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Wine Gifts – A Practical and Pragmatic Guide, Part 2

December 11, 2014 7 comments

Happy HolidaysHere we go again – as promised, a continuation of our Wine Gift Guide (here is the link for the first part, where we were talking specifically about wine as a gift). Please remember our guiding principals – practical and pragmatic. Know what your gift recipient needs or wants. Measure it up for yourself – would you be happy getting the same exact gift. Spend the money as you would for yourself, not as you would think you have to spend to look good.

The theme of today’s installment of the Wine Gifts Guide is Wine Gadgets, often also called Wine Accessories. This category includes everything which helps you to handle the wine or the bottle, and the whole idea behind gadgets is that they help to enhance the pleasure of drinking wine. An elegant glass, a beautiful decanter, an easy to use wine opener, a pourer which protects the bottle’s label, your hands, and white tablecloth – all are the tools helping you to enjoy wine to its fullest.

The subject of gadgets is much bigger than the wine itself – there are myriads of them. Remember, you are presenting the gift to the person you care about. Know what the person needs, or even more importantly, what the person already has. As it was mentioned in the previous installment, getting the second bottle of your favorite wine is never a problem. Getting 3rd set of glasses the recipient has no room for, which will end up in the basement and will never be used, is not what you want, period. Think before you buy. On the positive side, many wine accessories are often small and inexpensive, so they make ideal “stocking stuffers” or can be easily combined for a bigger gift. Last note before we talk about particular gadgets – I wrote about some of the wine gadgets before (wanted to create a whole series, but that didn’t work), so here is the link where you will find detailed references to the accessories I will mention below. Let’s go.

DSC_0602 Wine Gadgets

  1. Wine Glasses. Often an excellent gift, best if you know that the other person needs them – wine glasses are bulky and require dedicated storage space. There are multitudes of glasses available. Yes, you can go to the extreme of varietal-specific top notch glasses from Riedel, which will set you back about $50 a piece. You can also get a universal Riedel tasting glass at around 1/4th of that, or you can get 5 Zwiesel glasses for the same amount. You don’t have to get Riedel varietal glasses – 95+% of the people (I’m generous here) will not notice the difference – but of course do what you think is right. And measure it up for yourself. Example – I don’t like Riedel O stemless glasses – therefore, I will never give them to someone as a present. Okay, I think we are clear on this subject.
  2. Wine Decanters. I love decanters, I own 3 of them. In some cases, you simply need them (think Barolo). Even if you don’t really need the decanter, it typically adds to the pleasure of wine consumption. Don’t buy decanter by the price – if it looks good for you, get it. Nobody will feel the difference in the wine decanted in the $30 and $130 decanters.
  3. Wine Pourers. I personally love those – they greatly contribute to the enjoyment of wine by preventing the spills, red circles on the tablecloth and red fingers. They are also small, so it shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. Some pourers also serve as aerators, so you get the double bonus.
  4. Wine Opener. An interesting category. Yes, there are always new fancy designs, promising to simplify that tough task of opening that bottle of wine. But then so-called “waiter corkscrew” is all you need to open 95% of the bottles… Unlike pourers or wine charms, you generally don’t need a lot of bottle openers (it helps to have more than one, though, as you can always forget where did it go). So again, this is the category where it helps to know what the recipient wants or needs. Also remember that they can be bulky. And – the worst part – some of them don’t work by design, plain and simple. Know what you are getting…
  5. Wine Preservers. I love my Vacuvin, and I use it daily. But – you really need only one, as they are extremely durable. Then again, maybe you want to give your dear friend a Coravin ($250) – it is your choice. Generally, wine preservation solutions are good to have, so go for it.
  6. Wine Stoppers. If you find something super-cool – go for it. But remember that average wine aficionado has about 10 or 15 of those already stuffed in all the corners of the cabinets. Unless yours is amazing, there is a good chance that it will end up last in line – and nobody needs to use 16 bottle stoppers at once.
  7. Wine Chillers. Some look nice (like the frozen sleeve ones) and they actually work. A lot of wine chillers don’t work. I don’t like the icicles, and any electronic chiller is an absolute waste of money and storage space (I have mine stuffed in the corner of the closet – used it once – if you need it, I will ship it to you). Remember that bucket of ice with water will get any wine to the proper drinking temperature in 25 minutes tops – and it doesn’t take any space until you actually have to use it.
  8. Wine Charms. These are typically the least offending – they are tiny, can be stored easily anywhere, and kind of fun at the parties.
  9. Wine carriers. I like this category. They often come handy when traveling with wine, so yes, this gets my vote. Make sure they are actually sized right and can accommodate bottles of different sizes – I have one which will not take a burgundy shaped bottle no matter what, so make sure to check the one you are planning to get.
  10. Wine Luggage. It is generally expensive and would make a great gift – only if you know that the other person actually wants it. Taking a specific piece of luggage to travel with wine requires determination – find out before you will spend money on something which will never be used.
  11. Wine storage solutions. This is a broad and generally useful category – if the other person wants it and needs it. Wine storage solutions are usually bulky – know that the person will be able to fit that 36-bottle wine rack or a wine fridge. This type of present usually requires full coordination on both sides. In this category, avoid tiny wine fridges (6 bottles or less) – they take space, and their utility value is non-existent. As soon as you will store 6 bottles, you will end up with additional 24 requiring storage. It’s a rule, remember it.
  12. Eclectic gifts, or gifts for geeks. Okay, you will be surprised how many accessories can fit into this category. Port Tongues. Porrón. Wine Thermometer. There is no limit to the unusual gifts – and they are generally fine, but you better know your gift recipient. The person who drinks Chardonnay with the cube of ice might not really appreciate the concept of Porrón, so be discerning if you are looking into this category.
  13. What no to get. Anything which promises to manipulate the taste of wine (outside of decanters and pourers/aerators) by putting it in contact with something, or subjecting it to heat, cold and voodoo dolls – those products are a waste of money. In general, if you don’t want something for yourself, don’t give it as a present – that simple.

I honestly think I exhausted my list. Yes, there are many more wine accessories which I didn’t cover here ( open any wine accessories catalog) – but I hope that I gave you some of the ideas which might help you in your wine gift shopping, where it is not that difficult to get lost.

And … we are done for today, but we are not done with the subject. To be continued…

Wine Gadgets: Pourers

May 30, 2013 14 comments

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:

2. VacuVin Wine Server Crystal - my favorite, most elegant

2. VacuVin Wine Server Crystal – my favorite, most elegant

Why would you want to use pourers? I see two reasons:

  1. 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
  2. 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:

Pouring wine

Pouring wine. See that drip in the making?

and this one – pouring wine using Crystal Wine Server:

Pouring wine using Crystal Wine Server

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!

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