The origin of…Bubbles

“What, if as said, man is a bubble.” Marcus Terentius Varro

Post 13 Bubbles

There are many kinds of bubbles: soap bubbles, economic bubbles, bubble wrap, superbubbles (cavities in space hundreds of light years across created by multiple gases)…but I won´t be writing about any of these. This post will be about bubbles in a glass, and no, I´m not talking about sparkling water.

The oldest recorded sparkling wine dates back to 1531 and is Blanquette de Limoux, invented and made by the Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire, near Carcassonne, France. The wine was bottled before the first fermentation had ended, which produced the sparkles.
In 1662 the English scientist Christopher Merret presented a paper to the Royal Society, in which he described the adding of sugar (liqueur de tirage) to create a second fermentation. This method is called méthode champenoise. Another method of making sparkling wine is the méthode rurale. Bottling the wine before the first fermentation has ended creates the sparkles in the wine.
Also in England Sir Robert Mansell acquired a monopoly on the production of stronger bottles that could withstand the internal high pressures that sparkling wines produce.

The first Champagne was created by accident, and because the bottles could not hold the pressure, they exploded or corks would be blown out. This led Champagne to be called the devil´s wine (le vin du diable).  In 1844 Adolphe Jaquesson invented the muselet (the wire cage over the cork). The name Champagne can only be used for wines produced in the Champagne region, in north-eastern France and is a legally protected name.
The added amount of sugar and the ripeness of the grapes define the sweetness of the wine: extra brut (less than 6 grams of residual sugar per liter), brut (less than 12 grams), extra dry (between 12 and 17 grams), sec (between 17 and 32 grams), demi-sec (between 32 and 50 grams) and doux (more than 50 grams). Today the most common type is brut, but Champagne used to be much sweeter.
Champagne must be made of the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris grapes. Most Champagnes are a blend of the first three and are blended from multiple vintages (called non-vintage).
When the wine has aged, the bottles enter a process called remuage (riddling), which is the turning of the bottles in such a way that the lees (sediments of residual yeast) settle in the neck of the bottle. This process used to be a manual process but is only done this way for prestige cuvées today because of high labor costs. Normal Champagnes are now riddled using gyropalettes, a mechanised way of riddling.
Production with the méthode champenoise did not start until the 19th century when there was an explosive growth in the production to 20 million bottles a year in 1850 (up from 300,000 bottles in 1800). Today the annual production is approximately 340 million bottles.

Famous Champagnes are Dom Pérignon, Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot. The Benedectine monk Dom Pérignon is often credited with inventing sparkling Champagne, a misconception, but he did contribute to the improvement of the production and quality of the wine.  Dom Pérignon is the prestige cuvee of Moët & Chandon(prestige cuvée is an exclusive, blended wine that is part of a producer’s top range). Veuve Clicquot, founded in 1772, produced the first Rosé Champagne in 1775 by adding red wine during production.

The Italian sparkling wine is Prosecco, produced in the regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia and is made from the Glera grapes (northern Italy). In the 16th century the Ribollo, a local wine in Trieste, was marketed as the successor of the famous wine Pucino. It was also promoted as being produced at the Castelim nobile vinum Pucinum, or Castle of Prosecco, and the name was changed into Prosecco. Prosecco is produced using the cheaper Metodo Charmat-Martinotti, in which the secondary fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks. The DOCG Prosecco Valdobbiadene can also be produced by using the Metodo Classico, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. Since most Prosecco does not ferment in the bottle, unlike Champagne, it should be drunk young (if possible within three years of its vintage).
The two types of Prosecco are spumante and frizzante, of which the first is fully sparkling (and more expensive) and the latter lightly sparkling. A famous mix drink with Prosecco is Sgroppino, a desert with Prosecco, Vodka and lemon sorbet.

Cava is the Spanish version of sparkling wine that is produced mostly in the Penedés region in Catalonia (north-eastern Spain) with the méthode champenoise. Other regions where it may be produced are La Rioja, Aragón, Castilla y Léon, Extremadura, País Vasco, Navarra and Navarra and Valencia. The name Cava has been in use since 1972 to differentiate it from Champagne and means cave or cellar. Caves were used in the old days to let the wine age. It comes in the same types as Champagne, with the addition of Brut Nature, which has less than 3 grams of added sugar.
I am not really sure who were the first producers of Cava, since some sources mention the first ones as being Francesc Gil and Domènec Soberano in 1868 and others saying that Josep Raventós Fatjó of the Codorniú estate in Sant Sadurní d’Anaioa was the first one in 1872. Codorniú and Freixenet are the biggest producers today.
In 1887 the phylloxera plague destroyed most of the cultivated (red) grapes in the Penedés region, leading to the introduction of some new (white) grape varieties. Since the first versions of Cava were made of the same grapes as Champagne, the introduction of new grapes led Cava to develop a different taste from Champagne. Nowadays the main grapes used in the production of Cava are the macabeu, parellada and xarel·lo.
Annual production of Cava amounts to 216 million bottles, making Spain the second biggest producer of sparkling wine, after France.

1. a tiny, round ball of air or gas inside a liquid.
2. a small ball of air in a solid substance.
3. a very light ball of air inside a thin layer of soap (source: Merriam Webster).
4. A surge in equity prices, often more than warranted by the fundamentals and usually in a particular sector, followed by a drastic drop in prices as a massive selloff occurs (source: Investopedia).

The English word bubble comes from Middle English bobel, which possibly comes from Middle Dutch bobble and/or the Middle Low German verb bubbeln, both of onomatopoeic origin (the sound of the bubbles in boiling water).
Dutch bel comes from Middle Dutch belle, possibly also of onomatopoeic origin.
Burbujaprobably comes from Vulgar Latin bulbullia, which is a repetition of bulla, meaning bubble, which is of onomatopoeic origin. Bolla has the same origin: bulla.

Bubble in other languages:
Dutch: bel
Spanish: la burbuja
Italian: la bolla


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