The Latest In Wine Magic
Can ultrasonic energy transform the molecular and chemical structure of wine, resulting in a “better” product? If you ask Michael Coyne and Charles Leonhardt, they will tell you YES. They have invented a product called the “Sonic Decanter”, and it is the latest claim of a technology that can have a “measurable” effect on your imbibing experience.
However, their product is not quite ready for the market, so like any enterprising folks these days, they initiated a Kickstarter campaign to raise some desperately needed funds. The campaign ended on November 24th, and they exceeded their goals by raising a whopping $139,412.00. So in the near future, we can all purchase a “Sonic Decanter” for about $200, and enjoy a wine that is measurably superior to untreated wine, right?
But hold your corkscrews, and before you open your wallets, we need to take a closer look at the claims.
Taken directly from their Kickstarter page:
Sonic Decanter® was developed with patented technology that defines the use of ultrasonic energy to transform the molecular and chemical structure of wine. This change, which is permanent and measurable, is effective on any and all wine products, excluding Sparkling Wines that contain CO2. The wine can also be treated by the Sonic Decanter® with the cork or closure left intact, generating the same results.
Ultrasound energy (a.k.a. ultrasound) is a type of mechanical energy (sound) characterized by vibrating or moving particles within a medium at a frequency of 20,000 hertz or greater – beyond the natural human ability to hear. When applied to a liquid medium, such as wine, it influences the molecules of the wine due to the compression and rarefaction phases of the sound waves. Simply put, the wine molecules get bounced around and as a result, it releases some energy in the form of heat. The wine warms up. So yes, there is a “permanent and measurable” effect.
But in the very next sentence, a rather subjective claim is offered:
Additionally the Sonic Decanter® can “reinvigorate” previously opened and re-corked bottles of wine.
What does “reinvigorate” mean? Is that a technical term by wine experts? Reinvigorate can mean anything you want it to mean, so let your imagination run wild. Here is another claim made further down in the description:
The Sonic Decanter® produces results in less than 20 minutes that are typically only possible with many years of aging in the right conditions.
They continue by claiming that there are enhancements to the treated wine’s aroma, tannins, and flavor. While it is true that these three aspects of a wine would be effected by warming up the liquid, there are two clear problems. First, it is entirely subjective to consider these as enhancements. Each persons pallet is different, so there is no scientific quantification for a taste or a smell, any more than suggesting evidence that the color blue is more pleasing than the color red. Second, finer wines are aged in wooden barrels (most of them made of oak) over many years, and it is the interaction of the wine with the wood of the barrel which enriches the wine with all the higher qualities. The wood barrels regulates the introduction of oxygen to the wine, which imparts the character of the wood in to the wine.
Exactly how does 20 minutes of ultrasound exposure equate to a process which unfolds over years and decades? This is a dubious claim, at best. Yet this is not the first time the application of ultrasound to wine has been suggested or tried (studies go back to as far as 1963) and in the time since, you would expect there to be a growing body of supportive evidence. There are plenty of anecdotes over that time, but no compounding of scientific evidence. Also, it is fair to reason that if the technology worked, the wine industry at large would have invented their own devices in order to maintain their share of the fine wine market. None of them see this process as a threat to their bottom lines, and that’s with 50+ years of access to ultrasound technology.
Why? Perhaps it is because the application of ultrasound to wine doesn’t deliver the promised results.