Wine Gadgets To Use And Some To Lose

OK, the wine world is not exactly the computer world, but there are so many wine gadgets being promoted to wine drinkers that it is worthwhile to hear from those who have used them. I have used some of them and there are some that I would recommend. And then there are those I would put in the same category as snake oil.

Let’s take a look at those things that supposedly age the wine for a certain number of years according to how long the instrument is used. First of all, this is an unverifiable claim. No one can taste a wine now and know exactly how the wine will taste five, 10 or 20 years from now. There are two products that are supposed to be able to “age” a wine in mere moments. One is a plug-in machine that looks somewhat like a portable coffee mug heating pad. It has a “patented” technology that ages the wine several years in minutes. Whether it is done via some unseen microwave or by heat, this product changes the way the wine tastes, but it certainly does not make the wine “age.” The wine’s flavor does change, but it does not taste harmonious or anything near a “mature” wine, in my opinion.

Another product looks like a metallic key which is supposed to be dipped into the wine for a prescribed length of time that would equal a certain amount of years. As far as I could tell in my experiments, the product did little or nothing to change the flavor of the wine, no matter how long I actually kept the “key” submerged in the wine. The only change in the wine was more because of the fact that the wine was in contact with oxygen rather than the metal key.

The one instrument that has seen so many innovations is the wine opener. It ranges from the very traditional T-worm to the fancy if not medically inspired CO2-powered syringe and everything in between. Just last week a friend sent me a YouTube video on how to open a bottle with just a shoe and a tree!

There are so many different versions of the wine opener and many of them are great. My tried and true tool is the waiter’s corkscrew. They come in many designs by different companies. Some are true works of art (see Laguiole, etc.). My favorite is called “The Winner.” For everyday wines it is the quickest and easiest corkscrew to use, even on long corks. I’ve even seen another master sommelier in Honolulu using it.

For opening older bottles of wine, I would also recommend the screwpull.

This is a French-made corkscrew that draws out the cork gently with one easy turning motion. Anyone can use it. I also recently tried an instrument called the Durand, which is a combination of an Osso cork puller with a traditional worm. Used in conjunction, it can extract some of the most fragile and old corks around, with one caveat. If the cork is already too fragile and crumbly, there is nothing that will be able to extract it without it crumbling in the neck of the bottle, no matter what.

That brings me to my next “must have” gadget: a good decanting funnel with a removable screen filter. This is invaluable when decanting old wines or any wines with lots of sediment. I’m sure there are many more gadgets that I have yet to try. But if I find one that’s worth it, I will be sure to let you know.

Recommendations: 2005 Le Corti Don Tomasso Chianti Classico ($32) This stunning Chianti would put many Brunello di Montalcino to shame. It has a deep and ripe aroma of dark cherries with a thicker than most texture that leads into sweet red and black berry flavors. Really terrific Chianti. 2008 Condesa Eylo Verdejo ($16) This is Spain’s answer to Sauvignon Blanc with sweet guava and passion fruit aromas and a zesty and refreshing grapefruit and POG flavor. Awesome with shrimp or crab meat!

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