At our house, as in many, it’s both Christmas and Hanukkah, which brings forward a plethora of gifts and many a head scratched over what to give each other over the course of nine days. I’m a pretty good target for wine gadget-of-the-moment, and have received (and given) many over the years. Some have been good, even invaluable, while many lie buried at the bottom of a drawer in the dining-room server. Here’s a list of the most memorable, good and bad:
1.) Decanters. One can never have too many decanters, I once believed: They’re pretty, they’re useful, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Then, we hosted Peter Gago, Penfolds’ brilliant and genial winemaker. He told us all he needed was a single decanter to prepare his wines for drinking that night, as he preferred the practice of double decanting. In double decanting, you decant the wine, rinse the bottle, and return the wine to the original bottle, thus gently aerating the wine, economizing on decanters, and retaining the ability to easily tell which wine is which! Sure, many people enjoy looking at the beautiful color of the wine through the decanters, but I think that’s what excellent stemware is for, and this way we can still enjoy the artwork on the front of the bottle. So, for me, a bottle-sized and a magnum-sized decanter are really all I need.
2.) Stemless Glasses. They're seemingly ubiquitous now, but we’ve been using these for a few years as an everyday wine glass. I love the fact that they fit in the dishwasher without much effort or planning ahead, and that you can still get the custom-designed bowls that Riedel, et al, offer. However, I’m amazed at the complaints I get from guests: People are afraid that the heat of their hands will adversely affect the wine, or they think that the glasses get too fingerprinted and schmutzy, and the larger glasses designed for Cabernets and the like often don’t fit comfortably in smaller hands (by this, I mean women – not kids!). Despite my love of these novel vessels, my wife and I have recently gone back to glasses with stems. It just feels right.
3.) Wine Funnel. A few years ago, a friend gave me a wine funnel with a little mesh screen to catch any sediment I’ve missed, and a series of perforations at the bottom, which pushes the wine into a tulip-shaped spray. It’s a nice way to quickly aerate younger, more rustic wines, and although it’s a little gimmicky, I find myself using it more than I’d expected.
4.) Le Clef du Vin. Have you seen this? It’s a little copper disc on a stick (mine’s actually attached to a pretty, and infinitely more useful, Laguiole corkscrew), which, is purported to “age” the wine in your glass, at a rate of one year per second. I’ve tried it a number of times, and all I can suggest is that it’s complete bunk. Even if all it is supposed to do is oxidize the wine, it doesn’t seem to do much except make everyone else at the table enjoy a laugh at your expense.
5.) Dream Taste. Okay, now this one’s crazy: A gaudy glass pitcher with a single-use, $20 plastic insert, modeled to look like a bunch of grapes, which is alleged to remove TCA or “corkiness” from wine! I bought one of these last year, and when I opened a bottle of wine that ended up being both corked and valuable enough to justify the extra cost of a $20 experiment (a 1982 Château La Conseillante), I figured it didn’t hurt to try. Believe it or not, an hour later, the mustiness, though not gone, was greatly reduced. Weird. The box says it has something to do with chemistry and co-polymers. It could be total hocus-pocus, and I may well have damaged whatever shred of integrity I have by even admitting I’ve tried this thing, but the jury’s still out for me….
6. Corkscrews. Until the blessed day when all corks are out of the marketplace, I’ll stick with my Screwpull. I’ve continued to buy their products for friends long after the patent expired on their lever-pull device, as they’re the ones who developed it, and I’ve had seven years of great luck with my model. That is until my wife broke ours while I was away on tour. I quickly sent her the new Screwpull pump model, and it’s even better! Maybe it’s just a well-lubricated mechanism and a sharp new worm, but I think this new tool is a huge improvement over an already superior product: smooth, consistent, and easy to use, even with extra-long corks!
Good luck everyone with your last-minute shopping! I hope you all have a chance to relax, enjoy friends and family and a good bottle of wine over the holidays.
Dr M Vinciguerra — Port Washington, NY — December 22, 2006 4:16pm ET
Lorenzo Erlic — victoria canada — December 22, 2006 9:09pm ET
Claude Pope — Raleigh, NC — December 22, 2006 9:48pm ET
Ian Tarrant — Ontario, Canada — December 24, 2006 2:02pm ET
Ken Keenan — Port Perry, Ontario — December 24, 2006 2:11pm ET
Dave Joyce — Winston-Salem, NC — December 25, 2006 8:34pm ET
Peter Cargasacchi — Sta. Rita Hills — December 25, 2006 10:50pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — December 26, 2006 11:17pm ET
Leslie Sakaguchi — El Segundo, CA — December 27, 2006 5:41pm ET
Leslie Sakaguchi — El Segundo, CA — December 27, 2006 5:51pm ET
Steven Page — December 28, 2006 2:30pm ET
Brian Greenglass — Toronto, Canada — January 10, 2007 11:51pm ET
Steve Barber — Clayton, CA. — March 1, 2007 9:14pm ET
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