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Uncorked: The Science of Champagne Hardcover – October 17, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Come quickly, brothers, I am drinking stars!" said 17th-century monk and cellar master Dom Pérignon upon tasting the effervescent wine that would come to be known as champagne. Indeed, the experience of drinking champagne is mildly exhilarating in any setting, and University of Reims physics professor Liger-Belair, a Moët & Chandon consultant and self-proclaimed "bubbles addict," reveals the scientific reasons for the behavior and taste of the intoxicant in terms even a science novice can absorb. Though the romance of sipping a flute of champagne is somewhat dispelled by knowing that right after it is poured "the surfactant molecules interlock with each other and with the surrounding liquid molecules, strengthening the surface of the bubble and reducing the velocity of the liquid flows in the films of bubble caps," Liger-Belair is mindful to relate these complex physical and chemical processes to the perceptions of the drinker; he reminds readers that "bubbles bursting at the surface play a major role in flavor release." The bulk of the book is devoted to describing what happens to these bubbles, and Liger-Belair’s patient discussions are accompanied by appealing photographs of bubbles at various points in their frenetic dance to the top of the glass. A short glossary, as well as Liger-Belair’s unadorned prose, aid readers unfamiliar with fluid dynamics but delighted by the effervescence of champagne, making this book ideal for any champagne aficionado. 32 halftones
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review


Winner of the 2005 Best Book on European Wine, Gourmand World Cookbook Awards



Winner of the 2004 Award for Best Professional/Scholarly Book in Physics and Astronomy, Association of American Publishers


"This book presents the birth, life and death of a champagne bubble with such gusto, good humor and clarity that you will devour its delicious contents in one gulp. Whereas good champagne is to be sipped, this book is not. You will never experience the sensual elegance of champagne in quite the same way again once you have read this entertaining account of its history and 'fizzics.' "--Richard N. Zare, Nature



"A highly entertaining introduction to the science of champagne bubbles. . . . Uncorked is very readable, and Liger-Belair's clear and simple descriptions of the physics are superbly suitable for a general audience. The book is also very aesthetically pleasing, making it an ideal present for wine lovers and bores alike."--Stuart West, Science



"Uncorked is an interesting, enjoyable read for anyone who has gazed too long upon a champagne-filled flute."--Gregory Mone, Popular Science



"Liger-Belair, a physicist inspired to study bubbles by a brainstorm over a beer, delves into a champagne flute with a curiosity as strong as his microscope. The result is a book as informative as it is engaging, boosted by the gorgeous, up-close photos of bubbles in motion."--Tara Q. Thomas, The Denver Post



"This small, gold-wrapped jewel-of-a-book makes the perfect companion gift to a bottle of bubbly. . . . Written by a passionate, wine-loving physicist with just the proper level of jargon for non-scientists, the birth, rise and bursting of a Champagne bubble is scrutinized, rhapsodized, diagrammed, photographed and, finally, demystified. . . . Knowing more about a bubble's lowly birth (formed from debris on the side of the glass) and ephemeral rise to fame will only serve to make you love it more."--Claudia Conlon, The Wine News



"A delightfully readable little book."--Joanna Simon, The Sunday Times (London)


"[A] convivial examination of the party season's favorite tipple."--Paul
Nettleton, The Guardian



"The ultimate guide to the 'fizzics' of sparkling wine."--Deborah
Scoblionkov, Philadelphia Inquirer



"Chances are good that during the holiday season, you found yourself holding a glass of champagne. If the festivities were flagging, a question may have crossed your mind: What causes those delightful little bubbles that tickle your nose? In Uncorked, Gerard Liger-Belair answers this and other questions that have occupied the wine world since the night French monk Dom Perignon invented champagne in the late 17th century."--Donald Morrison, Time Magazine (Europe)


"Ah, a science lesson I can really get into. . . . You will learn that there is no scientific evidence to support the assertion that small bubbles make for finer champagne; that champagne poured into completely clean glasses will always be flat; that narrow flutes with round bottoms make the most desirable sipping vessels; and that corks should be released with a 'subdued sigh' rather than a bang."--Anjana Ahuja, The Times (London)


"Never have I been so fascinated by so much information that I didn't need. . . . [A]n irresistible read."--Richard Kinssies, Seattle Post-Intelligencer



"Did you ever look into a flute of champagne and wonder where those tiny bubbles come from? Physicist Liger-Belair explains this scientific phenomenon in easy-to-understand language, combined with diagrams and beautiful state-of-the-art, high-speed photography. In the process, he delves into the history, art, and science of making champagne."--Choice



"[Liger-Belair is] an expert on the way bubbles form, travel, and disperse in glasses of champagne. His research has practical implications for the way you drink and enjoy bubbly."--Joshua Rothman, Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691119198
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691119199
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 7.9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,016,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By a biochemist on January 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Uncorked : the science of champagne or how all to learn on this festive and sparkling beverage so much appreciated throughout the world?

In a very pleasant prose to read, the author : Gerard Liger-Belair, an associate professor in Physical Sciences at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne and consultant for the research department of Moet & Chandon, describes elegantly and for the first time the fragile and transitory life of a champagne bubble from its birth to its burst on the surface. Furthermore superb and fascinating black and white photographs permit to visualize what the naked eye cannot perceive like the formation of geometrical structures in the shape of flowers or dynamics of the bubbles such galaxies at the liquid surface. This book is a real concentrate of knowledge combining with brilliance history, science and art. Here is a physicist in love with bubbles and phenomenon of effervescence which makes the dynamics of fluids attractive! I think that Uncorked is a remarkable tool for popularisation, accessible to the greatest number and Gerard Liger-Belair, a professor that any student would dream to have. Never again you will look at a champagne flute in the same way!

A lover of champagne
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mitchell Pressman on September 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A short review for a short book -- the science is fascinating; unfortunately the author mixes his knowledge of science with his lack of knowledge about wine. While I share his love of Champagne, some of M. Liger-Belair's other vinous statements are either not based on fact or are based on opinion -- that would be welcome whether I agreed with his opinions or not, if it didn't confuse the original thesis, which is, "this is a book about the science of bubbles." Still, this book is worth reading if only for the terrific, entertaining foreward. Cheers.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ursiform TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The subtitle of this book is "the Science of Champagne", and this is a book of science. It starts with an historical introduction to sparkling wine (the real history, not the myths). But then it get into science. Real science.

As you go through this book you'll encounter Henry's law and Van der Waals forces. You'll learn the difference between the fluid sphere limit and the rigid sphere limit. On one page you'll encounter wake instabilities and hydrodynamic instability. You'll learn about nucleation and laser tomography.

None of which is bad. I'm a physicist by training, and I eat this stuff up. If you are interested in both science and bubbly, you should enjoy this book. But if the preceding paragraph put you off, this probably isn't the book for you.

This is a fairly technical book with figures, photos, and references. As technical works go, it's a quick read. But if technical stuff turns you off, you won't enjoy it.

As a warning, there is a section on what global warming might do to the Champagne region. If you refuse to accept that warming is occurring, this might annoy you.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. But it's not for everyone.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bernard M. Patten on June 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The problem with Champagne, at least for me, is that it tends to disappear too fast. That was also the problem with this book. It reads too fast. Before I knew it the pleasure was behind me. Uncorked starts with the history of this famous drink, including the revelation that Dom Pierre Perignon was originally told by the Pope and other powers to get those lousy bubbles out of the white wine. Then the members of the Royal Court at Versailles under Louis XIV began to appreciate the bubbles. So, after years of fruitless labor trying to get the bubbles out of the wine, at the end of the seventeenth century, Dom was ordered to reverse his efforts and devise methods to increase the bubbling in the wine, which, incidentally, he did. After history, we have a chapter on making Champagne: pretty standard stuff. But if you don't know it yet, learn it here so at the next dinner you can talk with authority. Next comes the most informative chapter: A Flute or Goblet? Which is better? Those of you who know Champagne know the answer. And those of you who don't know Champagne can find the correct answer here. The amazing thing for me is that I knew the answer, but I didn't understand the scientific reasons why flute was better. Science is always right and here we find no exception. The last few chapters then talk in extenso about bubbles and as this is the essence of Chamapgne, the discussion is well worth the effort expended in studying the science of Champagne bubbles and the photographs that illustrate that science. Just as a book has a beginning, a middle, and an end, a bubble has a birth, a rise, and a burst. This book didn't make me want to go out an read more about Champagne, but it did make me want to go out and drink some more and while drinking I shall appreciate the remarkable history and science that goes into this fine drink.
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