The task has been undertaken before, but I wanted to find out for myself: Will a silver spoon in an open bottle of bubbly keep it bubbly?
Drawing on my memory of middle school science projects, I designed the perfect experiment, then invited several participants (a.k.a. people I wanted to hang out and drink wine with). This was a lot more fun than my projects in seventh grade, and I didn't even have to make a poster to share our findings! Several bottles (and spoons) later, here's what we discovered about this old trick. It may shock you.
I used the scientific method. I really hope Ms. Starr, my middle school science teacher, does not see this post, because she was a great teacher, and I'm sure I've forgotten a lot of things we learned.
Question: Will a stainless steel or silver spoon dropped into an open bottle of sparkling wine help maintain effervescence?
Research: I Googled the question extensively, and got conflicting answers. This was no different from seventh grade, except I didn't have the internet back then, just a bunch of encyclopedias and the library.
My Biases: I wanted the silver spoon to win, because there is something lovely and chic about a sterling silver ice tea spoon dangling in a bottle of bubbly.
The day before, I bought three bottles of St. Hilaire Brut at my local Whole Foods. It is not Champagne, but is said to have been the first sparkling wine created in France. It's good, but not terribly expensive, so it suited my purposes well. I threw in a few more bottles, because Whole Foods offers a discount on six or more bottles.
The night before, I opened three of the bottles, dropping a silver spoon in one, handle-down. I put a stainless steel spoon in the second bottle and nothing in the third.
The fourth bottle remained closed, which made it my control. At least, I think it made it the control, but I was never very good at science fair projects.
The next day, I asked some of my most discerning friends to come over. In other words, I texted some people whose company I enjoy and kept my fingers crossed. I also promised them free wine.
Before they arrived, I lined up 24 Champagne glasses, marking six each with a pink, green or orange sticker. Six glasses had no sticker, because the pack of stickers only came with three colors. I marked three of the bottles with a sticker and left one blank. I wrote down which sticker corresponded with each bottle, then hid the paper. I promptly forgot which was which, making me an appropriately blind participant in the study.
My friend Sidney, the first to arrive, brought lots of food to add to my stash. She included sour gummy straws, a nice contrast to the cured meats and cheeses. We decided this would qualify as dinner. We also had strawberries and assorted crackers.
Soon Heather, Elizabeth, Sarah and Whitney arrived, ready to participate in the study. No drinking allowed until everyone was there! We gathered around the table, pouring from the four bottles into corresponding glasses. And we sipped. And sipped some more, pouring more wine as needed to compare two bottles.
Each participant rated the wines from one to four, four being the most bubbly, one being the least. Some of us (okay, me) were a little smug, just sure we would prove the hypothesis. Um, no. In the end, we tallied the scores, adding the total scores for each bottle to get a result.
The Stunning Conclusion
Either we are not so discerning, or the trick doesn't work, at least according to these scores:
- Open bottle with no spoon: 17 points, the highest score, which means we thought it was the most bubbly.
- Bottle with silver spoon and newly opened bottle: 15 points, tied for second place.
- Bottle with stainless steel spoon: 13 points, last place.
I can't call it, but I do know Sidney will always be referred to as "The Princess and the Pea," due to getting them all "right." Elizabeth was a close second. The rest of us tried to explain that they hadn't won, because it wasn't a competition. It was an experiment! And the data they provided was no more or less valid than anyone else's!
They continued to gloat as we drank the rest of the wine, ate all the food, and had a generally lovely evening.
The scores given by the ladies who "got it right" were not enough to counteract the scores given by the ignoramuses. One participant, a fellow ignoramus, declared the result a total win.
"I've been dumping bottles the next day when I forgot to re-cork them. Now I know I don't care, so I don't need to waste wine. This is great news!"
We all agreed that we should try the experiment again, perhaps with a wine with bigger bubbles, so the scoring would be easier. Or we could just get a few bottles of wine and a bunch of snack food and hang out around the dining room table. Tracie, who arrived too late to participate in the experiment, nonetheless contributed to the conversation, which was far more interesting than the proceedings.
So...in conclusion, my friends are lovely, a spoon in a bottle of bubbly probably doesn't make much of a difference, and we really need to do this more often.
Have you ever tried the silver spoon trick? Have you, as I have, forgotten to put anything in the bottle, poured yourself a glass the next night and thought to yourself, "This is just fine?"
(Image credits: Faith Durand; Anne Postic)