Sparkling facts

Champagne and other sparkling wines shine at Christmas and New Years. Today, answers to some merry sparkling questions.

Why don’t you see bubbles or fizz inside a sealed bottle?

Carbon dioxide, the bubble gas, is dissolved and trapped by pressure inside the bottle. Pressure in sparkling bottle is between 70 and 90 pounds per square inch, two or three times pressure in car tires. Open sparkling bottles with caution.

• Does wine temperature affect bubbles?

Yes. Warmer liquid, more fizz. Colder liquid, slower bubble stream. Slow, steady bubble stream is good thing in sparklings. Serve bubbly cold.

• Why do bubbles stream from points in the glass?

Bubbles form on “nucleation sites.” When molecules change phases—from liquid to gas, from liquid to solid—they congregate until enough gather together to survive in new state. When water boils, bubbles form at nicks and scratches in the container. When water vapor forms into ice, molecules typically form around a spec of dust. When carbon dioxide bubbles bubble in sparklings, they do so around defects in your $80 Riedel Sommeliers Champagne flute.

• Is there much difference between champagne costing $10 and stuff that costs more than $50?

If it costs less than $10, it is not Champagne. Except for some oddly grandfathered U.S. wineries, “Champagne” can only be used on labels of wines made under strict quality rules in Champagne region of France. They never cost less than $10. Buy cheap and buy real, taste. You do not have to be Champagne chugging champ to taste the difference.

Recommended authentic Champagnes:

• Pommery Brut Royal. Light, fruity, supple, dry. $52

• Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label. Aromatic, complex, crisp, full flavors. $54

• Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve. Pear, full fruit, clean. $58

• Pierre Peters Champagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs. Elegant, 100% chardonnay; baked citrus, green apple, pear, full mouth. $66