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Waiter, I'd Like a Glass of Merlot and a Magnet

Even when modern science and technology have proven its futility, alchemy still lives in the human heart. The perennial search to transform lead to gold is no doubt still underway in some places around the world, but the materials involved are less important than the hope itself: the peculiar human desire to apply a small bit of technology (or magic) to something common and yield something rich. We seem to always want to get something for nothing.

And why should the wine world be any different? Over the past three years (as long as I've been seriously paying attention to every piece of news about wine that I can find) I have seen an endless parade of gadgets that purport to make any wine better. Some are focused, in true alchemical fashion at making bad wine good, while others more modestly claim to make good wine great.

Did you miss them? Feast yourself on the wonders of the Clef du Vin, the Perfect Sommelier, the Shooter Buddy, the BevWizard, the Wine Clip, the MagicFlavor Magnetizer-Plug, or the unnamed but very scary sounding new Japanese device.

If that doesn't convince you to order a magnet along with the next cheap glass of wine you get in that third-rate hotel bar, I don't know what will.

Clearly, there are a whole set of folks out there who are convinced that magnets will turn bad wine to good. There's even a kid who might be able to do it without magnets.

But let's stick with the magnets now, shall we? This has clearly gotten out of control. So out of control, in fact that one of the best myth busters around has offered a $1 Million Dollar prize to anyone who can scientifically prove that these devices actually improve wine.

None of the inventors of any of these devices have stepped forward, as you might imagine. However, one enterprising young sommelier who is studying for his Master of Wine degree might do so shortly.

Apparently in the service of skeptics and wine lovers alike, for his MW thesis, James Cluer is rigorously testing the BevWizard product to see if it actually works. One of the ways he is doing this involves sitting down with groups of qualified wine tasters to taste "modified" wines in a double-blind test. And wouldn't you just know it, but one of my fellow wine bloggers actually participated. Susan and Frank, who run Blanc de Noir, got a chance to participate in what was, at the time, a fairly mysterious wine tasting event a while back.

It won't be long before Susan and Frank, along with the rest of the world will find out whether these inventors are all whackos, or whether folks like me are just cynical, hyper-rational, slaves to science-think that have to step up and eat crow. Or drink magnetized wine, as the case may be.


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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.