Monday, March 12, 2007

Magnetic Millions

It was probably the strangest tasting Frank and I have ever attended. A room full of 50 wine aficionados, each one of us given ten wines, pen and paper, and crackers to cleanse the palate. Sounds normal enough. Then James Cluer gave us the tasting rules of the experiment that would form the basis of his Masters of Wine dissertation.

We had five minutes per pair to compare the ten wines in front of us. Are they the same wine? If so, stop here and relax while you watch the rest of the participants swirl, sniff, and consider. If not, the anticipated series of questions to answer. Not everyone has the same wines in front of them so even if I think my “C” and “D” wines are the same, Frank’s might not be. Spitting required – no swallowing allowed.

But here’s the real kicker – no speaking. Yikes. These folks are asking me to sip wine for half an hour and not talk about it? Somehow it just feels sacrilegious not discussing a good wine – or any wine for that matter. I confess that in my mind I named the brightly smiling, impeccably dressed women who wandered the aisles keeping a watchful eye on us tasters the “Spit Don’t Speak Brigade.”

Still, the event was fascinating and a whole lot of fun. And after we were done, we all made up for the half hour of non-talking. Theories ranged from “can someone with WSET training tell the difference in wines better than someone with no training” to “how much difference does it actually make in the taste of a wine if the vines are from one side of a vineyard as opposed to the other?” Someone even suggested all the pairs were, in fact, identical, and the study was simply to see how much the mere suggestion they might be different affected people’s response – do I smell an advertising ploy here?

Okay, so remember the “truth is stranger than fiction” cliché your mom always talked about? This evening proves mom was right. It was actually all about magnets. And if James has succeeded in proving magnets can affect the taste of wine for the better, he’s not only earned himself the coveted Masters of Wine certification, but he’s won a cool $1 million as well.

James was testing the controversial theory that by passing wine through a high-intensity magnetic field the small, hard tannins combine into larger, softer ones. The result is a smoother, softer beverage with more flavour, less bitterness, and a longer finish. And if it’s true, you too can achieve this remarkable transformation by adding a BevWizard to your accessories list.

BevWizard is a magnetic wine pourer marketed by Dr Pat Farrell, a medical doctor and himself a Master of Wine. According to Decanter, “US skeptic James Randi, whose Florida-based educational foundation is committed to providing reliable information about paranormal claims, is doubtful enough to offer a large cash prize to anyone who can prove the claims.” Yup, I'd say a million bucks would be classified as a large cash prize.

And here’s some more food for thought. Summerhill Winery in Kelowna has built an entire brand on what they say are the benefits of aging wines in a pyramid – better energy, better taste. “There is a definite and profound effect on liquids placed in sacred geometry,” says their website. Well, who’s to argue with the Egyptians anyway.

Did James do it? Are magnets about to change the way we enjoy wine? No one knows the final results of his study yet, but it seemed absolutely fitting it was on the day before Frank’s advanced level WSET exam we finally learned why we were sipping in silence back in January. Besides, think of all the at home research we could now do for ourselves. Ahhh, scientific method at it finest. In fact, I hear a bottle of Aramone calling right now.

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