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Vino Magnetism
by Tina Caputo
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 3.4
Until recently, I thought magnets were merely things you put on the refrigerator to hold postcards and grocery lists up. That is, until a friend set me straight at dinner one night. We were talking about various methods of aging wine, when he casually mentioned that putting a ring of magnets around a wine bottle will give the vino inside a more mature flavor. That's when I gave him my best Gary Coleman look and politely inquired, "Whatyoutalkin'bout, Willis?"

Turns out, this man has been into magnets for years. He wears them inside his shirt daily, straps them to his water pipes and sleeps on a magnetized mattress. Although he'd heard that magnets would also work on wine, he hadn't yet tested the theory.

Being impatient by nature, I was willing to give this new-agey magnet thing a try if it meant that I could drink my young, tannic reds NOW instead of waiting five to 10 years for them to mellow out. Surely using a few innocent magnets on a couple of wine bottles wouldn't mean I'd have to start listening to Yanni and going to crystal fairs on the weekends. Would it? After a few moments of hesitation, I decided to take the risk and find out more about magnets.

Getting information turned out to be easier than I thought. A couple of quick web surfing sessions revealed that my friend was not alone in his love of magnets. All sorts of companies are selling them for medical use, water softening and yes, even wine aging! Soon, two magnetic wine-enhancing contraptions were headed for my mailbox: the Magne'fique Flav-O-Ring and the Vintage Enhancer.

But would they actually work?

THE MAGNE'FIQUE FLAV-O-RING

Manufactured by the Magnetizer Group, the Magne'fique Flav-O-Ring looks like a bright red magnetic donut with a handle for easy pouring. The hole's there so you can put it over the neck of a bottle or pour the wine through it when the Flav-O-Ring is sitting on top of a glass. (That's how the wine gets magnetized.)

According to its instruction booklet, the Flav-O-Ring works on wine (preferably cheap), Champagne, beer, coffee and iced tea. It has the miraculous ability to decrease the size of Champagne bubbles, make inexpensive wine taste better, prevent scaling in coffee machines, add sparkle to juices, increase the head on beer and take the tartness out of iced tea. As if all this weren't enough, the Flav-O-Ring is also said to give you softer, silkier hair when kept over the shower head and energize drinking water for better overall health.

I couldn't wait to try the Flav-O-Ring out for myself! To make the scientific experiment more authentic, I picked up a couple bottles of cheap-o wine (less than six bucks a bottle, baby!) and invited a few skeptical friends over to lend their palates.

Guess what? The Flav-O-Ring actually worked! After pouring a 1997 California sauvignon blanc through the Flav-O-Ring, all tasters agreed it tasted softer, fruitier - and definitely better! The nonvintage California cabernet we tested gained a tangy bite after being poured through the "tangy" side of the magnet; it also became smoother, softer and tastier when poured through the "smooth and sweet" side.

The Flav-O-Ring sells for $35. For ordering info, check out the Magnetizer website at: http://www.magnetizer.com/flavor.htm.

THE VINTAGE ENHANCER

The Vintage Enhancer is slightly more high-tech than the Flav-O-Ring. Created by the Bond/Helman company, this patented device looks like a space-age wine chiller -- shiny and cylindrical, with an electrical adapter.

Just stick a corked bottle into the cylinder, plug the contraption in and wait 15 to 40 minutes (depending on the type of beverage) for it to work its magic. After 15 minutes of rest, the contents are "aged" and ready to drink.

Bond/Helman explains the process in terms of biochemistry. For wine, acid strengths are expressed by the pH scale; the lower the pH (which measures the negative charge of a liquid), the more acidic the wine. The Vintage Enhancer pelts the wine with electromagnetic waves, stripping it of negative ions, raising its pH level and changing its biochemistry as if the wine's been aged. In basic terms, it helps balance the fruit-to-acid ratio by reducing the acid level.

According to the booklet, the Vintage Enhancer makes wine and spirits taste five to 10 years smoother, softer and more mature. It'll also improve the taste of acidic juices.

This time, our experiment was conducted on a 1996 Bordeaux; huge, tannic and in dire need of aging. Once the bottle was inserted and the Vintage Enhancer plugged in, a little green light began to flash on the side of the unit. That was it: no sounds or vibrations, no Jeopardy theme music - just that subtle blinking light. The only way to know for sure if the thing was working was to wait the requisite 40 mintues, then the additional 15, and then taste.

To our utter surprise, the enhanced wine was softer - and tasted much better -- than the unmagnetized wine we'd poured earlier. Another success!

The Vintage Enhancer is sold exclusively through the Sharper Image Catalog for $50. For more information, check out the Bond/Helman website at http://www.helmangroup.com.

So I guess we've all learned an important lesson here today: just because something sounds new-agey, it doesn't mean it sucks. I, for one, have been converted into a magnet-power Believer! Now where'd I leave that Yanni CD?

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