Thursday, 18 December 2008


Ken Berwitz

Would you rather be doing this (i.e. being on the internet) or having sex?

According to a newly released research study which I saw in today's New York Daily News, a lot of people would just as soon stay right in front of their computer.  Take a look (and don't you love the graphic?):

Intel Corp. survey: Nearly 1/2 of all women and 1/3 of men prefer the Internet to sex

Tuesday, December 16th 2008, 8:30 AM

Yes, you read that headline right.  No, it's not a gimmick. 

48 percent of women and 30 percent of men prefer the Internet to sex, according to a new study by Intel Corp. 

The study asked more than 2,000 adults what they would rather give up for a period of two weeks, the Internet or sex. 

Turns out, a lot of them would rather give up sex.  (This begs the question: where can we find out what they're surfing the Web for?!)

The survey also found:

  • 58 percent of adults would give up watching TV for two weeks rather than have to give up Internet access for only one week

  • 65 percent of adults said they cannot live without Internet access

  • 39 percent said they couldn't live without cable TV and 20 percent couldn't live without dining out

  • Only 10 percent said they couldn't live without a gym membership.   

I can't say I'm surprised by these data -- despite the fact that, speaking personally, I don't feel the same way. 

Simply stated, if my wife beckons while I'm blogging, you can bet that I'm going to, sorry, have to end this right now.  Bye.


Ken Berwitz

That title is what I would expect to hear from Ms. Kennedy's (actually Ms. Schlossberg's) husband, or her children, or some of her numerous relatives.  Fair enough.

But from a NEWS REPORTER?????

Here are the particulars from Kyle Drennan, writing for

CBSs Chen: Leave Caroline Kennedy Alone, Criticism Unfair

Julie Chen and Harry Smith, CBS On Thursdays CBS Early Show, co-host Julie Chen came to the defense of would-be New York Senator Caroline Kennedy, who has faced criticism for her lack of experience: "This is so unfair. I mean, look, the system is set up the way it's set up and Governor Paterson decides and that's it. Leave her alone, everyone." That comment followed a report by correspondent Meg Oliver, in which Kennedy avoided tough questions from the press: "She quickly got a taste of the pressure that comes with seeking a high-profile political office...questions mostly went unanswered."

Chen was not so quick to defend Sarah Palin from critics during the campaign. When Tina Fey began impersonating Palin on Saturday Night Live in September, Chen remarked: "Tina Fey has just so much material to work with, this is like, probably a dream come true for her." Earlier in September, Chen wondered about Palins foreign policy experience: "The education of Sarah Palin. The Alaska governor has her first meetings with world leaders as they gather at the U.N. How will she do?"

Here is the full transcript of the segment:


JULIE CHEN: Well, it is official, Caroline Kennedy wants to succeed Hillary Clinton in the Senate. She launched her quest yesterday with a highly anticipated visit to upstate New York. CBS News correspondent Meg Oliver reports.

MEG OLIVER: Kennedy's non-campaign campaigning included three upstate New York stops in Syracuse.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Welcome to Rochester.

OLIVER: Rochester and Buffalo.

CAROLINE KENNEDY: How are you doing?

OLIVER: And she finally said it in public. She would like to succeed Hillary Clinton as the junior Senator from New York.

CAROLINE KENNEDY: Well, I just wanted to say that, as some of you may have heard, I've told Governor Paterson that I'd be honored to be considered for the position of United States Senator.

OLIVER: But she quickly got a taste of the pressure that comes with seeking a high-profile political office.

KENNEDY: The Governor has laid out a process and I am proud to be in that process.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What can you say to New Yorkers that says that you're qualified?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B: Are you ready for this, Mrs. Kennedy? You're not going to answer questions at all?

OLIVER: So while the goal was to seek support from local elected officials and political leaders-

BYRON BROWN [BUFFALO MAYOR]: I look forward to us continuing our dialogue.

KENNEDY: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN C: No, you speak first.

KENNEDY: No, I want to answer questions.

OLIVER: But questions mostly went unanswered.

MAN C: What makes you think you can represent upstate?

KENNEDY: Well, as I -- first of all, this was a great visit and I've already learned a lot and I would want to come back-

MAN C: What did you learn?

KENNEDY: -were I lucky enough to be chosen, but it is a process.

OLIVER: Ultimately it's up to New York's Governor to decide who will be appointed to the Senate seat. Meg Oliver, CBS News, New York.

HARRY SMITH: And it may not be all that simple. It's very interesting. There's a kind of a backlash that's starting to develop for people saying, 'oh, so these seats just go to the elites?' So there's a very interesting to and fro.

CHEN: This is so unfair. I mean, look, the system is set up the way it's set up and Governor Paterson decides and that's it. Leave her alone, everyone

Are you kidding me? 

According to her CBS News write-up, "Ms. Chen has been an anchor of The Early Show, CBS News' weekday morning broadcast, since October 2002".  

It leaves out the fact that The Early Show is a ratings stinkbomb which doesn't come near Today or Good Morning America.  In the 2007-2008 season so far, Today averages 5,690,000 viewers, Good Morning America is at 4,760,000 and The Early Show registers a puny 2,890,000.

Don't you find it surprising that Julie Chen would last so long with such poor results?  Don't you wonder why she would be kept on?

Well, the write-up also notes that "Chen lives in New York and Los Angeles with her husband", but leaves out his name.  Maybe the fact that her husband is Les Moonves, the President and CEO of CBS Corporation, has something to do with this.

But, then again, why should it even be mentioned? 

It's so unfair.  I mean, look, the system is set up the way it's set up and Hubby Moonves decides and that's it.  Leave her alone, everyone.



Ken Berwitz

As the challenged ballots continue to be counted, al franken continues to gain votes.  Norm Coleman's lead is down to about 40 now.

It will continue until franken gains the lead and then the election will finally be over.

How is franken gaining when the erroneously rejected ballots in a virtually even race should logically come out virtually even as well?

Why do YOU think?

Get ready for senator franken.  Another one is being stolen.  Right in front of your eyes.  On the 50 yard line.  In the town square. 

Enjoy the show.


UPDATE:  I checked at 9PM and now Coleman's lead is 5 votes.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is projecting that al franken will win by 89 votes.

Presto change-o.  Watch it happen 


Ken Berwitz

Why are gays - at least several gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender groups - so unhappy with Barack Obama?

Their reasons are detailed in the following excerpts from an article by Ben Smith and Nia-Malika Henderson of

Gay leaders furious with Obama

Barack Obamas choice of a prominent evangelical minister to deliver the invocation at his inauguration is a conciliatory gesture toward social conservatives who opposed him in November, but it is drawing fierce challenges from a gay rights movement that in the wake of a gay marriage ban in California is looking for a fight.

Rick Warren, the senior pastor of Saddleback Church in southern California, opposes abortion rights but has taken more liberal stances on the government role in fighting poverty, and backed away from other evangelicals staunch support for economic conservatism. But its his support for the California constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage that drew the most heated criticism from Democrats Wednesday.

Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans, the president of Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solomonese, wrote Obama Wednesday. [W]e feel a deep level of disrespect when one of architects and promoters of an anti-gay agenda is given the prominence and the pulpit of your historic nomination.

The rapid, angry reaction from a range of gay activists comes as the gay rights movement looks for an opportunity to flex its political muscle. Last summer gay groups complained, but were rebuffed by Obama, when an ex-gay singer led Obamas rallies in South Carolina. And many were shocked last month when voters approved the California ban.

There is a lot of energy and theres a lot of anger and I think people are wanting to direct it somewhere, Solomonese told Politico.

The selection of Warren to preside at the inauguration is not a surprise move, but it is a mirror image of President Bill Clintons early struggles with issues of gay rights. Obama has worked, and at times succeeded, to bridge the gap between Democrats and evangelical Christians, who form a solid section of the Republican base.

Obama opposes same-sex marriage, but also opposed the California constitutional amendment Warren backed. In selecting Warren, he is choosing to reach out to conservatives on a hot-button social issue, at the cost of antagonizing gay voters who overwhelmingly supported him.

Clinton, by contrast, drew early praise from gay rights activists by pressing to allow openly gay soldiers to serve, only to retreat into the dont ask, dont tell compromise that pleased few.

The reaction Wednesday in gay rights circles was universally negative.

Its a huge mistake, said California gay rights activist Rick Jacobs, who chairs the states Courage Campaign. Hes really the wrong person to lead the president into office.

Can you imagine if he had a man of God doing the invocation who had deliberately said that Jews are not going to be saved and therefore should be excluded from whats going on in America? People would be up in arms, he said.

The editor of the Washington Blade, Kevin Naff, called the choice Obamas first big mistake.

His presence on the inauguration stand is a slap in the faces of the millions of GLBT voters who so enthusiastically supported him, Naff wrote, referring to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. This tone-deafness to our concerns must not be tolerated. We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians. The election was supposed to have ended that era. It appears otherwise.

Warrens spokeswoman did not respond to a message seeking comment, but he has tried to blend personal tolerance with doctrinal disapproval of homosexuality.

I have many gay friends, Ive eaten dinner in gay homes. No church has probably done more for people with AIDS than Saddleback Church, he said in a recent interview with BeliefNet.

In the same interview, he compared the redefiniton of a marrige to include gay marriage to legitimizing incest, child abuse, and polygamy.


Unlike the free ride most mainstream media are working so hard to give Saint Barack, people with specific agendas are not about to sit by quietly when he acts against their interests.  And the GLBT groups, which keep deluding themselves into thinking that Democrat = friend, are finding out again that it does not.

Was Rick Warren a good choice, given the obvious problem he presents for a core Democratic constituency?  No he was not. 

But it is impossible to believe that Mr. Obama didn't know as much when Mr. Warren was picked. 

So now this becomes an issue of intestinal fortitude:  will Barack Obama stick with his selection even when pressured not to do so.

Let's see if he has any.


Ken Berwitz

So I watched part of the Today show this morning.  And somewhere within the smiley-face happy-time routine between Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera, there was a feature story on Illinois Governor rod blagojevich.  I didn't check exactly, but I believe it ran about 3-4 minutes. 

Now; guess how many times the fact that "blago" is a Democrat was mentioned.

Did you get it?  Wait, I'll give you a hint:  it was the same number of times viewers were reminded of his ties to Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel and Richard Daley.  If you didn't know the answer before, I'll bet you know it now.

Fact:  when it is a Republican scandal, these people never miss a chance to mention party affiliation; to reinforce the image of Republicans that they want you to walk away with.  Did you ever have to wonder which party Karl Rove, or Larry Craig, or Mark Foley, or "duke" cunningham belonged to?  But when it is rod blagojerkevich, or eliot spitzer, or charles rangel, or william jefferson, etc. etc. etc......better try the fine print.  If it's there at all, that is where it will be.

With this in mind, here is L. Brent Bozell's latest column.  It is about blagojerkevich -- and his connection to Barack Obama, which mainstream media are desparately trying to eradicate any way they can.  See if you think he nailed it:

What Democratic Scandal?  
By L. Brent Bozell III | Thursday, December 18, 2008

In October 2006 the national media projected Rep. Mark Foleys online sex chats with House pages into a disaster that would swallow the Grand Old Party whole. CBS, for example, proclaimed it the congressional equivalent of Katrina.
In 2008, when federal investigators found Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trying to put Barack Obamas Senate seat on the auction block, these same news gatherers found a storm, to be sure, but a storm they suggested would in short order be pushed out to sea.
With the governor caught on tape unloading obscenity after obscenity about how he expected to reap a financial bonanza for handing out his gubernatorial perks, this story was so undeniably big, even the Obamaphile press couldnt ignore it. So instead these reporters tried to downplay its impact on the president-elect and the Democrats.
First, as with other Democratic scandals (Spitzer, Jefferson, McGreevey, et cetera), anchors and editors again purposely dropped the D out of the equation, laboring not to tell viewers or readers that the offenders were Democrats.
In a Republican scandal, the offending politician is usually described as a Republican in the very first sentence, and deservedly so. In a Democrat scandal, the party identification of the perpetrator can arrive in paragraph eight. Or not at all.
Then, reporters declared that a Blagojevich resignation or impeachment could arrive any day and suggested the story could soon be finished. (When Republicans are in the crosshairs, reporters announce this story isnt going away any time soon.)
Reporters insisted the Blagojevich story might end soon with the governors removal, even before Team Obama fully explained its contacts with the governors office on the Senate-seat matter. They wanted Blagojevich removed from the Democratic elite before he infected the partys anti-corruption claims like an Ebola virus.
Third, they labored mightily to separate Team Obama from the Blagojevich camp. Take CBS, and reporter Chip Reid, who cited local CBS reporter Mike Flannery as an expert, and never mind if local bloggers call him Chicagos version of Chris Matthews.
Flannery insisted one could only call Obama and Blagojevich the most distant allies, and Reid insisted Flannery told him Obama has often gone out of his way to avoid any close association with the ethically challenged governor. But that's not stopping the Republican National Committee from trying to tie the two men together.
Reid read a line from RNC chairman Mike Duncan, then insisted Despite the occasional photo together, though, linking them could be a tough sell.
Reids report cracking open this supposed chasm didnt include uncomfortable facts that Obamas supporters would rather not see circulated. Obama not only supported Blagojevich for governor in 2002 when he was still a state senator, he took credit for advising him to victory. He went on television saying electing his friend Hot Rod was a priority. He endorsed him for re-election in 2006 at the beginning of 2005.
Reid also dragged in a right-leaning Chicago Tribune columnist to make a case for Obamas distance: John Kass says Mr. Obama has worked hard to position himself above the machine culture of Chicago politics. He quoted Kass saying: I don't think he gets tainted by what happened today.
But heres what Kass proclaimed in a column a few days later: The national media outlets were desperate to portray him as someone about to transcend our politics. But in Chicago he was just a smooth guy on the way up, looking the other way.
The Blagojevich Senate-for-sale scandal demonstrates how feverishly the media continue to portray Obama not as a Chicago machine manipulator, but as the black inheritor of the Abraham Lincoln legacy. Obamas been energetically linked to Lincoln far more than to any Chicago politician whos currently living and serving in office.
Obama chose for himself a political career in the grubby precincts of the south side of Chicago, not some log cabin outside Springfield, but reporters seem more interested in building a grand and historic legend of a new kind of politics, not a real-life politicians colossal ambitions to be president before he turned 50.
Anyone in politics knows it would be extremely normal, acceptable, and even necessary for the governor and the president-elect (or their aides) to have a chat about who would fill this Senate seat. But the media have invested so much TV time and barrels of ink in putting the most idealistic sheen they can on Obamas New Politics that to find him anywhere within miles of corruption is too much for them to bear.

Does that say it all?  I think so too.

But listen to them squeal like stuck pigs if you call them biased.

free` I wonder if Brent Bozell reads your blog? You have been saying this for at least 9 mos. Keep up the great work. p.s. To answer a question from your blog 'screwing around' this must be one of those websites they're reading ;) (12/18/08)


Ken Berwitz

Here, without commentary (it doesn't need any) is Ron Radosh's column on President Bush and Jews:

December 17th, 2008 10:55 am

Bush and the Jews

On Monday night, my wife and I attended President George W. Bushs annual Chanukah party at the White House.  Although other Presidents have held menorah lighting ceremonies, President Bush and his wife were the first to hold a party to celebrate the occasion.  And it was quite a party-600 people replete with traditional Chanukah fare including potato latkes and jelly donuts and music to fit the occasion. The President said in the statement he released, This year, as Jewish families light the menorah, the flame reminds us that light triumphs over darkness, faith conquers despair, and the desire for freedom burns inside every man, woman and child.   The President ended his statement by saying that the forces of intolerance may seek to suppress the menorah, but they can never extinguish its light.

When President Bush spoke before Israels Knesset on May 15, 2008- the day of the 60th Anniversary of Israels creation as a Jewish State-he gave an inspirational speech reflecting on what Israel meant to him, and what its existence means to the United States as a nation. One can say that it was certainly the most pro-Israel speech ever given by an American President.

Bush noted that the fight against terror and extremism was not just a clash of arms, but a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. And he explained how Israel was a necessary ally in that fight, and why the United States could not capitulate to the demands of terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. And, perhaps most important of all, he told the Israelis: America stands with you in firmly opposing Irans nuclear weapons ambitions. Israel, he assured them, can always count on the United States of America to be at your side.

George W. Bushs commitment to Israel and his solidarity with the worlds Jews led me to reflect on a great irony. Within the United States, a high percentage of Jews, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, have been opposed to the policies of the Bush administration and bear an animus to Bush personally.  

When I returned home from the party, a friend had e-mailed me two statements that address this issue. The first came from the head of Americas Reform Jewish congregations, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffe, who delivered his remarks as a sermon at the Union Board Services in Tampa, Florida on December 12th.  Reform Jews are as a whole the most liberal politically of all Jewish religious bodies in our country. On various issues, especially social ones, they stand firmly opposed to the Republican Party political agenda. Whether it is gay rights, stem cell research, the fight of a woman to have an abortion if they choose, and questions pertaining to civil liberties in the fight against terrorism, they stand on the liberal side.

Rabbi Yoffes remarks were largely a meditation on our current crisis, and the hopes that American Jews shared for the success of the coming Obama Presidency, and their desire for the new Presidents success in his endeavors to serve our country. He was particularly concerned for the creation of universal health care, and he urged President-elect Obama not to put its attainment off because of the serious economic issues confronting us.

It was a surprise, therefore, to read these words of Rabbi Yoffe:

And  what of the State of Israel?  When we look at Israel today, we see a strong state with a reasonably healthy economy. Much of the credit should go to President George W. Bush. He supported Israels security needs, provided much-needed military aid, and accepted no excuses for Palestinian terror. The President is under siege right now, but we in the Jewish community must not forget that he has been a good friend to the Jewish State and the Jewish people.(my emphasis.)

Reform Jews who often participated in the veritable orgy of Bush hatred must have blanched as they heard these words, but it would not have come as a surprise to those Jews who knew the President.

An op-ed by Noam Neusner, a Jewish liaison for President Bush from 2002 to 2005, explained to his readers how seriously George W. Bush was in his commitment.  The Jews, Neusner writes, really do matter to him. It is not simply a case of pandering to a constituency, one he well knows does not support him politically.  I saw his eyes well up, Neusner writes, while watching the Holocaust-themed movie Paper ClipsI know how moved he was by meeting with Soviet Jewish refuseniks, Holocaust survivors and the parents of slain journalist Daniel Pearl. Neusner attended one meeting the President had with Jews from around the world, who now lived in America after years of torment in countries like Cuba, Uganda, Zimbabwe and other bastions of anti-Semitism.  As they told him how only in this nation did they find the right to live as Jews, Bush walked out of the meeting shaking his head, appalled by the special hatred tyrants have reserved for the Jews.

Neusner understands well that since Bush is a Southern evangelical Republican, it is virtually impossible for him to win over the Jews, and that criticism of him for favoring policies most Jews disagree with is fair enough. On foreign policy, some conservative Jews feel he did not do enough to confront Iran- he should have taken military action to stop them move to obtaining nuclear weapons- while others feel he was too bellicose.

But on  Israel, Neusner cannot countenance that they see his leadership on Israel and anti-Semitism as both quaint and one-dimensional. Some take it for granted. But they should not, he warns, be so casual with a friend. In fact, Neusner argues that Bush was more Zionist than many Israelis, more mindful of Jewish history than many Jewsand we American Jews can be thankful at least for that.

A few years ago, I heard former Mayor Ed Koch of New York accept an award at a dinner honoring Jewish leaders in Washington, DC. President Bush was present, and Koch saluted him, telling his largely liberal audience that in his eyes- and Ed Koch is anything but a conservative- that George W. Bush was as a President the best friend that Israel ever had and the President most sympathetic to Jewish concerns.

Perhaps, like Rabbi Yoffe, more Jews in America will come to understand that.


Ken Berwitz

Unless you live in Ohio, I'll bet you don't have a clue who this is.  So let me tell you:

Helen Jones-Kelley is the Director of Ohio's Department of Job and Family Services.  More exactly, she was the Director.  She has resigned.

And why did she do so?  Was it out of concern for her family, as she claimed?  Or is this what Ms. Jones-Kelley agreed to so that she would not be prosecuted?

Read this blog from (complete with its comments about her at the end) and then decide:.

Welfare Head, Joe Plumber Spy Resigns

December 18th, 2008

From a heartbroken Associated Press:

Agency Director Resigns After Spying on Joe the Plumber on State Computers

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Department of Job and Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelley quit after accusations arose that she improperly used state computers to access personal information on "Joe the Plumber."

CINCINNATI An Ohio agency director resigned Wednesday in the wake of a finding that she improperly used state computers to access personal information on the man who became known as "Joe the Plumber" during the presidential campaign

Department of Job and Family Services Director Helen Jones-Kelley said in a statement accompanying her resignation that she wont allow her reputation to be disparaged and that she is concerned for her familys safety.

"This decision comes after a time of pause, in which I realize that I continue to be used as a political postscript, providing a distraction from urgent state priorities," she said in her statement

Gov. Ted Strickland suspended Jones-Kelley for a month without pay after the Ohio Inspector Generals office found in November that she improperly used state computers to find personal information on Samuel Wurzelbacher. The investigation also found that she conducted improper political fundraising activity for now President-elect Barack Obama

Investigators could not confirm that Jones-Kelley accessed the records of Wurzelbacher with political gain in mind. His report did indicate that she had used her personal Blackberry to send the Obama fundraising requests though it was synched up to state equipment

Two top-level members of Jones-Kelleys staff also will be leaving the department, said agency spokeswoman Scarlett Bouder.

Fred Williams, the departments assistant director, will resign effective Jan. 31 and the agency is revoking Doug Thompsons position as deputy director of child support effective Dec. 22, she said.

Both had been suspended from their positions after being implicated in the computer records search.

Ohio lawmakers are expected to pass a bill Thursday that requires state agencies to determine proper circumstances for records to be checked and to authorize only specific individuals to perform those checks.

Unsurprisingly, this AP report actually plays down the extent to which Ms. Jones-Kelley suffered from Obama-mania.

Besides contributing the maximum amount to his run, Ms. Jones-Kelley also sent the campaign a list of potential contributors, before their visit to the area.

She also offered to host a party for the wondrous Michelle. All via the states computers.

(Indeed, one wonders where she got the list of potential contributors.)

And of course, on top of that, she had used the state computers and employees to do opposition research on Mr. Wurzelbacher for his crime of asking a question to the Anointed One.

Yet she was not fired. She has decided to resign. To protect her reputation and family.

And probably to pave the way for an even higher paying job in the Obama administration.

Mainstream media, of course, have never followed up on this scandal.  If that were done on behalf of John McCain, you'd have read countless articles about how Republicans had people at the ready, to shut up anyone who criticized him in any way they could, legal or otherwise.

But you didn't see that, did you?  Instead, the perpetrator just resigns out of concern for her family's safety.  She's not a criminal, she's a victim. 

And the people who put her up to it?  Home free.

It's good to have a D after your name....


Ken Berwitz

I grant you that China is hardly the place most people would associate with fine wine. 

But before you reject the possiblity out of hand (or out of Han, I suppose), read the following article which comes to us from

How to make cheap wine taste like a fine vintage

MOST people have got one lying around somewhere: a bottle of cheap, nasty wine left over from a dinner party just waiting to be offloaded on someone else - or quaffed late one night when the good stuff has run out. But what if you could turn that bargain-basement plonk into fine wine in minutes? In these straitened times it could be just the thing a wine lover needs.

Traditionalists, of course, would insist that nothing can replace genuine quality plus long, slow ageing in an oak barrel and years of storage in cool, cobwebby cellars. But could there be a short cut?

Over the years, inventors have come up with dozens of widgets that they claim can transform the undrinkable or bring the finest wines to perfection without the long wait. Sadly, there's little scientific evidence that most of them work (see "Faking it"). Looks like you're stuck with the plonk.

Or are you? Fortunately, there is one technique that stands out from the rest. It is backed by a decade of research, the results have been published in a peer-reviewed journal and the end product has passed the ultimate test- blind tasting by a panel of wine experts. No fewer than five wineries have now invested in the technology.

The secret this time is an electric field. Pass an undrinkable, raw red wine between a set of high-voltage electrodes and it becomes pleasantly quaffable. "Using an electric field to accelerate ageing is a feasible way to shorten maturation times and improve the quality of young wine," says Herv Alexandre, professor of oenology at the University of Burgundy, close to some of France's finest vineyards.

No matter how impatient or undiscriminating you may be, fresh wine is undrinkable and can have horrible after-effects. Expect an upset stomach, a raging thirst and the world's nastiest hangover. The youngest a wine can be drunk is six months. Most, especially reds, take longer to achieve the required balance and complexity. The finest can take 20 years to reach their peak.

During ageing, wine becomes less acid as the ethanol reacts with organic acids to produce a plethora of the fragrant compounds known as esters. Unpleasant components precipitate out and the wine becomes clearer and more stable. Red wines mellow as bitter, mouth-puckering tannin molecules combine with each other and with pigment molecules to form larger polymers, at the same time releasing their grip on volatile molecules that contribute to the wine's aroma.

These reactions take time and need a small but steady supply of oxygen. In barrel-aged wines, oxygen leaks through the wood, while wine matured in steel tanks is often helped along by introducing microscopic oxygen bubbles.

There are good commercial reasons why winemakers would love get their hands on a speedier alternative, especially in places like China where the industry is young and booming. It would allow them to get their wines into the shops faster to meet ever-increasing demand, and cut the cost of storage.

The food industry has experimented with electric fields as an alternative to heat-treating since the 1980s, and 10 years ago Xin An Zeng, a chemist at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, decided to see what he could do for wine. Early results were promising enough for Zeng and his colleagues to develop a prototype plant in which they could treat wine with fields of different strengths for different periods of time.

They pumped the wine through a pipe that ran between two titanium electrodes, fed with a mains-frequency alternating supply boosted to a higher voltage. For the test wine, the team selected a 3-month-old cabernet sauvignon from the Suntime Winery, China's largest producer. Batches of wine spent 1, 3 or 8 minutes in various electric fields (see diagram). The team then analysed the treated wine for chemical changes that might alter its "mouth feel" and quality, and passed it to a panel of 12 experienced wine tasters who assessed it in a blind tasting (Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies, vol 9, p 463).

The results were striking. With the gentlest treatment, the harsh, astringent wine grew softer. Longer exposure saw some of the hallmarks of ageing emerge- a more mature "nose", better balance and greater complexity. The improvements reached their peak after 3minutes at 600 volts per centimetre: this left the wine well balanced and harmonious, with a nose of an aged wine and, importantly, still recognisably a cabernet sauvignon.

Analysis revealed some significant chemical changes. Most obviously, there was a marked increase in reactions between alcohols and acids to produce esters. This led to a reduction in concentrations of the long-chain alcohols known to be responsible for nasty odours and a burning mouth feel, while the increase in the concentration of esters boosted the aroma and the perception of fruitiness.

Two other good things happened: the breakdown of proteins produced free amino acids that contribute to taste and there was a noticeable reduction in the levels of aldehydes, which are responsible for "off" flavours. You can have too much of a good thing, though. Upping the voltage and applying it for longer brought new and unwanted changes, including the generation of new undesirable aldehydes. Zap it too much and the result, the panel found, was worse than the untreated original.

Although Zeng cannot yet explain how exposure to an electric field alters the wine's chemistry, his results show that under the right conditions the technique can accelerate some aspects of the ageing process. "Not only can it shorten a wine's normal storage time, it can also improve some lower-quality wine," he says. "It works just as well with other grape varieties such as merlot and shiraz." Five Chinese wineries have begun trials.

A quick blast with an electric field can improve lower-quality wine and shorten storage time

Sadly for wine drinkers feeling the pinch, there's no immediate prospect that you can try this for yourself. "I have thought of designing a set of equipment for use at home," admits Zheng "...but not yet."

Take THAT Baron Rothschild!!

I have this image of a wine commercial a few years down the road.  I see Chinese people toasting each other and singing:

Zap! a-dee doo dah

Zap! a-dee ay

My oh my, what a great cabernet,

Plenty of pinot, comin' my way,

from vines to your table, three minutes away

Buy Our Book Here!

Return to Current Blog
We're Hopelessly Partisan, is a web site which is dedicated to honest, blunt, debate on the issues of our time.

About Us

Privacy Notice: In conjunction with the ads on this site, third parties may be placing and reading cookies on your browser, or using web beacons to collect information.

At “Hopelessly Partisan” we discuss all issues, big and small. In here, nothing is sacred and nothing is out of bounds.

So settle back, preferably after laughing your way through a copy of “The Hopelessly Partisan Guide To American Politics”, and let the battle begin. In this blog, your opinion counts every bit as much as anyone else's, maybe even more.

And to show that my willingness to provide all sides of the issues is sincere, here are links to a variety of web sites, from the left, the middle (more or less) and the right. Read them and either smile in agreement or gnash your teeth in anger!!