Wine Myths: Éventage — the loss of gas in a sparkling wine
Spoons: for tiramisu only.
Photograph: Anna Kumpan
Wednesday 25 May 2022
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Like most wine myths, it’s not certain where this particular tip’s origin story came from. The Scientific American calls it, rather charmingly, a piece of “kitchen folklore,” and if you are a spoon-in-the-bottle advocate, it’s likely you learned how to do it via passed-down wisdom from your grandma, nonna, kindly wine merchant or local gingerbread cottage owner. It’s a nice story. Shame it’s not true.
The idea is so tantalisingly simple and pleasingly frugal that we all wish it had a grounding in scientific fact. Pop a spoon (some folk specify silver, this seems to be a needless but respectable extravagance) into the bottle so the handle hangs down into the neck, balanced there by the slender shoulders of the flatware. Then pop it in the fridge for later, when you’ll be able to pour almost-fresh bubbles hours, even days later.
It’s such an entrenched habit within some drinkers’ psyches that it borders on superstition. A chemistry professor at Stanford University had heard about the method for years, and fancied finding out if it worked for real. In a newsletter for Stanford University, Prof. Richard Zare said:
“I thought it might be a bubblemeise. That’s a takeoff on ‘Bubbemeise,’ Yiddish for a grandmother’s tale.”
The Prof. put together a crack team of researchers during his Thanksgiving holidays in 1994, featuring Professor Sharon Long, expert in biology and a fellow of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute; assistant biology Professor Susan McConnell and her husband Professor Richard Scheller, who is also a Hughes Fellow and a professor of molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford Medical School, among other esteemed colleagues and relations. Their findings were exciting.
They found that leaving the bottle open kept more fizz in the frizzante than popping a spoon in there—but that re-corking the bottle actually had a detrimental, flattening effect. However, the Professors were quick to point out the small data set, and the gradual lessening of scientific integrity as the night continued. They called it “fatigue of the instrumentation.” You may call it “the natural effects of 10 bottles on Champagne among a group of drinkers.”
The truth is, dissolved carbon dioxide in wine is the only thing that makes it fizz. Once the carbon dioxide reserves have depleted, that’s it. So if you want to keep your prosecco poppin’, best drink it before it goes stale—or use a decent stopper that’s proven to keep the bubbles in for just a little longer.
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