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Can a blender turn plonk into a fine wine? Add to ...

THE QUESTION

I had heard that putting plonk into a blender significantly improved it through aeration. So I bought the worst plonk I could think of – name withheld – and guess what? Superb! Try it.

THE ANSWER

So, while this isn’t a question, your letter raises an issue of mounting public interest. Plus, it’s so cool that it merits a response.

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The blender trick has been getting some ink in the press lately. For this we can thank (or blame) Nathan Myhrvold, former top technology executive with Microsoft Corp. He’s a mathematical genius, not an appliance technician, and his interest in this matter of great human importance springs from his love of food and wine. (Dr. Myhrvold would take long leaves of absence to study at cooking schools in Europe, as I recall from my days as a technology editor.) He also is co-author of the recently released Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, a $500, six-volume reference that’s garnering great reviews and has established him as a star in the world of molecular cuisine (potato foam, anyone?).

He calls the blender trick “hyperdecanting,” sort of like hypertext’s answer to wine. I call it a wine smoothie. Pour the bottle into your Osterizer, switch it to high for 30 to 60 seconds, then wait for the foam to subside. The idea here is to aerate the wine aggressively, vastly accelerating the process accomplished by a decanter, which is just a wide pitcher. Exposure to air can improve the flavour of most wines, though if the wine is left out for too long (hours or days) in a decanter, it will spoil, of course.

The blender trick can work, softening harsh tannins and rendering the wine mellower and fruitier. But it’s not likely to turn a bottle of plonk into Château Mouton. The improvement, if you detect any at all, will be subtle. If your wine suddenly develops nuances of blueberry or banana that weren’t there already, it likely means you didn’t adequately clean the blender after your morning smoothie.

Truth be told, the concept is not that revolutionary. People have been trying to accomplish the same results in an unplugged way by beating vigorously with manual whisks, just as though they were making a wine soufflé. I have a little whisk designed specifically for wine, with a handle that doubles as a bottle stopper (try fitting that combination on the top shelf of your fridge!). And I had come across the blender trick before Dr. Myhrvold gave it a gazillionaire-scientist’s credibility. Amateur sommeliers have come up with all sorts of ways to improve the drinking experience. I have a cousin who swears by microwaved Cognac, insisting that a short nuke is a more convenient way to warm his snifter than cupping the drink in his hands (as Cognac geeks do it).

But I love that Dr. Myhrvold is shaking up, so to speak, the often far-too-precious world of wine by pulling it out of formal dining rooms and into the relaxed, mix-it-up atmosphere of the kitchen. And here’s the best thing: You can serve the wine straight from the blender jug, which comes with a convenient beer-mug handle. How’s that for an ice-breaker at your next dinner party? Just tell your guests it’s Château Microsoft.

Have a wine question?

E-mail your wine and spirits questions to Beppi Crosariol. Look for answers to select questions to appear in the Wine & Spirits newsletter and on The Globe and Mail website.

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