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Many people ask why one glass of champagne can make them feel tipsy and lightheaded — somehow the first glass goes straight to your head in a way wine never does. I set out to find proof or debunk the myth and found bubbles really do get you cheery more quickly.

Researchers at the University of Surrey in Guildford, England, invited volunteers to participate in the task of mingling at a drinks party. The first week, half were given fizzy champagne, while the others got a “defizzed” wine. The next week they rotated. Each volunteer drank two glasses of bubbly per session, with the amount adjusted so everyone drank the same amount of alcohol per body mass. Next they measured blood alcohol levels and found they were increased in the volunteers drinking the fizzy. Their blood alcohol levels were measured at five-minute intervals. Fizzy champagne produced significantly higher levels of alcohol in the blood during the first 20 minutes than the flat champagne.

According to the research, in the first five minutes, they hit 0.54 milligram of alcohol per milliliters of blood compared to just 0.39 in the flat volunteers. The study showed champagne does affect your body more quickly but they also wanted to investigate if it had different effects. They tested reaction times, divided attention, vigilance and memory. The results showed neither had an effect on memory but both impaired reaction time. It was the complex tasks showing the most astounding results. The fizzy drinkers were much slower to react to stimuli and found it harder to identify series of odd and even numbers in the task.

The larger mystery is why bubbles make such a difference. Fran Ridout, whose team in human psychopharmacology conducted the research, has a theory that the alcohol must be absorbed more quickly from the digestive system, perhaps because the carbon dioxide bubbles speed the flow of alcohol from the stomach to the intestine.

So, the best advice is to sip your bubbly slowly and enjoy. Champagne anyone?


  • NV Seaview, Australia (about $13 retail)
  • NV Domaine Ste Michelle, Washington (about $18 retail)


  • NV Jean Laurent Blanc de Blanc Champagne, France (about $55 retail)
  • NV Pommery Champagne, France (about $49 retail)