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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.


Comments (10)

TexaCali Ali wrote:
03.14.07 at 8:42 AM

Alder - I'm testing the BevWizard next week with a group of wine industry folks in Austin, Texas. Will send our results to you shortly there after.

Interesting post today!


03.14.07 at 12:05 PM

Yes, the BevWizard works. Patrick Comiskey wrote a thorough article in the Los Angeles Times last June. And, yes, we contacted the "gentleman" offering the million bucks, which is just a scam. No money was forthcoming. I offered to travel to demonstrate the product and realized that the million dollar offer was a lie. I'm happy to send you the LA Times article for posting.
Patrick Farrell, MW
BevWizar/Inventive Technologies, Inc.

Patrick Farrell, MW wrote:
03.14.07 at 12:07 PM

Here's last June's Los Angeles Times article.

Note that it is in archive form now, which means you need to pay to read it.

Alder wrote:
03.14.07 at 12:21 PM

Mr. Farrell,

With all due respect to you and Mr. Comisky:

1. The "test" that was performed as part of the LA Times article was far from scientific and does not offer "proof" that your device works, OR does what you claim it does. I look forward to the results of Mr. Cluer's tests which I understand are a combination of double blind format and quantitative chemical analysis, but until then I maintain my skepticism.

2. The definition of a scam is a ploy to cheat people out of money. How is it that the JREF is trying to steal your money?

You're a businessman trying to sell a product. Good for you. That's what America is great for. But you cannot expect people to take your claims at face value, especially when they fly in the face of modern science.

Alessandra Lagouine wrote:
03.14.07 at 3:25 PM

I have seen the MagicFlavor Magnetizer-plug at Good Vibrations in San Francisco!

Jack wrote:
03.14.07 at 4:44 PM

Unless these magnets come from a Grand Cru mine deep in the Alps or Rocky Mtns and were processed biodynamically, I'm not interested!

Jerry D. Murray wrote:
03.14.07 at 6:58 PM

I find it strange that a MW comes up with a gadget to sell to wine to consumers that makes wine taste better but as of yet I have not seen or heard of a single winery employing such technology. Are we to believe that it only works after being bottled? Are we to believe that wineries are not interested in increasing quality and are willing to pay big bucks to do so? As we speak I am scouring classified ads looking for old MRI machines so I can get an industrial strength magnet for the purposes of 'improving' wine quality. Or maybe I will just stick to what I KNOW works, sound viticulture and attentive winemaking. Can we leave the gimmicks and gadgets to people who watch late night TV and really believe you can get a great hair cut with a blow dryer or good a juicy chicken in 4 minutes?

Arthur wrote:
03.14.07 at 8:18 PM

How many Tesla does this gadget put out?....
Does this mean I should not store my wines in the earth's magnetic field?..
I'm going to cash in on this and develop Faraday cages you can easily assemble at home and keep your wines in... oy....

03.18.07 at 10:51 AM

Decades ago, the inventor of the liquid crystal for IBM, Marcel Vogel, had some very sophisticated equipment where he passed low-quality wine through a magnetic coil, with quartz crystals too (of course). The wine tasted a bit better, maybe it was just the swirling and aeration.

This also reminds me of an experiment done at Kenwood years ago, where wine as placed in a pyramid to see how it affected aging. It came out tasting burnt and my microscopic sleuthing showed hidden signs of death.

Part of the wonder of wine is its ever-changing life. Why do we think we need to hurray that along? Guess its like botox, changing what is for something supposedly better.

Looking forward to the results.

Alder wrote:
03.18.07 at 4:31 PM


I've seen a lot of these devices, nearly all of which contain some level of aeration mechanism, and I'm definitely of the mind that a lot of the perceived "effects" of these devices comes from the aeration rather than whatever gizmo they have going on.

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