Clef du Vin: Best Wine Gadget Ever, Or Just Another Expensive One?

The Clef du Vin purportedly allows a collector to identify when his or her wines will be at their prime by mimicking the aging process.  For each second the copper-looking alloy is submerged in the wine, the wine supposedly “ages” one year.  If true, this has got to be the best gadget ever invented!!  Imagine taking the guesswork out of when to drink your precious bottles, and even out of which bottles to buy for the collection.  Imagine being able to buy only cheap, young wine and having it taste like pricy, aged collectors’ items in a matter of seconds.
I read a number of online reviews of the product and watched Gary Vaynerchuk’s show testing it on high-end, age-worthy wines (at: http://tv.winelibrary.com/2007/07/12/clef-du-vin-goes-up-against-chateau-montelena-and-more-episode-274/?cp=7 ) before deciding to give the clef a shot myself. Gary tried the tool on two pricy, age-worthy wines that were themselves already very drinkable, and found that the clef mellowed them out in ways that didn’t necessarily improve their character.  He also clef-d a glass of cheap white zinfandel for the equivalent of several decades of aging, and found that the wine remained drinkable.

This suggested to me that the clef is best utilized not as a tool for prescient assessment of wine’s aging potential, but rather to mellow less-than-ideal wines into an improved state of tastiness.  My experiments bore this out.  Young reds, with lots of tart red fruit flavors and acid in their current form, mellowed significantly after about five seconds’ worth of clef.  The wine became more harmonious and integrated, much like a wine does when aged.  With aggressively tannic wines, the clef also proved a helpful tippling tool.  The tannins were tempered and loosened their grip–again, like aging would have accomplished.

However, the clef seemed not to discriminate between the positive and the negative characteristics of wine.  It smoothed away any pronounced characteristics, including pronounced spice, earthiness, and delicious fresh fruit intensity.  For some wines, this made them more drinkable.   For others (particularly the more expensive, highly-extracted wines), it made them forgettable.  The clef also didn’t really help any of the wine’s existing characteristics evolve or develop in that unique way that aging does.

In my opinion, this gadget definitely has considerable value in everyday drinking (particularly if you find yourself with a glass of cheap, imbalanced house red), but it doesn’t give you the peek into the future that we’d all love to have.  Because, well, it is just a piece of metal.
Clef du Vin

Approximately $80-100, available from wineenthusiast.com. amazon.com, and numerous other wine shops.

via / discover.winecountry.com

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