Food & Drink


Did you like that headline, dear Cowmrades? Did it make you chuckle just a little? I must say, it amused me for a brief second or two. It has very little to do with anything much except for the fact that it concerns wine, and is a ridiculous joke – much like our subject of discussion this morning: The Premium Wine Card.

Now, if you’re of similar mindset to myself, the first thing you think when you hear someone talking about a ‘Premium Wine Card’ is that it’s going to be one of those reward schemes for buying wine, amiright? You know the kind of thing – you buy a dozen bottles and because you’re a Premium Wine Card holder, you get a 13th bottle free (or something along those lines). Well, I’m not a big fan of loyalty schemes as you know, but hey, if that kind of thing floats your boat, go for it. It’s scamming by any other name, but at least it’s relatively harmless.

But oh no, the Premium Wine Card is not one of those things. The Premium Wine Card – let’s call it the PWC, since we’ll be referring to it a lot – is to wine as ShooTag is to pest control. In other words, it’s a useless gew-gaw promising miraculous results that defy any known scientific principles and is aimed solely at relieving credulous people of their cash.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: you take your PWC, and as you pour the wine, you hold the card touching the bottom of the glass. Leave the glass for thirty seconds (what that’s all about is, like everything else in this brainless enterprise, never explained) and that’s it, sports fans. The job is now done. Your five dollar bottle of plonk is now the spitting duplicate of a Domaine Jean-Louis Chave Ermitage Cuvee Cathelin.

Not that the PWC vendors would ever claim something quite so concrete, of course. Oh, no. In the kind of evasive double-speak we’ve come to expect from these kinds of swindlers, the purveyors of the PWC claim that:

•It is “A World first in technology to treat young wine and improve its taste instantly”

“…the Premium Wine Card has a positive effect on the tannins in the wine, causing them to quickly soften as if the wine had been further aged for a number of years.”

“…wine treated with the card has a fruitier aroma and a smoother, richer flavour with the mellower, softer finish that is typical of a premium cellared wine.”

Amazing! And exactly how is this miracle achieved? Well, I’ll tell you, Faithful Acowlytes: with frequencies. Golly those frequencies are versatile. With ShooTag we learnt how they repelled ticks and fleas, and now they’ve been rounded up to make wine taste better. Incroyable!

To be specific (well, as specific as meaningless mumbo jumbo can possibly be):

“The Premium Wine Card contains an embedded set of precise frequencies that produce a long-lasting natural resonance. The resonance can be transferred to wine through the wine glass.”

I’d like you to read that sentence once more through, because that is the sum total of explanatory information for the PWC’s method of action under the Technology heading on the PWC site’s How It Works page. I kid you not. Unlike the ShooTaggers, these people don’t even make the barest half-assed attempt at science. It’s all encapsulated solely in the words ‘frequencies’ and ‘resonance’. There’s not even a hint of what kind of mechanism in the card – if any – might be responsible for generating these frequencies or causing this resonance. I have my suspicions that there is exactly no mechanism at all, but I’m certainly not paying 75 bucks to find out.

The comprehensive (and laugh a minute) FAQ on the site has this clanger:

Q: Does It Make Every Wine Taste Better?
A: For most people yes!

Whoa there bartender! Most people? Did I get the aroma of subjectivity there for a brief second? Do you mean that this might not work for everyone…??? But it’s science, right, with all those frequencies & all? What if I’m not most people? What if I’m a smart person who doesn’t fall for nonsensical horse shit?

Oh I see! There’s a money back guarantee! I’m almost tempted to outlay my $75 in the name of science, but I have a sneaking suspicion that getting my money back might not be quite as straightforward as the website promise makes it appear.

Of course, the PWC site is replete with that obligatory signature of snake-oil vendors, the Testimonial. I’m inclined to believe that, unlike most of these scams, the testimonials are actually real. Mostly because they are, by and large, really terrible endorsements.

I didn’t think it would work but after rubbing the Premium Wine Card on my bottle, the beer tasted better. ~Paul Macaione, Cornubia

Crikey Paul. Don’t go overboard.

Oh, and I’m sure you noticed that Paul is talking about beer, here. Yes, quite astonishingly, the PWC does work on beer too. And on coffee and tea. And on fruit juice. Despite the fact that the only supposed mechanism of efficacy given anywhere on the website has to do with ‘softening tannins’ (and as far as I’m aware, there is not, and nor has there ever been, a market for aged fruit juice).

Choice magazine does have an online review of the Premium Wine Card. I’m afraid their assessment is rather more namby pamby than it should be, stopping well short of calling out the whole thing as a scam. They conclude, rather lamely in my opinion, that:

…if it can’t change the chemical properties of wine, it just might affect your brain chemistry – the placebo effect is a very powerful thing!

Which, aside from verging on being an actual endorsement of the fraud in question, perpetuates the erroneous notion of what the Placebo Effect actually is.

As we’ve seen previously on The Cow, there’s a veritable wagonload of woo in the wine-tasting business. We’ve had wine quality affected by magnets, by astrology, and even by the direction you swirl your wine in the glass. Needless to say, when this highly subjective process is subjected to any kind of rigorous testing, the miraculous effects fade away.

But in light of all this, my loyal Cowpokes, and mindful of the old if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em aphorism, I have good news for you! I’m about to save you 75 bucks with the introduction of… the Premium Cow Card.

What’s more, dear friends, you don’t even need to send off for the card. You can have it working within minutes! Simply print out a copy of the PCC on your printer and take it with you wherever you go. When used correctly, it will make your wine/beer/absinthe/steak/french-fries/haggis taste betterer than better. As you know, all TCA products are powered by our unique FeelyGood™ technology, and come with a ONE HUNDRED PERCENT MONEYBACK GUARANTEE.

“I can’t believe it! I applied the Premium Cow Card to my brain and now it’s operating at a full 20%! Seaworld has just given me an employment offer!!!” ~Hattie Bucksfizz, Marulan South.

Faithful Acowlytes! Have you put on a few pounds over the winter?(i) Has your flat stomach been Autocorrected into a flab stomach? Would you like your former Olive Oyl profile back once more? Well then friends, let me tell you all about the miraculous LifeChange Diet, featuring amazing ‘bioresonance’ drops! Yes, these wondrous drops in conjunction with ‘a strict low calorie/low GI diet’ just about guarantee that you’ll shed those unwanted kilos in no time.

But first, before we get too excited, we might examine the above magazine clipping (thoughtfully sent in by Cissy Strutt) with the TCA Bullshit Magnifier™ to see what it throws up.

First of all, you might be forgiven for thinking that popstar-cum-clotheshorse Carmen Electra has anything at all to do with the LifeChange Diet. She doesn’t. Well, not the LifeChange Diet being promoted in the text by Sydney naturopath Danielle Berends, anyway. But maybe that’s my mistake. The credit does say Carmel Electra, so perhaps it’s Carmen’s lesser known twin sister doing the promoting. You might also be forgiven for thinking that the drops Carmel is talking about have anything to do with the drops that Danielle is hawking. They don’t. At least, if they are the same product, they don’t make a big thing of it on the LifeChange Diet website, and probably for good reason: HCG Platinum Drops are not in the good books of the US Food & Drug Administration, who have found the drops to be in violation of numerous FDA standards and that ‘…there is no evidence that they are generally recognized as safe and effective for their intended uses.’

But hey, it’s not hard to accidentally put the wrong photo and caption on your text, right? Maybe these ones were meant to go on the story ‘Bogus Weight Loss Drugs promoted by Idiot Celebrity’ and there was a bit of a mixup. It’s easy to see how that could happen.

So, what then does the LifeChange Diet website have to say about these awesome homeopathic drops. Let’s look at the Bioresonance page (because we just know that’s gonna be good):

The LifeChange Diet combines an easy to follow structured diet program with bioresonance technology, in the form of specially formulated bioresonance drops.

But what is bioresonance technology? That’s a very common question.

Bioresonance technology was introduced by German scientists in the 1970’s. Its foundation is based around the body’s energy system.

In bioresonance therapy, the transmission and receipt of electromagnetic frequencies is used to identify and support your energetic status.

All the cells in your body emit and communicate via electromagnetic frequencies. In a healthy body, this communication is free and the body functions as it was designed to do.

Well, I agree that ‘What is bioresonance technology?’ is probably a common question from those hearing of this scheme. Indeed, I asked it myself, although it was more along the lines of ‘Jesus H Christ, what the fuck is bioresonance technology?’ But, the internets being right at our fingertips & all, it’s only a moment’s work to fire up our favourite Search™ engine and plug in ‘bioresonance’ and ‘German scientists’. The very first result we get is this Wikipedia(ii) article on ‘bioresonance therapy‘ which begins with the explanation that ‘Bioresonance therapy is a pseudo-scientific medical concept…’ I guess that wasn’t much of a surprise. Bioresonance was ‘discovered’ in 1977 by Franz Morell who, after seeing a Scientology E-Meter, created his own version of it, along with a whole heap of baloney to explain its supposed working mechanism. Needless to say this centers principally around the vagueness of concepts like ‘electromagnetic frequencies’ and ‘energy flow’ so beloved of woo peddlars across the globe, a club of whom we must consider LifeChange a card-carrying member.

Simply put, the wondrous drops that the LifeChange Diet promotes as part of its weight-loss scheme are nothing more than magic water. Yet again.

I guess you all saw it, right, at the beginning of this post? The diet promoted by this racket – ‘a strict low calorie/low GI’ food intake – by itself will guarantee that you lose weight. The magic drops are total bullshit, and I say these people know it.

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Footnotes:

  1. Antipodean seasons are in effect here on TCA. []
  2. Support Wikipedia! Donate! []

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OMG Acowlytes! German liquor company G-Spirits have announced their new line of alcoholic beverages: spirits poured over the breasts of naked models, and then rebottled for your drinking pleasure. Could there be a better example of sheer unadulterated opportunism genius?

To create the perfect taste, we let every single drop of our spirits run over the breasts of a special type of woman, a type we recognize in this liquor.

Lest you think this is some kind of marketing gag, let me assure you it’s not. How do I know? Because G-Spirits says so in their FAQ:

Is it true that the whole content of the bottle run over the breasts of the model?

G-Spirits: Yes, indeed! It´s not just a marketing gag.

And in case you are concerned about the hygienic aspects of the new G-Spirits line, rest assured – the entire process of splashing the booze across the eager models’ mammaries is ‘checked’ by ‘medical’ personnel. Oh, sorry, did I accidentally put some of those words in sarcasm quotes?

Yes, dear friends, I know your Cow Senses are tingling. What does all this add up to? A Cow Competition. With a prize. Who can possibly resist?

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Thanks to Atlas (who else) for digging this one up.

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A little while ago, Violet Towne and I drove up to Sydney as we sometimes do. It’s about a ten hour trip and we’d usually make it in a day, but this time we decided to break it by leaving on Friday night, driving for a few hours and stopping on the way at at a motel at which we’d made an online reservation. To save the proprietors from embarrassment, I’m not naming names, or even putting a pin on the map, but suffice to say the place we chose was a sizeable establishment in a largish country centre with more than enough reason to know what constitutes modern expectations of hospitality. Somehow or other I ended up on their mailing list. I’m not really sure how this happened, as I’m usually fastidious about not handing out my personal email address unless it’s absolutely necessary. I suspect that they got it through the online booking form, even though I opted out of any email ‘notifications’ as I always do.

Whatever, I know they now have my details, because this morning I got a cheery update from them, espousing the wondrousness of their restaurant’s new menu. Viz:

Bonzo’s(i) Restaurant & Bar has recently launched the new menu with brand new dishes created by Head Chef, Hattie Bonilla(ii) and her team with an emphasis on The Grill. The Grill has a big variety of steaks in all sizes and cooked to your liking with your choice of sides and sauces to provide you with the ultimate meal.

Then follows what we must assume is meant to be a pictorial representation of ‘the ultimate meal’ (completely unaltered from how it appeared in the email):

Oh, my absinthe-addled one-legged maiden aunt. Could they possibly have made something look any less appetizing? This must surely be the best example I have ever seen of what NOT to do when photographing food. Here at the cusp of the visually hip 21st Century I find it almost impossible to believe that anyone could achieve anything quite so awful unless they actually set about it intentionally. Why, even the average iPhone meal snap looks tastier (and more professional) than this.

These two blobs of anonymous meat cuts, flanked by iridescent plasticized broccolini and a smear of… what is that – industrial sealant? Baby poo? – served up on a medical specimen tray and bleached out by a blinding flash of light on a morgue table are less a depiction of a tastebud temptation than a snap from a crime scene. And for Christ’s sake – how about a second shot to at least get the whole thing properly framed? It’s not like it will cost you anything!!!

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Footnotes:

  1. Name altered to protect the innocent. []
  2. Ditto. []

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Just suppose, dear friends, that someone gave you (for your birthday, perhaps) a quality bottle of wine, but of a rather current vintage. You would probably know that the wise thing to do is to lay it aside for a couple of years in which time its component parts would do that magical aging thing that wine components do, and, upon opening it in 2020, say,(i) you would have a tipple that was superior to that same wine opened today.

If, however, you are a mildly impatient person like myself, the temptation to open that bottle in confluence with some other circumstance (such as running out of other available bottles, for example) might cause you to reach for the corkscrew somewhat prematurely, depriving you of the optimal wine experience.

Well, Faithful Acowlytes, at last that dilemma is solved forever! I herewith present to you, the Vintage Express Wine & Liquor Aging Accelerator.

The VEWLAA takes your infant brew and, using ‘powerful Neodymium magnets’ ages your drink 10 years in 10 seconds. No, no, seriously, it does! With magnets. Look, here’s the science behind it:

I must admit I was quite skeptical, but this product is amazing. You can take a mid-range bottle of wine and in a few minutes, spectacular bottle of wine!

~Trina from Florida.

We used the wine ager on Christmas Eve on some delicious NYS Finger Lakes Red. We did not do an official before and after taste test but the wine seemed to taste richer and smoother on the palate.

~Reb395.

How does it work? Not sure. Do I believe the explanation? Not really. All I know is that the accelerator really changes things somehow, and makes wine/whiskey taste much more smooth and mellow.

~Ethan.

Well, OK, not science, but testimonials, and that’s exactly the same thing, right?

I’m a Believer says:

We haven’t try with just a glass but with the entire bottle let it age overnight in the accelerator

Overnight! Crikey, that must have aged the damn stuff some several centuries. How great would that taste, eh? KnuckleheadBBQ(ii) from Montana and his wife have even gone so far as:

… routinely leaving a bottle of wine in it for several days before opening it…

Man – that would have to be like drinking something fermented in the Mesozoic!(iii)

Ah yes, it is yet another wine scam, this time one that invokes that age-old pseudoscientific notion that magnets confer beneficial properties on anything that comes within their field of influence. In this case, the powerful neodymium magnets, through some completely unspecified action have the fortunate effect of making wine taste better.(iv)

OK, well, all the above came from Skymall (which sells the ‘accelerator’), via a link thoughtfully provided to me by acce245. But a little detective work turns up the people responsible for the VEWLAA. And w00t! They have a science page. Oh how I LOVE a science page. Let’s find out how the VEWLAA really works:

The earth’s magnetic field helps create the great taste of fresh fruits. During the long growing season, fruit is held in a relatively constant position in relation to the earth’s magnetic field, aligning the liquid particles much like tiny compass needles. This natural balance gives fresh picked fruit its smooth, natural flavor.

The delicate magnetic alignment of the liquid particles is destroyed during the crushing, straining, pasteurizing, fermenting and distilling used to manufacture beverages, and much of the smooth natural taste is lost. The traditional slow aging process of wine and distilled spirits allows the particles to once again become aligned by the earth’s magnetic field, but this process takes years, and dramatically increases the cost of the finished product.

Oh, how much does my stomach hurt from the laughing? Of course, once you had your polarities are re-aligned, you’d want to be mighty careful about swirling your glass, right? ‘Cos then you might ruffle its molecules’ nap. I don’t think neodymium magnets would fix that.

But hey – the VEWLAA is supposed to work on other beverages too. Why, Ethan, above, proclaims:

We tested juice, coffee, red bull/vodka. Someone even was convinced that crystallized ginger was more potent after being aged.

Are you following this Acowlytes? 10+ year-old coffee, juice, Red Bull and crystallized ginger are superior to their fresh equivalents! My own personal experience tells me that four-day-old coffee tastes disgusting, let alone coffee that’s been standing for 10 years, so I think you could consider me a little skeptical of these claims.

My favourite part of the Vintage Express site, though, is their own testimonials page. It features glowing reports from ‘Jeff’ a ‘wine & spirits appreciator’ and a ‘female taste tester’. Wow, am I SOLD!

Oh, and there’s also sommelier Michael Hanke from Morton’s Restaurant, Seattle, who has probably destroyed his credibility beyond all hope of salvation by appearing in a video endorsing the VEWLAA. After watching it, I’m inclined to conclude that the reporter who declares ‘I don’t know much about wines’ at the beginning of the story is more of an expert than the expert.

So, is there any real science behind the idea that magnets can age wine? The answer is no. But does this does stop a proliferation of devices like the VEWLAA? The answer is also, quite unsurprisingly I think you will agree, no.

There is:

The Wine Clip (‘Using magnets to treat fluids – water, fuel, wine, etc. – is not a new idea.’ No, but it’s a frikkin’ stupid one.)

The Wine Cellar Express (‘We can’t explain it ourselves… will the wonders of science never cease to amaze us!’

The Wine Enhancer (You really have to visit this site)

The Perfect Sommelier (‘How it works is a mystery!’)

Dozens of sites, claims that overthrow the laws of physics, hyperbole that makes PT Barnum look modest, veritable rivers of gushing subjectivity and not one single, spare, scrap of science. It is to make one want to bash one’s head on the table in sheer despair. Is there no skepticism of these stupid gadgets? Well, it turns out that not all wine drinkers are quite as brainless as the ones providing testimonials for the abovementioned devices. One sensible wine site that I found – The Winelover’s Page – had this to say about the Catania Wine Enhancer:

After an extended E-mail correspondence, Mr. Catania talked me into trying a Wine Enhancer for myself. I duly set up a double-blind tasting for a group of local sommeliers, comparing treated and untreated glasses of wines in unmarked glasses, revealing the identity of the treated glass only after the scores were in. I tried it again with other groups, and at home, repeatedly, always tasting “blind.” The results were never better (or worse) than random, suggesting that the device has no effect on wine at all.

Similar tests by myself and others with the other products [Some of these are mentioned above – Rev.], including a rather hilarious “offline” session in NYC with a group of our forum members and the inventor of the Wine Cellar Express, showed consistently similar results: Zero, zip, nothing, nada.

At last, the voice of reason. As always, when the science is correctly applied, the truth will out.

And that’s something to which you can reliably raise a glass. Slàinte!

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Footnotes:

  1. Should the world not have ended in 2012, needless to say… []
  2. A fitting nom-de-plume if ever there was one. []
  3. Of course, the more astute among you will have grokked the exponential scale implied by the writing on the gadget: 10 seconds for 10 years, 3 minutes for 20 years. You can work it out if you can be bothered, but basically the ramification is that the improvement scale is self-limiting. After a relatively small number of hours, the effect of further time in the prongs is negligible. Even if the damn thing did work, leaving your wine in it for several days is to all intents and purposes pointless. []
  4. And, in the case of the Wine Enhancer, also eliminating ‘those horrible wine headaches’. []

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ALDI: fire your advertising agency. They’re creeping me out.


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