Killing me softly: The plight of the disappearing bubbles

6th June 2014

The plight of the disappearing bubbles

It was the day of our trade launch held earlier this year at the lovely Loki Wines, the award winning wine merchants in Birmingham. My helpers for the day (sister, Alison and friends Kalai and Jo) and I unpacked all of the 35 ‘Riedel Ouverture Champagne’ glasses which I’d tried and tested with Riedel some weeks before – the ones that were’ just perfect’ for my Prosecco. The new glasses were polished after being rinsed. I asked Phil, the owner of Loki, for guidance on the measure of wine for the tasting. Phil commented that there were water marks still on the glasses! Sack the helpers! ha ha. I asked my helpers (nicely) if they’d polish all the glasses again. All done. A table full of gleaming, beautiful Riedel wine glasses, ready and waiting ready for the bubbles and our guests.

The guests started to arrive. Eleven sparkling wines on the tasting sheet. During the course of the event I noticed that the bubbles didn’t seem quite as bubbly as I’d remembered when I did the testing with Riedel. Maybe I’d remembered incorrectly? Maybe it’s because it’s a bit warmer? Anyway, with so much going on I didn’t think too much about it until John from Riedel who attended the event made a comment about the glass and the bubbles not being as expected. Mmmm that got me thinking. I’d had similar thoughts…but the glasses performed fantastically at Riedel last month. I’d had professional photos taken so I had proof. What was different?


After a bit of pondering, I spoke to John the next day. “Might the lack of bubbles have anything to do with the fact that the cloth was laundered using softener?” I asked. “That’s it” he said. The softener had killed the bubbles! Nooooo! I couldn’t believe it. I knew about being careful to remove any traces of detergent residue from the glasses as that kills the bubbles, but who knows about softener on the cloth? Apparently softener stays on the cloth and gets transferred to the glass which then impairs the bubble performance. So polishing the glasses, not once but twice!, with a cloth laundered in softener really had killed a lot of the bubbles. Thankfully, it didn’t spoil the launch as everyone seemed to enjoy the wines (I think some glasses had been polished better than others).

The next day, I decided to do some testing. I still had some of the Ca’Salina Prosecco left from my event. I sorted out 4 glasses:-

(A) & (B) Two new Riedel glasses, straight out of the box.

(C) A Riedel glass from the launch rinsed in water and air dried (which had previously been polished, twice, with a cloth laundered in softener).

(D) A new Riedel glass, rinsed with water, dried and polished with a cloth laundered with softener.

I poured out the Prosecco in all 4 glasses. Wow, the Ca’Salina Prosecco was so bubbly in the glasses untouched by softener (A & B), even after 3 days of being opened (sealed with a Ca’Salina closure). I don’t remember it being that bubbly at the launch. It was obvious that the bubbles in glass C were more subdued and the bubbles in glass D were well, pretty much none existent.


It’s a bit difficult it to see the bubbles on the photo I took but you can see the amount of bubbles from the foam (or mousse as it’s known in the industry) on the top of each wine. Glasses A and B had foam. Glass C a little and D had nothing at all. I was absolutely stunned to see the results so clearly. I can’t believe the softener had so much effect. But it did. How many people know this?

Glass2 blog

I also discovered that the Prosecco with no bubbles had hardly any aroma which increased in the Proseccos which were bubbling away. On tasting the wine, I found a more intense flavour in the glasses with bubbles compared to a different taste, less rounded in the glasses without so many bubbles. Not only had the softener diminished the bubbles, reduced bubbles means also that the aroma isn’t pushed to the surface. A reduced aroma and lack of bubbles on your tongue also affects the flavour.

So what did this all mean? My wines certainly faired very well at the launch, however with this revelation about the softener, the wines were even better than what my guests experienced! Now I know the right glass and how not to clean them to ruin the wine’s performance. I informed my guests afterwards about the slight problem. And was I embarrassed? Well no. How was I to know? It’s certainly been a great learning experience. I’m sure there are lots of people that know this already, but I’m finding there’s also a lot that don’t including those in the drinks industry and lovers of sparkling wines. After this incident, I was curious how best to clean glasses used for sparkling wine. How am I best to clean my glasses that are now contaminated by softener? Look out for future blogs where I’ll share my discoveries and another ‘learn by your mistakes’ cleaning disaster!

Incidentally, I’ve stopped using softener. Saving money and saving bubbles! I don’t think I really ever needed it. Habit. So why not do the test for yourself. Help to spread the news and save millions of bubbles from being killed!

Shared by Julia Phillips

Director and Founder of Just Perfect Wines

Glass of Bubbly

Executive editor of news content for the website Please enjoy the articles that we share - We hope you find our love for Champagne & Sparkling Wines both interesting and educational.