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More on bubbly: size matters

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While the phrase, "Bigger is better!" may be true in many instances, it does not hold true for bubbles in a fine champagne or sparkling wine. In the matter of bubble size in a quality sparkling wine, the smallest bubbles are best.

The bubbles in a sparkling wine are actually the result of carbon dioxide gas trapped in the bottle. All sparkling wines begin their journey as still wines, meaning there is no fizz. It is the secondary fermentation in the bottle that causes the carbon dioxide gas to form and the specialized production that keeps it in the bottle. There are actually no bubbles present in the wine until the cork is popped. Until then, the gas is merely mingling with the liquid inside, waiting for the pressure to be released. Once that happens, the gas is enveloped by the wine, creating that beautiful stream of micro-bubbles.

How sparkling wine developed is a curious by-product of nature. France's Champagne region is one of that country's coolest wine growing and producing regions. As the post-harvest temperatures began to drop, fermentation was arrested, only to begin again in the spring as the weather warmed up. It was this secondary fermentation that caused the fizz, the sparkle, the (then) utter devastation of the product. It wasn't until the Champagne winemakers decided to embrace the bubbling wine and refine it's production methods that French Champagne became the prized wine it is today. Thanks to the collective efforts of winemakers like Dom Perignon, Dom Ruinart, and Veuve Clicquot, we now enjoy this accidental wine routinely.

Back to bubble size...sparkling wine made under the traditional method, sometimes referred to as method champenoise on a wine label, is more likely to have that stream of fine bubbles we look for in a quality bubbly. Should you have a glass with larger bubbles, it was most likely made using a sped up process of adding sugar and carbonization to create a bigger, foamier fizz and larger, readily popping bubbles. There will be a difference in mouth feel between these two styles of sparkling wine...like the difference between wool and cashmere. Seek out cashmere!

In this instance, the "You get what you pay for" adage applies, as the lower priced sparkling wine will likely be the one with the larger bubbles. Generally speaking, the higher priced sparkling wines are worth the extra dollars for the fine bubble structure and smoother taste. Remember, when it come to a fine sparkling wine, and it's bubbles, size does matter!

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