Does Champagne Get You Drunk Faster?

Spring racing carnival is in full swing, and that means Aussies are drinking massive amounts of champagne (or sparkling wine, if we want to not offend the French). For Melbourne Cup alone, an estimated 10,000 bottles will be consumed trackside. But is it true that the bubbles get you drunk quicker? And conversely, is it true that the hangover from champagne is less pronounced than with other beverages?

Picture by Jameson Fink

Sadly, the answer is "yes" to the first one and "no" to the second. It's long been believed that the bubbles in champagne mean that it hits your bloodstream more quickly. We don't know definitively if that's the case, but experiments in which one group of drinkers consumed flat champagne while the other consumed the full-bubbled version showed that those who drank bubbly had a higher blood-alcohol level. With that said, even those drinking the flat version had higher levels. So while you might act stupidly more quickly with champagne, you'll probably still be unsafe to drive after a couple of glasses of white wine.

The question of whether champagne gives you less of a hangover is more problematic. It has been variously claimed that the drink is more "pure" than other beverages or that the bubbles speed it through your system faster. For some individuals, champagne may be more pleasant, but I'm not aware of any proper scientific research that backs up the notion that champagne has less impact. As our comprehensive guide to hangover cures points out, your state the next day has far more to do with careful planning (eating enough, drinking water between drinks, that kind of tedious fun-crushing stuff) than with your chosen tipple.

Finally, if you do have a glass or two of champagne this racing season, remember to pour it like beer to avoid waste.


Comments

    I'm surprised you didn't actually mention the real reason champagne gets you drunk so quickly. It’s pretty obvious really, it’s significantly more alcoholic than white wine! And you typically drink it at the same speed, or even quicker.

    Also, while pouring champagne like beer might help you keep the bubbles for longer, it is NOT a good idea, especially if you have spent money on the posh stuff. The frothy head on the first pour of a glass of champagne dramatically increases the surface area of wine in contact with the air. All wine needs to breathe before the flavors open up, champagne is no different.

      Your argument re air: doesn't make sense to me. If you've poured sideways, a much greater area is exposed to air than if it's just the top of the glass.

        If you were talking about flat wine, sure a glass tilted would have more surface area than a glass standing straight. But the point is you get less frothing. The frothing increases the contact of the wine with the air dramatically; it’s orders of magnitude greater than the flat surface.

        It’s like the human lungs. They are small enough to fit in your chest, but the surface area in contact with air is equivalent to a flat surface the size of a tennis court.

      Champagne doesn't have a greater alcoholic strength than white wine. Where do you get that from?
      It's actually lower, if you are speaking about Champagne (french) it very rarely go over 12%, the Aussie stuff can go up to 13% in some rare occasion.
      That's the point of sparkling wine, you don't want to taste the alcohol. Some Aussie chardonnay go up to 14.5%.
      You are totally right about not tilting the glass, it help realise the aromatics of the wine.

    I vaguely remember at college the lecturer telling us this story - that the bubbles in champagne "tickle" the pyloric sphincter (the exit from the stomach into the intestines) and cause it to open. This means champagne gets into the bloodstream faster. Conversely spirits irritate the pyloric sphincter and cause it to remain closed for longer - which means that it takes longer to get drunk on spirits and so harder to gauge how inebriated you are.

      We must have been in the same lecture! I have heard the same story - and apparently this can also account for why having a glass of champagne after several previous drinks can put you on your ear rather quickly...all those drinks suddenly hit your small intestine, where where the alcohol hits your blood stream.

      Sounds fair to me.

      That might explain why I can drink beer or champagne for a few hours before I've had enough, but I can drink bourbon & coke all night!

    "But is it true that the bubbles get you drink quicker?"

    Had a few yourself today then? :)

    The "comprehensive guide to hangover cures" link actually points to the "pour champagne like beer" article.

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