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Gambling with Technology

This morning, as I was perusing Vinography to catch up on some past articles, I came across a debate as to whether or not the latest in wine technology is either useful or necessary. He refers to the Clef du Vin , a Swiss army knife sized device that can alter the flavor of wine when immersed in a glass of vino, or the invention designed by Hiroshi Tanaka, president of Innovative Design and Technology in Hamamatsu, Japan, that can zap a fermented bottle of wine into a well aged masterpiece. Both devices have their enticing elements in that they have the capacity to use intermingle alchemy with a bit of magic to potentially craft an amazing glass of wine, but what exactly are the repercussions to such a creation.

Being that I am an evolving wine geek, my experience with wine innovation has been relatively limited. Granted I have seen my fair share of technology in my lifetime, ranging from our palm pilot which can also pose as a camera / telephone / PC / word processor to cars that come fully equipped with a cell phone, a forward collision-warning system, a navigation system and an Internet-equipped computer screen, but is this what we want for our future? How far away are willing to walk away from the actual essence of what the basic ingredients are? Is a grape a grape, or is it something that can be altered by a quick “zap” into a 30 year old bottle of Bordeaux?

Here is my conundrum, the beauty of wine is that it is a living breathing entity that was crafted with the tears and sweat of someone who originally loved the simple alchemy of fermentation with time. As we as a culture, a world culture at that, strive to make our lives easier, faster and more convenient, we are losing both the beauty and simplicity of the basics. Food is genetically altered to avoid disease and water depletion, while boosting it full of “socially agreed” nutrients. Bottled water is stripped of all minerals and contaminants, creating an orderless, tasteless and for all it’s well intentioned purposes, pointless substance. While wine has been given every gadget and potion from Clef du Vin to Mega Purple to promise a smooth, complex, flavorful and aromatic bottle of wine.

It’s not that I am against technology, because I’m not. What I am against is the intention behind the technology. The intention is to alter life for ease and convenience so that time is not experienced. It’s the simple arguement between quality and quantity. We are designing inventions to increase quantity with the promise of improving quality.

I am passionate about this topic for one simple reason: my attraction to wine is like sex – it brings you back to the basics. It incorporates all of your senses and demands that you take both the time and energy to appreciate it for what it is. If we continually strive to make life “easier” and “faster” we are losing the skill for patience and appreciation for time. A great bottle of wine, I would like to believe, takes many trials, a lot of mistakes and a lot patience; if we continually fight the time it takes to create a great wine, like we do with everything else in our lives right now, we are giving up on yet another age old craft and trading it for the almighty dollar.

The Iberian Peninsula is a beautiful place to look at time preserved. Granted, they like any other country are striving to keep up with the Jones’, but if you take a moment to read any of our past articules on Bodegas, you might see a trend in our writing: the majority strive to honor time and tradition. Take Bodegas Fernando Remírez de Ganuza, for whom the owner, Fernando Remírez, has taken and rebuilt his entire house out of material native to La Rioja. Every stone was taken from an abandoned or soon to be destroyed house that typically dated back hundreds of years. Can you imagine the time it took to find each of these stones, but this is typical in Spain and Portugal . For them, the phrase “do today what you can put off until tomorrow” is typically changed to “put off tomorrow what you can do today”. I think there is something to be learned here.

I, for one, crave time. I am attracted to knowing that the wine I am drinking could be a crap wine or a sip of heaven, but that is the risk I take. I don’t want the guarantee that no matter when I open a particular wine that it will taste the same every single time. If I wanted that, I have a hundreds of fast food restaurants to choose from anywhere in the world that taste identical. All I ask is for people to think before they create. Invention is amazing and wonderful. I completely celebrate it, but let’s ask ourselves what the tradeoffs are before we launch yet another MagicFlavor Magnetizer-Plug.

Therefore, I want to offer a little challenge for all of us to participate in. Go to your local wineshop that is near and dear to your heart and ask your wine guy / gal which two bottles of Spanish or Portuguese wine they suggest to drink now and lay down for five years. Then, later that evening, sit down, open one of the two bottles, take a few tasting notes, tie the notes with a rubberband to the second bottle and lay the bottle down in your basement / garage / cellar / dog house to age naturally – granted, I am making the enormous assumption that the wine you chose was not manipulated by any technological voodo that was mentioned prior.

Quick aside on my rules regarding tasting notes:

1. I don’t want to hear that you don’t have time to take a tasting note, you are too busy or that you just don’t know how. Follow the age old wisdom of Nike and just do it!
2. I would suggest putting a little hint on the note helping you to remember the wine. Maybe scratching a quick recipe you ate with it or a special occasion like “It was a Monday afternoon in February and I sat watching Bay Watch while drinking a 2004 Priorat! Hooray!”
3. Maybe put a good note and a bad note with it to jog your memory as well like, “Fantastic finish but lacked in body”.

Finally, write us. Let us know how the first bottle went and why you have chosen to lay down the second bottle until whatever given date you have chosen. My hope is that you will celebrate time with us, recognizing how unique and different each moment is from the next. Neither your palate nor your nose evolved into the work of art they are now overnight as they distinguish scents of leather from aromas of cherry; hence, our expections from our wine should be equal. Let’s all celebrate a bit of patience.

Gabriella Opaz

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