food & drink

The magic key

In most wine-producing cultures, the age of a particular red wine is a key element that usually decides its price. There may be differences of opinion about whether a wine could be or could have been at its best, or even past its best, but these are more matters of personal taste than factual markers. And anyway Spain is a paradise for those interested in old wines, and websites like eBay, MilAnuncios, and particularly are good for hours of surfing in decent company.

Most people cannot understand why a bottle that contains a wine so old it is undrinkable should be worthy of anyone's attention, and the concept of collecting bottles regardless of their content is, I admit, hard to get one's head around.

When selecting a wine to drink from an old collection, a common misfortune is to err on the side of opening a bottle that has still to reach its best. There is a solution and it is called the 'wine key' (clef du vin in its native French).

This is a strip of metal made from a blend of copper, gold and silver. It only needs to be inserted into the wine for a second to achieve a change in the wine's structure, whether red, white, sparkling, sherry, etc. So, in an ideal world, we never again have to fork out a small fortune to acquire an old bottle. We can buy a vino del año and let the key do its work.

There is the opportunity to age wine artificially by three, six or 15 years, but so as not to waste time forget about the longer terms. The single-figure ageing periods are viable, and tried with a young Ribera del Duero, it produced the desired result. The same with an El Bierzo that had just been released. Even an Australian Yellowtail presented no problem and was certainly an improvement on the original supermarket bottle.

As far as it was possible to check meticulously, a second's insertion seems to produce a year's ageing effect. The magic key will not change our drinking habits but will certainly guarantee we never open a bottle that is too young for drinking.