What on this earth can the ‘Clef’ be for?

A generous chum of mine passed by the house the other day with a birthday gift. Lucky me!

I opened the small brown (almost leather) box and inside was a vinous tool, that on first sight looked like a ‘foil cutter’.

Not really my scene, as I would normally use a knife or a corkscrew to remove the capsule, and I am not really into wine gimmicks.

The tool, named a ‘Clef’ (as that was what was written on the box) is a metallic halfmoon shape attached to a small chain.

Clef du Vin

Umm i thought, how kind of him to have thought of this, but then again knowing the man a bit, I knew that there was something more to this ‘foil cutter’ than meets the eye.

I took the tool out of it’s box and opened it up as one would a small penknife. Grabbed a bottle to go with lunch and needless to say began, in an attempt, to cut the foil. Alas, the tool does not have a sharp or cerated edge to it, so it is definitely not for this job. I pondered and looked at it a bit more, and then put it back into it’s box, puzzled. What on this earth can the ‘Clef’ be for?

That evening I went to a wine tasting and took it along with me just in case anyone there could throw some light into it’s functionability.

I passed it round the tasting table. All there, were wine professionals, and fortunately for me, one of the party started to explain it’s use, much to my interest. My ears perked up as I could not believe what I was hearing. Here we go, and I will try and explain it to you and also leave you with a photograph of the said tool.

Well, apart from the ‘Clef’ looking like a foil cutter, the knifey bit at the end has a little orangey dot in the middle. Now this dot is apparently a mixture of alloy-metals that when it comes into contact with a red or a white wine, acts as a form of catalyst. It accelerates the oxygen reduction process in the wine and targets the tannins in red wine, and acids in white wine. It softens the tannins, in an over tannic or young red wine, and reduces the sensation or taste of acidity in any white wines that it is dipped into.

Well, I listen and I cannot believe a word of this pifful, so I put it to the test. I dipped the Clef into the young french Chardonnay that we were tasting, which had quite a bit of acidity in it, and low and behold after a second of the orange dot being immersed into the wine, I tasted it, and the acidity had nearly all gone.

Then a red wine was poured. Okay, it was a tannic young Argentine Malbec. Again, much to my surprise i dipped the dot into the wine for a second, and indeed the tannins had all softened out, and the wine had a feel about it of a maturer red.

This was all black magic to me, so I turned to the fellow to ask him how on earth he knew how the ‘Clef’ worked. And just like magic, he had gone. I asked the other tasters where had he gone and what was his name, and nobody actually knew him, or his name. As mysterious as the ‘Clef’.

Some days later, having now played around with the ‘Clef’ a bit more, I can report that if you dip the nose (alloy) into a wine for one second. One second equals around one year of bottle age, two seconds equals two years of bottle age and so on. The effect the ‘Clef’ has on young whites, is similar, in that it makes the flavor of the wine less acidic and shows a bit older than it really is.

I could not have made this up…