Thursday 4 December 2014

Sonic Decanter; Lidl Rioja

So there are times when I wonder if this isn't the moment to start up a Sediment test lab, to catalogue the various ways in which the wine drinker can improve his or her experience of the drink without spending any long-term real money or having to buy any big-ticket wines

I mean, so far, and quite without any proper co-ordination, PK and I have played around with a mug, a pichet, a Riedel Tasting Glass, a wine aerator, a Duralex tumbler, plus some variations on the DIY angle, just to see what easy, low-rent, low-cost, ameliorations can be achieved in the wine/drinker interface. At least two (Duralex tumber; Riedel Tasting Glass) have turned out to be more or less guaranteed to lift the experience of drinking - one by wrapping it in a psychologically benevolent envelope; the other, apparently, by messing with the physiology of consumption, although anyone who spends £25 on a wine glass is going to have to justify that little indulgence any way they can, physiology or not, and I remain unconvinced, but that's by the by. Anyhow, every encounter with wine is mutable: the wine itself being nothing less than an opportunity to deal in sensations.

To prove the point, it turns out that scientists have properly stormed the winerack, with the creation of the SonicDecanter - a miraculous device from, obviously, the United States, which treats wine as merely the first term in a narrative, using ultrasound to Make every wine better.

How does it work? We know this much:

- It uses patented technology
- Ultrasonic energy transforms the molecular and chemical structure of wine
- It softens tannins, esters and polyphenols
- You have to put a bit of water in the base to get it to work, stick an unopended bottle of wine in, then press a white button for whites and a red for reds
- No decanting, no aerating. It takes twenty minutes to soften up a red
- You can control it from your smartphone
- Gizmodo reviewed it, declaring that I Zapped My Wine With an Ultrasonic Decanter and It Tasted Pretty Good; while hollered Great Results in Wine Tasting and a lot of other fabulous things
- The inventors went to Kickstarter to get enough funds to start production, and in no time had hit their target of $85,000. Last time I looked, they were heading for $140,000. There is clearly a need for this device

It seems that the vast majority of wine bought in The States costs $10 a bottle or less - pretty close to the £6 watershed we observe over here. Anything, therefore, which can make $10 wine taste like $20 is evidently going to be up there with remote car unlockers and disposable razors in terms of sheer utility. Projected UK price for the Sonic Decanter is around £150, which means it will have to double the perceived value of about 25 bottles of £6 wine before it pays for itself. Which is nothing. Why, only the other day, I bought a couple of bottles of Lidl Rioja at £3.99, both of which could have done with a good two hours in the Decanter, given that my red-eyed tasting notes reveal massive tannins, road re-surfacing, some flypaper, vanilla and crisps finish before concluding on a dying fall of alcohol haze like standing under a flightpath. Of course, at £3.99 a go, I'd have to buy 37.5 bottles before the Sonic Decanter cleared its inital costs, so there may be a law of inverse pleasurability in operation, but I think we can afford to be pragmatic.

The question then becomes philosophical, rather than economic or purely technological. How much does it matter that my £12-tasting bottle was only made with the care and attention of a £6 bottle? If breaking out the Sonic Decanter is the wine equivalent of using studio magic to make a terrible singer sound like Etta James, is it fundamentally an imposture? Is it a typically American reduction of distinctive craft skills to an approximated universality, which, in time, will leave us all drinking indivisibly okay reds and whites whether we want to or not? Do we take an objective or subjective view? And what would I have to do to get my hands on a pre-production model? I have no laboratory; but I do have a very old raincoat which, if you half close your eyes, looks a bit like a lab coat. I mean, it's a very light mac.



  1. Drinking different coloured wines or beers
    (Chug-a-lug chug-a-lug)
    Just quite frankly leaves me bored to (tears for souvenirs)
    And quite apart from what one hears,
    I've been like this for years and years....

  2. I hate each Julie Andrews film they've made (da ding da da dong)
    I'm just a nasty narrow-minded jade...


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