There was a time not too long ago when, if you wanted wine, you simply uncorked a bottle and poured yourself some. Today, there are so many gizmos and gadgets to access it, enhance enjoyment and preserve it, that the act of preparing a wine to sip and save, seems to have become more important than the sipping itself. Here are some of those toys.
Let’s start with opening the bottle. Natural cork is making a comeback as cork producers have solved their problems to a great extent and many producers are realizing that it’s still the best closure for wine. First, there’s the foil-cutter, just to get to the cork. Then come the corkscrews. Aside from the old “waiter’s helper” or lever style, there are single T-bars, Screwpulls, boxwood reverse action models, the ah-so, and the ever-popular Butterfly. There’s even battery-operated ones that require no effort whatsoever.
When it comes to enhancing your enjoyment, many innovations are available. How about chillers, especially for white, rosé and sparkling? You could simply use an ice bucket, half-filled with water and ice or even the lower compartment of your refrigerator, but that takes time. Behold the “Ravi Wine Refresher”. It’s an interesting shell-like creation that fits onto a wine bottle. The liquid flows through a cartridge within, that is kept in the freezer, almost instantly cooling it down. Looks weird, but does a reasonable job! Can be used for spirits too! Then there are ‘wine sleeves’ you keep in the freezer and wrap around your bottle to chill it faster.
Next come aerators. Opening a bottle or decanting it for hours for breathing works, but is slow. Aeration devices like the “Venturi” allow you to bypass the carafe and pour wine, particularly red, directly into your glass through a specially designed unit that instantly breathes life into it and softens tannins. Skeptical as I am of these types of creations, the thing really works. Interestingly, it seems to make certain varietals in blended reds like Bordeaux and ‘meritage’ stick out more. However, I find it doesn’t do a good job on older or mature wine as it oxidizes it almost instantly. Beyond that, it’s pretty nifty.
Glassware is the final venue that takes wine from the bottle to your experience. Today, there is scientifically designed stemware out there that is made to highlight and enhance specific wine varieties and styles. It’s all about physics and how their shape allows the wine to attack the palate. They work admirably. The drawback, if any, is that they’re expensive and relatively fragile, so not for the “yahoos” in your group.
Finally, let’s talk about preservation units. You could simply utilize the original closure and hope for the best, but there are numerous options open to you. One of the older methods, used by upscale wine bars, is the “Nitrogen System” where, when bottles are hooked up to a nitrogen tank, a blanket of gas replaces any wine extracted keeping air at bay. Home versions are available. Better yet for home usage is inert gas in a can. “Private Preserve” is one such brand. Here inert gas in a small can (feels empty when it’s full) is shot, via an attached straw, into the wine bottle after pouring and then closing. Doing the same job as the Nitrogen System, it must be reapplied after every pouring, before reclosing. Works really well! Also on the market is a vacuum system like “Vacu Vin”. A rubber stopper or plug with a small hole replaces the original closure and air is sucked out via a pump. Generally works fine, but not if the air pocket is too large or the wine too old! A final tool, that combines the bottle, decanter and preservation system into one, is “Savino”. It’s an attractive glass decanter with a stopper that floats on the wine’s surface and a locking lid.
Picking and using the right toy for dealing with your wine can be exhausting. Builds up quite a thirst, doesn’t it?
Edward Finstein, a.k.a. The Wine Doctor, wine writer, educator, judge & consultant