaped the way it is for it's specific purpose, a few of these points I did not know.  I thought I'd share it with you so you can impress someone the next time you have champagne.

The Cork - Usually larger than corks used to seal wine, champagne corks are made in two parts: the bottom (inside the bottle) is a natural cork composite while the top (outside the bottle) is a mix of cork bits glued together. Corks are straight when first put into the bottle then swell when removed, creating the famous mushroom shape.

The Wire Cage
- The first champagne bottles used string to restrain the cork, but in 1844 Adolphe Jacquesson invented the metal cage system we still use today.

The Foil
- Foil was needed to deter rats and other pests from nibbling on the cork. Now it's a decorative and traditional part of the champagne experience.

The Rim
- It's there strictly to serve as an anchor for the wire cage.

The Glass - The glass in champagne bottles is much thicker than that in wine bottles due to the pressure, which can be upwards of 70-100 pounds per square inch. The very first champagne bottles were not as thick and strong as they are today and bottles (especially when kept in volume in champagne cellars) were considered somewhat dangerous as they regularly exploded.

The Indentation
- The indentation in the bottom of the bottle isn't a sneaky way of serving less champagne per bottle, but instead a means of keeping the pressure from building up near the bottom. Also called the punt or 'kick-up,' it helps redistribute the pressure to keep the bottle from exploding.


1 comment:

peterab said...

Yes, but why does the cork have an anchor on it?