Thursday, November 15, 2007
Snake Oil or Doltified Palate?
Yesterday I recounted my experience of drinking the Simi 2004 Alexander Cabernet Sauvignon three ways, using an Eisch breathable glass; poured through a Vinturi wine aerator into a regular glass; and plain vanilla in a regular glass. Aside from a relatively brief (initial 15 minutes or so) difference in the aromas from the Eisch, all three seemed the same to me.
As an aside for the benefit of those who aren’t familiar with the Eisch glass or the Vinturi aerator (sorry, I just assumed), both are supposed to do what decanting does for wine, except in much less time. Both products claim to aerate the wine at an accelerated level.
After my experiment, I went to Amazon.com’s listing for the Vinturi and read the five reader reviews of this product, all of which glowingly raved about what a positive difference it had made on their glass of wine. Even Two-Buck Chuck tasted smoother and better, said one reviewer.
That got me to thinking, are my senses really dull, or “doltified” as I wrote yesterday?
Admittedly I have a hard time finding the exact word or term to describe what I am smelling or tasting but I feel I do pretty well knowing if I have smelled or tasted something specific before, and also pretty well being able to tell the difference from one wine to another.
So I was wondering, why do these people find such a noticeable difference and I can’t even find a slight one?
It may have been the wine. The Simi was already pretty smooth and supple, plus it was also pretty simple – what I smelled and tasted at the beginning didn’t seem to change either from rolling around in the mouth a while or with getting more air time. So maybe that was a bad wine to choose for a sample.
But maybe there just isn’t any difference.
Let’s take the Vinturi for example. When you pour the wine through it, it makes a loud gurgling noise that lets you know in no uncertain terms that it is doing its job: thoroughly mixing air with the incoming wine. Theoretically, all this aeration ought to alter the wine, same as giving it a long decanting. I tasted the wine 5 minutes after pulling the cork so there was no previous exposure to air.
But just how much extra air does the wine get from a Vinturi as opposed to being given a vigorous swirl in the glass? And I love to swirl. I guess that’s up to some scientist to measure.
As for the Eisch, while these are nice-looking glasses I am still skeptical of the claim that they are “breathable.” How is that accomplished? Are gas molecules smaller than liquid molecules and, somewhat similar to the claims of the Roach Motel (“roaches check in but they don’t check out”), does the air get in but the liquid doesn’t get out? I don’t see how that would work.
Again, how much difference would being in an Eisch make as opposed to a vigorous swirling in the glass to aerate the wine?
Now perhaps if one used the Vinturi or Eisch and didn’t swirl the wine at all, there might be a difference. But who doesn’t swirl their wine? The only ones who don’t are the ones who wouldn’t buy these products, anyway. Or you could take a Vinturi with you when you go to a restaurant that uses those crummy little wine glasses where they pour the wine to the top and you can’t swirl without it spilling all over the table.
Anyway, to make a long post even longer, I am going to try this in the future when I run across a wine that needs some smoothing out, and see if it makes a difference. Being that I try to open no wine before its time (drinking one wine per week means you have to choose carefully), that would mean I chose the wrong wine and have to do something to rectify my error.
Yesterday I also mentioned the similarity to the controversy that takes place in the audiophile world, where people debate the merits of cables and connectors and power filters, etc. Some say they can hear a significant difference between using a cheap connecting cable (or speaker wire or even power cord) versus an ultra-expensive cable that costs 100x as much or more. I side with those who say it is a bunch of bunk.
Jack left a comment yesterday saying that the $2 cheap cable and the $100 Monster cable are the same thing. Well I wouldn’t go so far as to say they are exactly the same thing materials/look-wise, but sound-wise, I agree. When it comes to stuff like that, I say it is snake oil. The claims they make plus the explanations behind them are laughable.
When it comes to these gadgets and devices for wine, however, I’m still withholding judgment until I can try it out on more samples. I do wonder, however, how the Eisch glass manages to work especially when they are so secretive about their process. At least with Riedel there’s no secret – the shape of the glass is obvious. And for the Vinturi, I still wonder how much more air time the wine gets from this versus from being swirled around like crazy in the glass.
My sister made a comment to me that her office is attempting to go “paperless.” Good thing this blog is paperless because a lot of trees would have had to suffer for all the writing I do!