It all began when Harold McGee received a Wine Wand from a colleague, an intriguing device said “to accelerate the aerating process of wine by replicating the natural frequencies of air and oxygen, and infusing them into the wine.”
The wand is just one of several wine-enhancement devices that claim to age and soften wine in seconds. The Cle du Vin is another curious one. “Clef du Vin, when dipped into a glass of wine, the patented metal alloy on the tip replicates the aging process. It will age the wine one year for each second the alloy is in contact with the wine. Two seconds equals two years from now, three seconds equals three years from now, etc.” says the marketing literature.
To get a definitive opinion on these accessories, McGee invited two good friends, Andrew Waterhouse, professor of wine chemistry at the University of California, Davis, and Darrell Corti, an influential wine retailer from Sacramento, for a tasting experiment.
Mr. Corti concluded that the Cle was just a very expensive version of the copper penny trick.
For Mr. Waterhouse, the elimination of sulfur aromas was all that these accessories had to offer. Copper, silver and gold are all known to react directly with the sulfur compounds found in wine.
“A number of sulfur compounds are present in wine in traces and have an impact on flavor because they're very potent,” he said. “Some are unpleasant and some contribute to a wine's complexity. You can certainly dispose of these in five minutes with a little oxygen and a small area of metal catalyst to speed the reactions up, and change your impression of the wine.”
Now what about corked wines?
Well, Mr. Waterhouse offered a useful tip: simply pour the wine into a bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap.
“It’s kind of messy, but very effective in just a few minutes,” he said. “The culprit molecule in infected corks, 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, is chemically similar to polyethylene and sticks to the plastic.” I can't wait to try it.
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