A new product is being claimed to make a bottle of cheap plonk taste like the finest vintage wine.
The Oak Bottle aims to replicate the sophisticated oaking process whereby wines are matured in oak barrels, gradually taking on flavour from the wood. The process improves the stability of the wine's clarity and colour, while softening the harsh flavour of young wine and adding a smoother, deeper texture.
But while this can take months or even years, the makers of the Oak Bottle claim their product can do the job in just 12 to 24 hours by ensuring that more of the wine is in contact with the oak. Just pour the wine, and wait for a day.
"Using a simple volume divided by surface area equation it's easy to understand how a vessel with more surface area touching less volume can infuse the wine or spirit quicker," they say.
"The smaller the vessel, the faster the oak infusion. What took months before takes just days now with Oak Bottle."
The Oak Bottle costs $79.99, and is said to be best for Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot. It can also be used to age brandies and whiskies; there are also other versions available to give wines chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and other flavourings.
"It will impart some oak characteristics to anything you put into it. But it won't turn bad wine good," explain experts at the Chelsea Wine Vault.
"Bottom line: it's not that hard to find well-made wine in the $10-15 range, and some of it is already oak-aged. Please don't spend $80 and two full days to make your $7.99 wine taste like it cost a little more money."
In any case, there are already other ways of oaking wine without using either a giant barrel or an $80 wooden bottle. Many producers of cheap wine simply add oak chips to their vats and filter them out at the end. These chips can be bought very cheaply from brewing suppliers; it's even possible to buy packets of oak powder or liquid extract.
The Oak Bottle probably has most future as a novelty device: TV chef Elizabeth Karmel has tested it on a cheap tequila and pronounced herself a fan.
"The proof is in the tasting," she says. "It is layered with complexity - round, sweet and predictably oaky. I'd say that the experiment was a success! Next stop bourbon!"
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