LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The luxurious bubbles that pop up and tickle the nose of a champagne drinker release explosions of flavor and not just fizz, scientists said on Monday.
French and German researchers analyzed the bubbles in a glass of champagne and discovered that chemical eruptions in them release flavor from tiny aerosols packed with aromatic molecules that hover above the liquid and then pop.
"Champagne bubbles do more than tickle your nose -- they continually lift aromas to the surface of every glass," said Gerard Liger-Belair, a physicist from Reims University in France, who confesses to a "love-hate relationship" with the sparkling wines he has had as "work partners" for 10 years.
The scientists said their study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed parallels between the fizz of sparkling wines and the foam of the ocean and showed that bursting bubbles help release flavors and aromas.
The results may offer makers of wine and other sparkling drinks ways to develop new drinks with specific taste-enhancing aroma bubbles.
Liger-Belair and his colleague Philippe Schmitt-Kopplin, an analytical chemist from Munich University, found that the aerosols in champagne contained an over-concentration of aromatic compounds.
The compounds clump onto champagne bubbles with one end inside the bubble and the other in the liquid, and the bubbles drag them along as they rise to the surface of the glass. When the bubbles pop, they release the aromatic compounds.
"Actually, bubbles bursting at the champagne surface radiate hundreds of tiny liquid jets every second, which quickly break up into a multitude of tiny droplets," the researchers wrote.
Among the chemicals they identified, were one which is known to contribute to the bitter taste of saffron and others linked to the fruity aroma of several grape varieties and related wines such as Syrah, Chardonnay and Melon.
"I love the idea that such wonderful physicochemical mechanisms act right under our nose," Liger-Belair said in response to emailed questions.
"In a single champagne glass, there is as much food for the mind as pleasure for the senses."
Editing by Maggie Fox