OPENING THE BOTTLE
I have been opening wine bottles in commercial quantities ever since I was a bartender. Over the years, I acquired some beautiful and effective machines for removing the corks. Mostly I rely on the classic waiter’s corkscrew, especially the double-hinged version introduced by the Spanish company Pulltaps.
But when I pull a bottle from my cellar—any wine more than 10 years old—I rely on the Durand.
This cork remover was invented by a wine collector named Mark Taylor, who was frustrated by the difficulty in extracting fragile corks from older wines without breaking them or leaving debris in the bottle. It’s actually two devices in one: a standard corkscrew with a spiral worm that sinks into the center of the cork, and a device, commonly called an “ah-so,” with two prongs that slip between the cork and the glass.
The Durand is not all that intuitive or easy to use; it lacks the leverage supplied by many other cork removers (including the Pulltap). Nor is it inexpensive, at $125. But once you master the technique, it maximizes the success rate of removing an old, crumbly cork intact. Considering the value, both financial and emotional, of mature wines, the Durand is an essential tool in any collector’s arsenal.—Thomas Matthews
Viski Signature Double-Hinged Corkscrew
Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you I am very particular about the tools I use to open a bottle of wine. As someone who does just that for a living (and has probably opened more than 30,000 bottles by now), I know the value of a really good wine key. Although there are numerous elegant, effective and expensive models out there, I also enjoy a good value. When I closed on my apartment, my realtor gave me a housewarming gift that included this double-hinged Viski model with integrated foil cutter, in gold. It also comes in copper (shown here), gunmetal and emerald and gold. It works great, I get tons of compliments on it, and it makes every bottle I open feel fancy.—Cassia Schifter
Georg Jensen Indulgence Champagne Saber
Don’t pop your bottle of holiday bubbly, saber it. The art of sabrage is attributed to Napoleon’s saber-wielding, Champagne-loving cavalry troops, but it’s a relatively easy, crowd-pleasing technique to master. Although any chef’s knife is equal to the task of slicing away a sparkling wine bottle’s neck, this sleek, gleaming, stainless-steel sword takes the art of sabrage to another level. The sword’s edge is dull—it’s all about pressure and finding the sweet spot on the neck of the bottle—but if you travel with it, yes, the TSA will open and inspect your checked luggage when scanned; I speak from experience. An eye for Danish design or safety concerns? Who knows. Either way this is the gift for the Champagne lover who has it all.—Alison Napjus
Coravin Wine Preservation System
What if you could recreate the wine bar experience in the comfort of your own home? Indulging in the perfect wine for your current mood, exploring the world through a varietal flight or progressing from a crisp Sauvignon Blanc to an earthy Pinot Noir to a robust Chianti Classico and ending with just a splash of Moscato. The Coravin Model Six Wine Preservation System lets you do that in style. Known and loved throughout the wine industry, this genius combination of design and technology is the secret behind some of the world’s best wine-by-the-glass programs. Pour a sip or a glass from virtually any bottle without removing the cork, ensuring that the remaining wine will be perfectly preserved for weeks, months or even years. Whenever you make your way back to the bottle, the next glass will be just as amazing as the first. With Coravin, your wine rack becomes your personal tasting menu.
WINE ON THE GO
Picnictime Legacy Wine and Cheese Totes
Ideal for those who like to enjoy a good bottle wherever they go, the Legacy two-bottle insulated cooler from Picnictime offers convenience for enjoying cheese and wine while hiking, camping, going to the beach or just enjoying a socially distanced get-together outdoors. The smart backpack-style bag—in khaki-green waxed cotton with brown accents—will keep wine and snacks at the perfect temperature. (Other models are available in different colors.) A removable interior divider allows for easy organization, while the front pockets hold an acacia wood cutting board, a stainless-steel cheese knife with wooden handle and a waiter-style corkscrew. The durable design keeps everything intact and ready to enjoy. The product comes with a lifetime guarantee. The website also offers free shipping, free returns and gift-wrapping.—Aleks Zecevic
Wine Access e-Gift Cards
Give your family, friends and clients access to the world’s best wines with Wine Access e-Gift Cards. The company’s expert team—which includes a Master of Wine, a Master Sommelier and a selective crew of industry experts—unlocks access to the most exclusive wines, from first-growth Bordeaux estates to Napa cult icons, and offers exciting discoveries along the way. The best part is that you can add multiple recipients on a single order page, making it easy to knock out all of your gift giving in one place.
PRESENTING AND SERVING WINE
Zalto Burgundy Glass
aldosohm.com, $63 each or $378 for a six-pack
Bigger isn’t always better, but these hand-blown, Austria-made glasses are awfully impressive. The bowl boasts a wingspan of 5 inches, and when put to the test, it holds a remarkable 32 ounces—more than a standard wine bottle. All that capacity gives you plenty of swirl space, but it could also easily be unwieldy in a lesser glass. A precision balance is at play here. Somehow the Zalto is graceful whether there’s an ounce or a bottle’s worth of wine in it, despite having one of the slimmest stems I’ve encountered. As the name suggests, this version is recommended for Burgundy, but a glass like this elevates wines from many regions. You can try accepted Burgundy alternatives like Barolo or Etna reds from Italy, but you might also enjoy using it to sip vintage Champagne or a gran reserva Rioja.—A.N.
Franmara Royal Four-Bottle Cooler
When hosting a dinner party or outdoor lunch, it can be a challenge to keep wines both chilled and accessible to your guests. Ice buckets work, but excess water on the bottles can drip all over the place. This Franmara water cooler solves all of these problems with its double-wall design and four permanently welded-in compartments. Simply fill the lower chamber with lots of ice and some cold water, and your wines will stay dry and chilled for hours without any condensation. Your guests can easily help themselves to the wine without worrying about dripping any water. The nickel-plated brass design looks upscale and makes for a nice centerpiece for the dining room or a picnic table. I have used mine for a variety of get-togethers with family and friends over the years, and it’s allowed me to properly chill sparkling wines, white wines, dessert wines and even some reds, like cru Beaujolais.—Gillian Sciaretta
Riedel O Single Decanter
Do you get frustrated when you can’t quite get the last pour out of your traditional, wide- and flat-based decanter? Tired of looking like a rookie when the decanter’s flat top causes you to dribble wine onto your tabletop? Say goodbye to that conventional decanter and instead turn to a high-quality version that embraces functionality and form. Glass expert Riedel’s O decanter offers a slanted lip to facilitate a clean, precise pour. The minimalist design and modest size, as well as the punt at the bottom, make it user-friendly, fitting easily in your hand. While your “special occasion” decanter takes up space on the shelf, this will quickly become your everyday go-to for decanting everything from a prized bottle to your pre-dinner sipper.—A.N.
Portae Wine Cradle
portae-la.com, from $355
Do you have a favorite chair? Simple, functional and elegant, the Portae wine cradle is the favorite chair of wine service. It doesn’t do much, but it does it perfectly and looks quite smart. Cradles are not just for presentation of wine; they also serve to isolate any sediment in the bottom corner of the bottle so that it doesn’t spill into your glass. Traditionally they were either baskets or metal contraptions, often with gears to tilt the bottle. The former were built for one size only, and even then the bottle could rattle around. The latter were just overwrought; who wants a Rube Goldberg machine on the table? The Portae has one of those “why didn’t anyone else think of that?” innovations: the clean, modern, metal frame holds a leather sling—we’ve been calling it a wine hammock—to embrace different-sized bottles at just the right angle for service. Eminent sommelier Ryan Bailey saw the need for it and teamed with Klein Agency designers to make it, with 15 available color combinations. It’s clean-looking, it works, and the leather cradle evokes an Eames lounge chair for wine.—Owen Dugan
The Definitive Guide to Wine Appreciation
Windows on the World Complete Wine Course: 35th Anniversary Edition, by Kevin Zraly
Kevin Zraly is America’s ultimate wine educator, and his entertaining teaching style has made this must-have book a treasured favorite for more than three decades. He demystifies every aspect of wine: grape varieties, winemaking techniques, how to read a wine label, and how to evaluate a wine in just 60 seconds. This 35th anniversary edition includes new material on Prosecco, rosé and the wines of Sicily, plus a fascinating chapter written from the author's unique 50-year perspective on how wine and food culture has changed since 1970.
"If you have never bought a wine book before, start with this one. If you have a roomful of wine books, get this one anyway. … It makes wine fun, it makes wine exciting, and it carries its erudition lightly, just like its author. … One of the best start-from-scratch wine books ever written. … Zraly's never flagging enthusiasm for wine bounces off every page. … His book is still the best of its kind."—New York Times
Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover
wineaway.com (and wine retailers nationwide), $17 for a combo of one 12-ounce bottle and one 2-ounce bottle; $16 for the Wine Away Emergency Kit two-pack
When I got into the wine industry, I adopted an almost entirely black wardrobe as a way to hide any red wine splashes or dribbles. Thankfully, I discovered Wine Away and have a more colorful wardrobe now. This stuff is magic: You spray it on and watch red wine stains disappear, then launder as usual. The product does not contain bleach—it’s made from fruit and vegetable extracts—and its appealing, light, citrusy aroma doesn’t linger too long, so you can go on wine tasting without being distracted by the scent.
We have a full-size spray bottle at work, and there’s another at home. My life was further changed when I discovered the 2-ounce bottles (perfect stocking stuffers), which are easy to stick in my purse. I’ve also started leaving one in my car so when I see a spot, I can take care of it right away. Another stocking stuffer option is the Wine Away emergency kit tin (shown), with two mini spray bottles. Wine Away, founded in 1997 by mother-daughter team Cheryl Corn and Staci Wanichek, is also equally effective on tablecloths, carpets and hard surfaces and fights other tough, red-colored stains too.—MaryAnn Worobiec