Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Which Champagne glasses have etched nucleation points?
—Lewis, Hayward, Calif.
In sparkling wine, the carbon dioxide bubbles in the liquid require a “nucleation site” to be released. In a wineglass or sparkling wine flute, that could be a naturally occurring surface imperfection or a speck of dust, but more likely it’s been etched by the glass manufacturer. These days it’s typically done by lasers at the bottom of the bowl of the glass. It’s so subtle, you shouldn’t be able to see or feel the etchings, but when a sparkling wine is poured in, you should see a stream of bubbles cascading from those nucleation sites.
Not every manufacturer is going to list whether or not their glassware for sparkling wine includes pre-etched nucleation sites, but typically all quality sparkling wine stemware will have them. If you have older glasses at home that you worry might not have those bubble-inducing imperfections, there are some do-it-yourself options for the home handyperson, including etching tools, etching paste, diamond files and even coarse-grit sandpaper. But I’d recommend leaving the etching to the experts.
Remember also that the solubility of carbon dioxide increases as temperature falls—in other words, the warmer the beverage, the more raucous and voluminous the bubbles, and the faster that all that carbonation escapes. If a bubbly is well-chilled, there will be a gentle stream of tiny bubbles that will last a long time as the carbon dioxide is slowly released.