Here comes new Gadgets’ Thursday. Today we will talk about Wine Preservers (in case you missed previous post where we talked about Wine Pourers, here is the link).
The idea behind wine preservers is simple but equally difficult to achieve. As soon as the bottle of wine is open, the oxygen gets in the contact with the wine, which sets of a rapid ageing process. The wine changes its taste as the result of this ageing process. While wine is in the closed bottle, it ages very slowly, as only trace amounts of oxygen (or none in case of screwtops) are getting into the contact with wine. As soon as cork is out, the ageing is fast and irreversible. The best defense – finish the bottle in one day (I know – this is what many of my readers will say) – but in a lot of cases, this simply doesn’t work this way. My wife likes wine, but sometimes she would prefer another drink or none at all – which leaves me one on one with the bottle. Can I finish it? Yes, and it happens from time to time. Is that a good thing – not really, may be for the wine it is, but not necessarily for me. Thus I want to make sure my wine still tastes good on the second day. If necessary or happened to be – on the third too. This is where you reach out to the wine preservers.
How do you preserve the wine from going bad once it is opened? By not letting oxygen get to it, of course. So there are few solutions which can be used here – not all of them are gadgets, but I will list them anyway:
- Box wine: Of course box wine is not a gadget. But the whole point is ( outside of environmental friendliness and low cost) is that by the nature of the design, box wine allows you to pour wine into the glass without letting oxygen inside the sealed bag. Once you “open” the box of wine (opening typically means getting the spout out of the carton), you can continue using it for the long time without any loss in the taste.
- Wine kegs: while not widely used, the wine can be distributed in the stainless steel kegs which are used by the restaurants to serve the wine on top. Not really an option for the home users (unless you entertain tremendously out of your house). Same as above, the wine is preserved as no oxygen gets back into the keg
- Inert gas preservers – the idea is based on using the inert gas, such as argon (which is heavier than oxygen) to displace the oxygen on top of the wine in the open bottle. There are few options available which are based on this approach:
- Enomatic wine dispenser – I kind of wish to have one at home (see picture below) – allows to have multiple bottles open at the same time, so consumers can run a “self-guided” tasting.
- A wine preserver system in the can (a can with the inert gas which can be sprayed into an open bottle to displace oxygen)
- Vacuum pump – allows to remove oxygen from the open bottle by pumping it out.
Here is the same, with the pictures:
I have both vacuum pump and gas can, and I have to tell you that I use vacuum pump literally every day. Just to explain the usage:
For vacuum pump – insert rubber cork into the bottle, put vacuum pump on top, and pump the air out for as long as it is easy to move the handle – once the resistance becomes substantial, you know that you got all the air out.
For gas can – insert the straw into the bottle, push the top – you will hear the flow of gas under pressure. Keep pushing the top for about 2-3 seconds. Take out straw and quickly close the bottle with the cork.
Both vacuum pump and gas can allow you to accomplish the same goal – extend the life of your beloved beverage once the bottle is opened. Vacuum pump is very inexpensive (one time investment of $12.99 or so), and it will last you almost forever (mine is still working fine for the past 10+ years). At about $9.99 we can’t call gas can an expensive solution either, but you will have to replace them more often. One advantage of the gas can – you can use it to continue keeping wine for much longer time compare to the vacuum pump. I had a few times the need to taste the wine months prior to that wine actually being consumed. What I have done is open the bottle, pour out the amount I needed, use the gas can and put the cork or screwtop back and put the bottle back into the storage – it worked just fine and the wine tasted perfectly when it was opened much later.
Bottom line: I highly recommend using the wine preservers, whether it is a vacuum pump or gas can – they really help to remove that fear of opening the bottle only because you think that you will not be able to finish it and half of the good bottle will go to waste. It is one of the best of the useful, simple and inexpensive wine tools which help you to enjoy the wine more.
Now, to get your opinion on the subject, I created the poll which I plan to continue using for the future gadget posts – let me know what do you think about it. Please keep in mind that answering the poll questions is not a substitute for leaving the comment : ). I definitely would like to hear your opinion on today’s topic.
In case you have an urge to get one of the wine preservers now, here is what you can find on Amazon: Wine Preservers.
And with this – we are done! Cheers!
As it was introduced a week ago (here is the post), we are starting to discuss a subject of the wine gadgets in the Thursday posts. Gadget post might not happen every Thursday – but at least you are about to read one now.
I don’t plan to rate gadgets – but I will tell you if I think you should own one. I will tell you what I like and don’t like. I will tell you why I think the gadget useful – or why I think it is not. I don’t really plan to acquire new gadgets just for the purposes of these posts – but this might change in the future.
Now, let’s proceed with our first gadget – The Pourer.
Even with such a simple accessory as a wine pourer, there are many many different types available:
- Standard pourer
- Measuring pourer – you mostly see those at the wineries and wine tastings. They allow you to dispense the exact amount of liquid with every pour
- Pourer/stopper combination
- Aerating pourer
I own a substantial number of pourers of different forms and sizes:
Why would you want to use pourers? I see two reasons:
- Aesthetics of pouring wine into the glass. Somehow, I find it more aesthetically pleasing looking at the wine going into the glass when the pourer is used
- Cleanliness of the bottle, hands and tablecloth. Using of the pourer prevents the wine from dripping all over the bottle, which subsequently leads to round stains on the tablecloth (especially when you deal with the red wine).
Just so you can relate to what I’m offering here, compare this two pictures. First one – pouring wine just standard way:
and this one – pouring wine using Crystal Wine Server:
Which one do you find more elegant (and I’m not even talking about dripping)?
Are all of the pourers the same? Not at all. Not all pourers will fit all the bottles (interestingly enough, some of the screwtops offer a particular challenge for pourers as they often have a bit wider neck than the regular bottles). Some of the pourers are more versatile, some of them less. Some allow an easy addition of wine stopper, and some just don’t. Some of them also can work as aerators, but I will reserve that subject for the time when we will talk about aerators.
If you look at the five I presented to you above, they are all slightly different. #1, VacuVin Black Wine Server will fit a lot of bottles, will be okay with most of the screwtops and will allow the use of any bottle stoppers. This is definitely an advantage.
I find #2, VacuVin Crystal Wine Server the most aesthetically pleasing. However, it might have challenges fitting the screwtops (might simply fall out of some of them), and has probably the shortest lifespan (the bottom cracks). No stopper can be used together with this pourer.
When it comes to #3, it doesn’t even look like a pourer, right? But this ring performs an important function of stopping the drips, so as far as I’m concerned, it is pretty much a pourer. And it will fit on majority of the bottles, which is also a plus.
Pourer #4 is a flexible pourer – it is more or less a piece of plastic which you can fold and insert into absolute majority of the bottles. Works similar to #2, classic pourer and of course it should be taken out when you will need to recork your bottle. The advantage is that it is quite universal and will fit various bottle types.
Pourer #5 is a pourer/stopper combination. It works quite well, but has limitations – it will not fit some of the bottles with the thinner neck. Otherwise it is simple and I think looks pretty good.
Bottom line: considering that pourers are inexpensive for the majority of the cases, I would recommend to have variety on hands, so you will be prepared to enjoy bottles of any forms and sizes in style, and without annoying drips.
Variety of pourers can be found on many web sites and in catalogs – here is selection which can be found on Amazon: Wine pourers.
What do you think? Do you own pourers, and if you do, do you use them? Do you think they make sense or do you think they are just waste of the money? Comment away!
And now, to make it even more entertaining, I’m adding a simple poll here – with every new poll I will provide results from the previous one. Let me know if these are good questions or if you want to know something else.
Whew, and we are done here. Cheers!
Wine accessories, or gadgets for short. What is your take on them? Do you find all those wine gadgets to be a nuisance, a waste of money and useless? Or do you have your favorite bottle opener you swear by as nothing else can deal with the bottle as quickly, neatly and efficiently?
Being an oenophile, I find myself surrounded with all those little wine tools – some I buy, some I get as presents (dear friends: two dozens of bottle stoppers is quite enough, no matter how fancy they look like, I think I’m set for quite a while, so please bring the wine instead). But the important part is that I actually use many of those little gadgets – some pretty much daily, like bottle openers, pourers, glasses or vacuum pump. Some occasionally, like bottle chillers, Champagne bottle stoppers, aerators and decanters. Some are reserved for the OMG moments only, like that Wine Away spray. Some are used only when guests are coming, like glass charms. And then there are those which are priceless when I travel, like bottle sleeves or special wine carriers and even suitcases.
The fact of the matter is that I use the wine gadgets, and many of them actually help with the wine appreciation. Like the simple bottle pourer, which helps to avoid red smudges on the wine labels and red circle on the table cloth. Or elegant glass, which exhumes with excitement as soon as it is filled with golden or purple liquid. Where am I going with all this? Simple. As I do it with wine, I want to share my gadget experiences with you – and to tell you what worked for me, what didn’t work, and what you might find useful.
At this point my plan is to have a wine gadget posts on Thursdays – there are plenty of little tools to talk about, so I don’t know whether this will be a weekly feature or not, but time will tell. And if you have any “yay” or “nay” to say about this idea – your comments are always welcome. And until the first gadget post – cheers!
P.S. Don’t forget that today is Chardonnay Day! Celebrate one of the world’s most popular grapes in style!
Looking at a big picture, your three big gift categories for the wine lovers are wine, wine accessories and wine education and experience.
Let’s start with wine. Don’t dread it – giving someone a bottle of wine she or he will enjoy is not as difficult as it seems. You should start with a good wine store – it can be neighborhood store or an online store (at the end of this post there is a listing of my favorite wine stores). Now, based on what you know about wine preferences for the gift recipient, there are few possible approaches for selecting the wine. If you only know the type of wine the other person likes (let’s say California Pinot Noir), the easiest bet is to get the wine at the actual “brick and mortar” wine store, where you can ask for the advice. If you know particular wines and/or wineries the other person likes (let’s say Catena Zapata Malbec or Peter Michael Chardonnay), it is equally simple to buy the wine in the store or online, as long as you can find it at the price you are willing to pay.
Now, in case you are unsure about the wine preferences, you can try a different approach. Do you know of any dates which are special in other person’s life? Birthday, anniversary, children birthdays, buying a first house – as long as you know the year of that special event, you can look for wine, port, scotch or champagne made in that specific year. Think it will be too expensive? Not necessarily – check Benchmark Wine Company’s selection of the older wines, and you might be pleasantly surprised. You can also ask your trusted wine retailer – many back vintages are still available, and often are quite affordable. Try it – I’m sure you will make someone very happy.
I’m not going to give you any particular wine recommendations (it really depends on the preferences as we discussed above and your price range), but I would like to suggest what not to get the wine lovers – stay away from the wine clubs. There are many wine clubs offered by various newspapers and “thingy of the month” establishments – the wines in such club selections usually don’t have a good value (you get a case of wine which looks inexpensive as a case – problem is that the person might enjoy only one or two bottles from the whole case, which immediately makes it a bad value). You can give a winery club as a present – if you know that the other person would enjoy the wines from that particular winery. However, if you still set on the wine club idea, the only clubs which I can wholeheartedly recommend are the ones run by D&M ( please see reference below) – their scotch, cognac and champagne clubs are amazing and represent a real value.
Let’s move on to the wine accessories. All wine lovers appreciate good accessories which make wine drinking more enjoyable. Everything goes – glasses, decanters, bottle openers, pourers, glass charms, bottle stopper, wine preservers, bottle holders – the list goes on and on. However, you need to keep in mind two things:
- it would help immensely to know what the other person might need/want, or at least doesn’t have already. Glasses and decanters take space, and nobody needs three estate wine openers.
- keep it simple. If the accessory is super fancy, like electronic bottle chiller, there is a good chance that it will be used only once or never. Wine accessory should be simple to use and “obviously” useful for the person to actually enjoy it. If someone is going to spend lots of time thinking “what am I going to do with this and where am I going to put it”, I wouldn’t call it a good gift.
The easiest way to buy wine accessories is through the catalogs (few recommendations are at bottom of the post), but don’t forget to check Home Goods stores – they offer a lot of different wine accessories at the great prices.
Last but not least category – wine education and experience. You don’t need to know anything about the wine in order to enjoy it – however, knowing something about the wine you are drinking greatly adds up to that enjoyment. When it comes to the wine education, there are many resources. First, there are books and magazines. Many wine books are truly enjoyable and educational at the same time – try the books by Matt Kramer, for instance. Some of the books contain tremendous wealth of information – for instance, the books by Jancis Robinson. Any of these books would make a great present for your wine loving friends (Important! Try to make sure they don’t yet have the book you intend to give!).
Another great educational resource is wine schools and classes. One of my favorite wine schools is Windows on the World Wine School (link below). During each class you learn about different wine regions and taste different wines – all hand selected by Kevin Zraly, who teaches the classes for more than 20 years. You don’t have to buy whole series – you can get gift certificates good for individual classes.
As far as wine experiences are concerned, the sky is the limit. Wine travel, wine cruises, wine master classes, wine appreciation dinners, winemaker dinners – there are endless possibilities for anyone who wants to know more about the art of wine. Okay, let me leave this topic for you to explore – if in doubt, start with Google, it always works for me.
I think this was the longest post in this blog ever (at least as far as the word count is concerned). I hope I was able to give you some ideas, and so I would like to wish you and yours Happy Holidays! Cheers!
Holiday wine gift giving Resource Guide:
Benchmark Wine Company – great source of old vintage, rare and unique wines from all over the world – all at very fair prices. Don’t forget to check their Clearance Bin!
Bottle King – Chain of discount wine and liquor stores in New Jersey. Offers excellent values and great selection, some of the wines being unique just for the chain. Selection of California, France, Italy and Portuguese wines worth specific mentioning. If you are in the area of any of the stores, make sure to stop by.
Cost Less Wines and Liquors – if you live in the area of Stamford, CT or visiting the town, don’t forget to stop by Cost Less – there many great values in stock every day for any discriminating wine lover. Just worth mentioning that store was voted “Best in Stamford”. There are great wines from all over the world, but portfolio of wines from California, France, Israel, Italy and Spain worth specific mentioning, plus selection of Scotch is outstanding.
D&M – great wine store in San Francisco. The biggest selection of Scotch, Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Champagne, Mezcal (you got the idea, right?) of any store that I know of. D&M also has a number of clubs for all the different spirits – well worth the money, as all the shipments are rare and unique.
PJ Wine – One of the best wine stores in New York. Selection of Spanish wines is truly amazing (may be best in the country), French and Italian wines are also well represented. Lots of unique wines, particularly biodynamic and organic. PJ Wine also provides great educational opportunities such as seminars, wine tastings and so on.
Pop’s Wine & Spirits – I never been to the store personally, however, some of my friends swear by it, and I have seen great values acquired there, therefore I believe the store is worth mentioning here. The store is located on Long Island, but you can also buy the wines online.
WTSO.com – I talked about Wine Till Sold Out many times in the past. Great source of value wines, very simple model (only one wine is offered at a time, free shipping if you buy recommended quantity, ranging from 1 to 4). Might be a challenge to get a specific wine for a specific occasion, but well deserves an e-mail subscription in any case.
IWA Wine – offers full range of wine accessories, from glasses to wine cellars and wine cellar piece parts to wine memorabilia and even wines.
Wine Enthusiast – same as above, offers full range of wine accessories for all needs and occasions.
Home Goods stores – on any given day, there is a great selection of various wine gadgets and accessories in the store – be sure to check it out, and keep in mind that inventories are changing daily.
Windows on the World Wins School – excellent source of wine education. Taught by Kevin Zraly for more than 20 years, the school offers a series of classes which are very informative, educational and enjoyable. I can’t recommend it high enough.
Wine Spectator Magazine – magazine contains lots of interesting articles, wine ratings, restaurant reviews and chef recipes. I’m subscribing it for the past ten years, and still very excited with each issue. There is also an online version, which requires its own subscription.