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03.14.2006

Keeping The Wine Cool and Shippers Honest

As many of you know, importer Kermit Lynch is one of my heroes. Mostly because he's a wonderful writer and a discoverer of excellent small production wines from France. That alone would be enough to win my admiration. However, he has furthermore won a special place in my heart and in many others' for his tireless use of and evangelization for refrigerated shipping of wine. Lynch has long maintained that shipping across the ocean or across the country exposes wines to fluctuations in temperature that significantly affect its quality.

Unfortunately, despite blatantly obvious proof that he is right, much of the wine distribution world continues to ship their wine however they darn well please, buyer beware.

Sake is just as heat sensitive as wine (some say more so) and now thanks to the techno-magic of RFID tags, sake manufacturers have come up with a fail-safe way of ensuring their sake stays cool.

Leave it to the Japanese and their insistence on freshness to come to the rescue. In conjunction with technology giant NTT, a group of companies has developed a system utilizing RFID tags, Bluetooth, and 3G networks to provide the ultimate in temperature monitoring for bottles of sake on their way to retailers. It's a very interesting system with many features which you can read about if you care to, but the upshot is that every bottle arrives at the store with the complete history of temperature changes stored on the RFID chip on the bottle. One swipe through a reader-device and you can tell whether your bottle has been cool as a cucumber or cooked like a chicken.

If it works for sake, it will work for wine. It's only a matter of time. I plan on speeding things along by asking about it every time I buy a bottle. People like me will eventually get annoying enough, and costs will eventually get low enough that the ROI will be clear, and Kermit Lynch can finally say "I told you so."

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.