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Chemistry of the Champagne flute

If your Champagne flutes have been tucked away in the cabinet for the past 12 months, you would be well advised to towel them off before pouring in the bubbly this weekend.

The point isn’t to rid them of any germs that might have made themselves at home, but to maximise bubbles. In the latest dispatch from the frontiers of Champagne science, researchers find that hollow cellulose fibers knocked off a cloth or paper towel used to dry a flute act as bubble-formation, or ‘nucleation’ sites. As a result, glasses wiped with a towel show ‘an excess of effervescence’.

You can also maximise bubble production by leaving the flutes in the open air, right side up, so stray fibers from your guest’s clothing waft into them (assuming you don’t mind the yuck factor). If you wash the flutes and air-dry them upside down, however, the paucity of fibers will damp the bubble production of even the priciest Champagne unless the glassmaker has made microetches in the flute, as some masters have done for ages. Those scratches, too, act as nucleation sites.

The full report by Sharon Begley can be found in The Wall Street Journal, Dec 29 2006-Jan 1 2007.



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