Every once in a while a wine-tasting gadget comes along that is unlike anything anyone has thought of before.
David Gates says he came up with his idea when his 4-year-old son asked him why he didn't drink wine through a straw. When he explained that he liked to mix wine with air to enhance the aromas and flavors, his son came back with the idea of poking a hole in a straw -- and the Wine Prism was born.
The Wine Prism is essentially a glass straw with a hole in the side. Put it in a glass and suck up the wine, and the side hole aerates the wine before it gets to your mouth -- an alternative to aerating wine by swishing it around in your mouth or sucking in air with a mouthful of liquid.
Marketed as the "take-anywhere personal decanting device," the Wine Prism is not intended to replace casual wine drinking, but rather to serve as a tool in critically evaluating wine, highlighting flaws and positive attributes. Priced at $24.95, it comes in a handsome pen-case box, with a brass-colored pocket clip in the shape of a bunch of grapes.
But does it work? An informal trial in Wine Spectator's Napa office found a difference between sipping wine with and without the Wine Prism; after passing through the Wine Prism, the wine seemed "pre-swished" when first tasted so additional aeration wasn't necessary. It can take a couple of practice runs to get used to getting a solid stream of wine into your mouth and to make sure you're not covering the aerating hole with your finger.
Many drinkers may still prefer aerating their wine the traditional ways, which work just as well. (Though for the easily embarrassed, the Wine Prism does eliminate those mouth-slurping noises, replacing them with a "straw at the end of a drink" sound.)
While the Wine Prism is unlikely to become an essential tasting tool, it makes a nice novelty gadget for the wine lover who has everything. For more information, contact Napa-based O2 Essential Ideas at (800) 322-8878 or visit www.wineprism.com.