Champagne is notable for its iconic cork popping, but the study suggests that the size of the bubbles can play a key role in indicating the quality of the sparkling wine.
Study co-author Doctor Kyle Spratt, of the University of Texas at Austin, said: “The point of the project is to study the sounds that champagne bubbles make, and to see what we can infer.
“Bubbles are very resonant. They basically ring like bells, and the frequency of that ringing depends in part on the size of the bubbles.
“There is a well-known notion that the quality of a sparkling wine is correlated to the size of its bubbles, and we are investigating whether the bubble size distribution of a sparkling wine can be obtained from simple acoustical measurements.”
The researchers usually investigate the properties of bubbles and how they relate to underwater acoustics using a hydrophone, a piezoelectric transducer-based device that records underwater sound.
They thought a similar technique might apply to the investigation of wine bubbles.
Dr Spratt said: “When we came across the idea that bubbles play an important role in the quality of a sparkling wine, our first instinct was to drop a hydrophone into a glass and see what kind of sound we can hear.”
He said gathering data proved to be difficult due to the properties of the wine and its bubble mechanisms.
Dr Spratt said: “The process of taking measurements in a carbonated beverage was more challenging than we expected, mainly because bubbles form on the hydrophone itself and that can greatly affect the data that is collected.”
To prevent from altering the properties of the champagne bubbles, researchers resorted to using a very small hydrophone.
Dr Spratt says the champagne flute design is not just to look arbitrarily fancy, having a great deal of effect on bubble formation.
He said: “A wine glass is also a resonant object, so another challenge for us was to make sure that the characteristics of the glass itself weren’t biasing our measurements in some way.”
But, attempting to take measurements in other containers, especially Styrofoam, left little to be desired.
Dr Spratt said: “It turns out the bubble formation process on Styrofoam is completely different than on glass.
“So, if you ever have to resort to drinking champagne out of a Styrofoam cup, the bubbles will be quite different.”
He said the applications of the research could prove useful for aiding in the quality assurance testing of sparkling wines and other carbonated drinks.
Dr Spratt believes that using the acoustic properties of the bubbles as an indicator for wine quality could prevent errors in commercial manufacturing or packaging that may not be detectable by taste alone.
He added: “The direct application would be as a simple tool that could be used to monitor the bubble size distribution in sparkling wines.”
The findings were due to be presented at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in New Orleans.