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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: Wine Preservers

June 13, 2013 18 comments

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:

Enomatic Wine Dispenser. Do you think I have one at home?

From Wikipedia: Enomatic Wine Dispenser. Do you think I have one at home?

Wine Vacuum sealer

Wine Vacuum sealer

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!

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