If you check your phone’s dictionary, it would not probably give any result for the word ‘perlage’. The clue is sparkling wine. While there are already many words to describe champagne bubbles, perlage is an addition to the list. Perlage can be understood as effervescence but with more context. In this post, you will learn the origin of this word and the reason why it is used when talking about champagne.
Listen to this Blog
Etymology of the Term
At one glance, perlage does seem foreign, making it ambiguous to pronounce. Most people pronounce it as per-lahdzh. Technically, it is a French word, but the Italians mostly use it to refer to a sparkling wine’s head or bubbles.
Some people view it as more of a phenomenon rather than just a characteristic. To them, perlage is when a stream of bubbles occurs from the center of the glass, then flows upward to create the head on the surface, and ultimately deflates when the champagne glass is almost full. Unlike other carbonated beverages, the bubbles they produce do not really fall within the definition of perlage because they lack that column of bubbles.
Perlage is derived from the French term ‘Perle,’ which translates to pearl in English, then added with the suffix - age to make it a noun and furthermore denotes the ‘formation of pearls.’ These pearls or bubbles are usually fine and pinpoint. Finer, more persistent, constant, and abundant pearls indicate that the sparkling wine has a high quality.
It is not to be confused with the term mousse, which is also used to describe the bubbles of sparkling wine. Mousse is the foam that is created at the top of the glass after the champagne is poured, whereas perlage is a process, albeit a short one.
The Science Behind Perlage
Carbon dioxide is basically what makes up the bubbles produced by yeast and is a by-product of the fermentation process.
Sparkling wines undergo a second fermentation process that occurs when they are already bottled, forming more carbon dioxide. This gas becomes dissolved because it can’t escape the sealed bottles. This eventually creates a high pressure within the bottle of wine, about three times the air pressure in car tires.
When you open the wine bottle, the carbon dioxide awakens and returns to being gas because there is a decline in the pressure of the atmosphere. Furthermore, when sparkling wine is poured into individual glasses, perlage occurs, caused by a rapid release of the carbon dioxide in the form of bubbles.
It may not look like much, but there are approximately one million bubbles in a single champagne flute. When poured into the glass, the bubbles gather to the liquid’s surface, forming a hexagonal pattern while touching each other. They only burst when liquid gets in contact with air.
Perlage is also dependent on the shape and texture of the glass. Flutes are always preferred over coupes because they are taller and narrower, allowing the bubbles to create a chain as they rise to the top. Most flutes also have a small dot formation at the bottom of the bowl that encourages consistent bubbles.
Because of its close association with champagne, the term perlage is adapted in the name of a device that is intended for preserving sparkling wine. Unlike champagne stoppers that only prevent air from entering the bottle, the perlage system does more.
Basically, the Perlage Champagne Preservation System is used to refill a bottle of sparkling wine with carbon dioxide while purging it from oxygen so the bottle can stay bubbly and flavorful for up to two weeks. This revolutionary tool is beneficial for restaurants, bars, and even at home because we don’t have to worry about the Champagne or Prosecco going flat.
Now that you know what perlage means, you will be confident to answer anyone who may ask about it. In extension, a wine-saving device was also named after it, which comes very handy in any setting. But this is a topic for another time. Did you find this post interesting? Share it or leave your thoughts in the comment section.
Watch the Video