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The Key of The Wine: Crackpot Xmas Gift?

I promise, promise, promise, not to put together a Vinography holiday gift guide. There are lots of other places you can go to be told that every wine lover will enjoy the Rabbit corkscrew. It's all a load of junk. Just buy better wine.

However, I couldn't pass up this little gadget (thanks to Jennifer Rosen for the tip) especially given the conversation last week about aging and cellaring wine.

It seems that someone or rather two someones in France, "Laurent Zanon, chemist and oenologist, professor of chemistry and biology, in collaboration with a wine waiter, Franck Thomas, Working Meilleur of France, Meilleur Wine waiter of France and Europe (2000), candidate of France in next Championnat of the World in Greece (which is held every 4 years)," have come up with a gadget that will instantly tell you the aging potential of any wine.

I kid you not. That's what they say. Apparently (as far as I could tell through my Google translated version of the page from the original French) you simply put this thingy in your glass of wine for a few seconds and then taste the wine. If the wine tastes nasty after just one or two seconds of this little metal thingy in it, then your wine won't age. If however it still tastes good after many seconds of exposure, then your wine will age well. Apparently it's made from a weird set of alloys that cause the chemicals in wine to oxidize in similar ways that they do when aging.

Sound totally nutzo? It does to me. Maybe our friends Bertrand or Pim can take a look at the page and dig a little bit up about this Zanon character. He's got the perfect name for a mad scientist.

The darn thing costs 89 Euros, which ain't cheap for a piddly little stick of metal to dangle in your vino (thereby ruining a perfectly good glass of wine) but I'm still curious as all hell.

Hey all you European readers, go out and buy one and tell me what you think! I'll publish your results here.

Here's the page in the original French.

Here's the translated version via Google.

Comments (7)

Jack in Santa Rosa wrote:
11.29.04 at 10:16 PM

Hey, the Clef du Vin is $99.95 in the latest Wine Enthusiast "Holiday 2004" catalog. Sure sounds difficult to use! (1 second is HOW LONG exactly...don't spill the wine whilest trying this at home.)

HugeJ wrote:
11.30.04 at 8:24 AM

You know, I saw that thing a few weeks ago and was going to post about it, but then decided it was too silly (even for me). Glad you took up the slack... ;)

JP wrote:
12.09.04 at 2:06 AM


Here is their officila website:


Dave Qua wrote:
05.30.05 at 5:28 AM

Don't knock it until you've tried it (unless you are talking about incest or folk dancing)
I recently bought one of these clef du vin as it was on a 30 day money back offer so I didn't have anything to lose.
When it arrived I went out and bought the cheapest, most unpleasant bottle of cabernet sauvignon I could find.
A quick tasting when I got it home confirmed it's value as a paint stripper.
After a bit of experimentation with various dipping times with the key I found that an 8 secs dip seemed to work best with this wine. It didn't change it into a good wine but it certainly changed it to a drinkable one.
Since then I have tried the key on a range of better wines (red, white and sparkling) and nine times out of ten there has been a noticable improvement in the wine when the key has been used for times varying from 3-5 secs. Note that the effect of using the key is cumulative. I tend to dip for one sec, taste, dip for another second, taste etc until I get to what is best for me. I have tried leaving the key in for an extended period of time (15+ secs) - the wine was undrinkable
Using the key certainly seems to soften the wine and eliminate some of the harsher acidic notes present in younger wines
The result is that I am now sold on the key and have no intention of sending it back for a refund

Alder wrote:
05.31.05 at 7:40 PM


Interesting to hear your report. My intuition balks at the results you report, especially the degree to which a lousy wine was turned drinkable using this device, but who am I to judge? As you say, I can't knock it until I try it. Now if I could only convince them to send me one for free so I could test it.


Mike wrote:
12.06.05 at 3:22 PM

Sitting around a table in Milano restaraunts this week, every person (10) that tried the key recognized a beneficial change in taste.
Some theorized that after a time, the wine went back to its original state.

It's a keeper.

Lucy wrote:
01.13.06 at 5:00 AM

I think that you have all missed the point of this key! It is not to turn a bad wine into a good one - it is to tell you whether it is a wine to buy to keep in your cellar and whether it will age well! See below:

Attention! : The Clef du Vin does not turn a bad wine into a good one. It isn’t magic! A poor quality wine, or one without any ageing potential, will be quickly and completely spoiled by the Clef du Vin (generally 2 seconds of contact is sufficient).

To recap, Clef du Vin allows you to

Fully appreciate a good young wine or even a wine that is much too young, without having to wait, as we tend today to drink wines younger and younger.
Determine the best possible moment to appreciate a wine.
Feel reassured when buying your wine, and avoid buying wine with no aging potential, and identifiy wines with high potential, which are not necessarily the most expensive

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