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Physicists captured, quantified the sound of champagne’s effervescence

The physics behind champagne's bubbly delights is surprisingly complex—including the source of its distinctive crackling sound.

Enlarge / The physics behind champagne’s bubbly delights is surprisingly complex—including the source of its distinctive crackling sound. (credit: Jon Bucklel/EMPICS/PA/Getty Images)

There’s rarely time to write about every cool science-y story that comes our way. So this year, we’re once again running a special Twelve Days of Christmas series of posts, highlighting one science story that fell through the cracks in 2020, each day from December 25 through January 5. Today: Researchers have uncovered the specific physical mechanism that links champagne’s distinctive crackle with the bursting of its tiny bubbles.

There’s nothing quite like the distinctive crackling and fizzing sound of a glass of freshly served champagne. It’s well established that the bursting of the bubbles produces that sound, but the specific physical mechanism isn’t quite clear. So physicists from Sorbonne University in Paris, France, decided to investigate the link between the fluid dynamics of the bursting bubbles and the crackly fizzy sounds. They described their work in a paper published back in January in the journal Physical Review Fluids.

As we’ve reported previously, the first mention of a sparkling wine dates back to 1535 in the Languedoc region of France. The classic brand Dom Perignon gets its name from a 17th-century monk who had the job of getting rid of the bubbles that developed in his abbey’s bottled wine, lest the pressure build up so much they exploded. Legend has it that upon sipping such a bubbly wine, the monk realized the bubbles might not be such a bad thing after all, declaring, “Come quickly, brothers, I am drinking stars!”

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