jamie goode's wine blog

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Looks like I've upset magnets and wine guru Dr Patrick Farrell MW by my blog entry here. So much so that he's replied. I'd be interested to know what my readers think about his carefully studied response. Just so it isn't lost in the comments section, I'm reproducing it here.

Jamie, Lots of talk, very little science. I, too, was not only skeptical, but also cynical when approached with the concept of magnets doing anything to wine. Only after doing several tastings was I surprised to discover that there was a significant difference. Only then did I consider possible mechanisms of action.

Speaking of science, Jamie, are you aware of the bases of fining? Electrostatic charges. Tannins are negatively charged and proteins positively charged. I do hope that I'm not delving beyond your scientific knowlegdge. I suspect not and I suspect that you may very well be a failed master of wine student. But let's save that for another time. I truly don't know though suspect that your arrogance and modicum of talent brought you up the ladder to a certain point and then no further.

Anyway, the device works well on extracted red wines and also inexpensive reds given the kiss of oak with either oak chips, oak staves, or a short but intensive stay in new oak barrels. The spirits device, even works better, on wood matured spirits. Jamie, do you not have even an iota of intellectual curiosity? Not even just a tad? What exactly is your scientific background. You blow away the concept out of hand. Do you have a master of wine credential? How about a background in biological chemistry? Microbiology? Or are you just another wine wannabe, perhaps with some journalism background?

I will be happy to put on a tasting, using the wines and spirits of my choosing, to demonstrate that you know little about wine. Or certainly, not what you purport to know. Are you game or just a wannabe?

Dr. Patrick Farrell, MW

45 Comments:

At 10:05 AM, Blogger Julian said...

So much for wine as a civilizing influence. Whether or not Dr Farrell MW has a valid point to make, his rudeness has encouraged me to decide in advance whose opinions, scientifically founded or not, I'm sympathetic to.

 
At 10:09 AM, Anonymous Shon said...

Pompous so and so. Take him on, Jamie (in a wine sense).

 
At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Jeremy said...

Jamie

'Dr.' Farrell is way out of line here. He clearly can't be serious about confusing electrostatics and fining with the supposed effect of this device - and there's no good SCIENTIFIC evidence that I can find to bolster the arguments in favour of this device. I thought your suggestion of a properly controlled scientific investigation into the efficacy or otherwise of this device was as ever in your case even-handed (I wouldn't have given it that degree of creedence). Similarly I am amazed he's not sufficiently widely read to know about your qualifications.

PS If he wants to have a go at me on the basis of 'mines bigger than yours' I should add that I have a Ph D in Physical Chemistry from Cambridge and I taught it in Cambrige and Edinburgh Univerities.

 
At 11:12 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Oh dear. Despite the rigours of studying for a MW, I wasn't aware that a Bachelor of Science was awarded with a MW.
And you have to admire the way he personally attacks you as well. Bet he went to bed feeling smug.

 
At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Aidan said...

*sigh* Really, really schoolyard, that - despite all Dr. Farrell's talk about scientific curiosity, I'm amazed at how little of substance he had to offer in reponse. As I understand it, all a magnet could do to a wine being poured through a transverse field is separate the wine's component charges (inc. molecular ions and tannins) slightly, a la what's called the Hall effect in physics. Not only would a). these charges recombine immediately in the glass, but b). taking what I remember from being a BErkeley physics student (before becoming a biophysicist in Cambridge), applying the Hall effect calculations for a circular cross-section, Voltage = Field strength (T) x Pour rate (m^3/sec) / Bottle opening diameter (m). So, assuming a pour rate of say, 50 mL a second = 5 x 10^(-5) m^3/sec, and a bottle opening of 2 cm = 2x10^(-2) m, we get a voltage of 5 x 10^(-6)/2^(10^-2) V = 2.5 x10^(-4) volts. That's about the voltage you would get from moving approx. 100 charges across the width of the bottle mouth, assuming it acts like a plate capacitor (bad assumption, but hey, right to within a factor of ten-ish...). 'Tis a crude estimate, but that's basically nothing, esp. compared with static effects, etc.

As his rhetoric already suggests, then, he's almost certainly full of it. Go get 'em.

 
At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jamie, do the tasting!!!!

 
At 2:14 PM, Blogger Edward said...

Can your MW be removed when it is clear you have gone soft in the brain?

 
At 3:33 PM, Anonymous John said...

Jamie

DON,T... rise to the bait, this disgraceful post insulting a highly respected wine communicator reflects very badly on the "gentleman" concerned.

Don,t give this ridiculous idea any extra mileage. Reply in your own good time or not at all..don,t lower yourself to his level..let him stew in his own juice.

 
At 4:44 PM, Anonymous David MoŽd said...

Jamie

I agree with John and the other non scientific opinions. (I am not a scientist) He does not deserve a reply given his childish, rude and uninformed mail to you. When I first read what he was saying I could not believe it!

David

 
At 5:37 PM, Anonymous John of Cheltenham said...

Jamie

More thoughts...

By insulting you the good Dr
is insulting your readership which is why we feel put out on your behalf. Your work is inspirational to wine enthusiasts such as myself
and we hold you in high esteem because of the quality of work you produce. You give your considered opinions in a balanced way and with great professionalism.
Those who use "truths" for commercial gain should not be so sensitive when healthy scepticism is applied to gadgets that seem to 'defy gravity' and scientific consensus.

Best Wishes

 
At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Typical MW loser.

Jumps through hoops to pass an academic qualification and thinks that makes him chief monkey.

He's sunk all his money into some shoddy piece of 30-buck hocus-pocus and now he's flogging his MW credentials for all they're worth.

From Wikipedia: "The snake oil peddler became a stock character in Western movies: a travelling "doctor" with dubious credentials, selling some medicine (such as snake oil) with boisterous marketing hype, often supported by pseudo-scientific evidence."

Sound like anyone we know?

 
At 7:01 PM, Blogger winecycle said...

This chap deserves to be placed in a (fortunately) small place in the wine world...The one containing Malcolm Gluck, another ridiculous character.

 
At 9:44 PM, Anonymous Ian Sutton said...

Jamie
The perfect response is to publish his comments (as you've done) and leave it at that.

I'm sure we're all sitting here thinking he's an absolute tosser and it hasn't taken any other words than his own.

regards

Ian

 
At 7:35 AM, Blogger billn said...

"Tannins are negatively charged and proteins positively charged"
Here rests the case for the prosecution - I assume Dr Patrick Farrell MW has not heard of van der Waals...

 
At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just ignore this idiot. I could not believe this attack. I have had bad days but nothing like this.

Bob/Edmonton/Alberta.

 
At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Rubidium said...

Gee...one might even judge Dr Farrell to be in violation of the CODE OF CONDUCT OF MEMBERS OF THE INSTITUTE OF MASTERS OF WINE, as found here:

http://www.masters-of-wine.org/Assets/Files/Student%20Pages/20067%20Combined%20Info%20Pack.pdf

 
At 1:24 PM, Blogger Michael Pronay said...

| Dr. Patrick Farrell, MW
| www.bevwizard.com
| winedoc@surficty.net

www.surficty.net: Not found.

 
At 2:51 PM, Blogger Stephen Skelton said...

I know Pat Farrell quite well (fellow MW and all that) and I am not sure what you said to upset him. He is by no means a crank or an idiot and is THE best totor of MW style wine-tasting that I have met. I have tried wins poured through his device and I have to say that it does seem to have an effect on some wines. I too would like to see a propoerly controlled experimental tasting and am surprised that Pat has not already done this.

Stephen Skelton - "typical MW loser"

(Who is "anonymous" who slags someone off and won't leave his/her name?)

 
At 2:54 PM, Blogger Stephen Skelton said...

Pat Farrell is no crank and probably the best tastings tutor of MW-style tastings that I have met. I don't know what you said to him to upset him, but I am surprised that he's gone off on one. His device does appear to have an effect on some wines and I would have thought that he would have already done a proper controlled tasting.

Yours,

"typical MW loser"

 
At 2:55 PM, Blogger billn said...

www.surficty.net: Not found.
most likely surfcity !

 
At 3:15 PM, Blogger larry s said...

Jamie,

Missed the beginning of the thread, but I just wanted to pipe in. I have spoken to Mr. Farrel on a few occasions about this device and have actually 'tested' it myself using a tannin analysis that extracts polymeric pigment segments as well. My test did not show any marked changes in wines pre and post use of the device. That said, I do believe further testing should be done on this device - if out of nothing but curiousity. Mr. Farrel is currently doing some HPLC analysis of wines pre and post use to see if this provides any scientific backing for the device.

Not knowing Mr. Farrel but getting an inkling of what he might be thinking from our conversations, I think his biggest concern is that people are writing off this device without trying it and coming to their own conclusion.

I am skeptical about most 'new' things but always open-minded . . . I am hopeful that your readership is as well.

Just my $.02 on the issue . . .

 
At 9:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Jamie,
As you and I have exchanged civil emails, I would like to apologize for my angry email. Several comments I would like to take back. Writing while "in vino veritas" does bring out some blunt conversation. My irritation was based upon your having made sweeping and inflammatory statements without having tried the device. As we are sending you two, perhaps the rhetoric will melt away.

Sincerely,
Dr.Patrick Parrell, MW

 
At 12:55 AM, Blogger Mike said...

Jamie

I see that Dr Patrick Farrell MW has apologized for his appalling email to your initial post. Better late than never, I suppose. Being one of the other individuals who commented on the original post (and who briefly, very briefly) considered posting a bit about the ďmagnetic gizmoĒ on his own blog, I applaud you for letting us see how scientific the good Doctor could be in his correspondence.

Iím aware that you have a PhD, and that you know one or two things about wine. Its not that hard to learn these things. Its also not hard to learn that you can do random things to a couple of bottles of wine and have people tell you that the wine poured from them tastes different. Itís a completely different thing to do a well controlled, rigorous study to determine if (presumably) small magnets stuck in plastic can influence the chemistry of wine sufficiently so that human beings can actually taste the difference. I have one of these PhD things up on my wall as well, and I would not fancy sitting down to sort out all the variables involved in doing a study so that the only difference is the presence or absence of the magnets.

Mike

 
At 9:58 PM, Anonymous Carl Lee said...

Send him a copy of Wine Science Jamie and tell him when you google his name your website comes out first.

My advice to budding MW's is to spend your money on enjoying wine rather than turning your yourself into a pompous git.

 
At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

do none of you guys know that Dr is for Doctor, Dr. is for drive...

 
At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem to have missed the final 'l' off your last word.......

 
At 10:00 AM, Anonymous keith Prothero said...

Jamie. Good thread but reckon you should not allow anonymous posts. Surely,if people have anything constructive to contribute, they should have no problem in identifying themselves.

 
At 11:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree!

 
At 2:17 PM, Blogger birdandbuffalo said...

Vita brevis, dudes. Don't forget.

 
At 7:59 PM, Blogger Stephen Skelton said...

Who is this 'Carl Lee' character who hands out his 'advice' to 'budding MW's' which is "to spend your money on enjoying wine rather than turning your yourself into a pompous git".

What is about these people who think that becoming an MW turns you into some sort of stuck-up moron? How many MWs does he know well? In my experience, in order to pass the MW you have to really enjoy your wine.

 
At 12:28 AM, Anonymous Mark said...

If anyone reading this has a little curiosity they might be well advised to experiment with one of these devices. Despite what seems to be some highly educated skepticism, wine that has been poured through it does in fact appear to most people to smell and taste different from the same wine that has not been through the device. For the most marked effect, try it on wines that have a strong oak flavour and/or firm extracted tannins. It is most intriguing.

I have little interest in this thread's debate over the usefulness of attacking something one has not tried versus the inappropriateness of being indignant at having one's business defamed and one's honesty questioned.

The scientific viewpoints are interesting. Indeed, there is not a useful theory to predict that the device should work.

My skepticism, however, piqued my curiosity, and I have been playing with one of these devices for the past couple of weeks. It does indeed appear to have an effect. And one that cannot be replicated by any method of deliberate immediate aeration, such as splashing, decanting, swirling, injecting with air etc. While the device does have a small aeration hole, which seems to turbo-charge the effect, even if you block that hole, the wine still changes.

I have not met anyone who has tried the device, who does not think it makes a difference. It appears that only those who have not tried it are of this opinion. Admittedly, not everyone prefers the changed wine. And, indeed, some well-balanced wines may be changed to be less preferable to some people's palates. But everyone I know of who has tried it can discern a difference.

Where this appears most useful, from my perspective, is in wines that have a high level of oak or strong tannins that would prevent me from enjoying the wine. The device seems to temper these characteristics to a point where the wine becomes drinkable. If your interest in this thread goes beyond the mutual insults that started it, you might want to give the device a go- if you are as skeptical as I was, you will be surprised.

yours,
Mark

 
At 6:16 PM, Anonymous Simon said...

Ok, so I realise that I'm behind the debate a little bit here (not a regular reader), but here's another perspective:

Does it matter if the device doesn't work "in reality", if buyers of the device perceive it to work? After all, they'll enjoy their wine more.

Presumeably taste is a reaction in the taster's brain chemistry when certain molecules come into range of his tasting sensors. If the same brain chemical reaction can be brought about by a cheaper wine and a device that the taster imagines to cause those same molecules to become present, what's the difference to the taster?

OK, so if we were talking about something that cost hundreds of pounds, or claimed to cure cancer, then we might have a right to be furious with Patrick Farrell - but this is a 20 quid stocking filler that may or may not make cheap wine taste better. Does it matter if there's no scientific proof? I suspect Dr Farrell's rudeness in his original comment was more down to experience of wine trade people immediately poo-pooing his device before finding out if it works or not, than a proper examination of Jamie's comments, or credentials.

Incidently, this reminds me of an undergraduate brush with Kant's disproof for the ontological argument for the existence of God - existence is a property of concepts, not of objects and the concept is the same whether or not the object actually exists.

 
At 3:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My, my how the skeptics cry! Hey folks, this isn't rocket science and one can EASILY test the claim themselves. I did it last Saturday. It goes like this:

Go to Trader Joe's and get two bottles of 2-buck Chuck merlot or cab. Grab a magnetic knife holder (one that has parallel magnetic bars) and lay one bottle on the bars (marked for ID), the other on a shelf in the same room. Leave it for a week, undisturbed.

Invite some pals over for pasta or pizza and serve them two glasses of wine - one from each bottle. Ask which they prefer and why.

My guests unamimously preferred the magnetic conditioned wine! No prompting, or letting them know it was a test. I thought the conditioned wine tasted smoother, too, but I was privy to the experiment.

I'll try it again, but will have my wife set it up to provide me with a bit more objectivity. Try it, all you skeptics. It ain't like you'll break the bank or ruin a perfectly good bottle of cheap wine!

 
At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's a right sweetie, isn't he?

 
At 6:52 PM, Anonymous leonard pitcaithley said...

A similar device is currently
being marketed in the UK except it is a wood coaster upon which one leaves the opened bottle of wine for thirty minutes. My friend said
he paid £50 Sterling for it, but might have been less. Four of us tried it, twice, on a £7 Stg. bottle of Austrialian Shiraz. Unanamimous agreement was that it did make a difference.

 
At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 3:17 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

This post has been removed by the author.

 

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