John JuergensWine Gadgets

Although it would seem that the pursuit of the pleasure of a glass of wine with your meal would be a fairly simple matter, there are gadgets galore to help you open it, chill it, pour it, decant it, serve it, and store it. Wine related gadgets run the gamut from absolutely essential to downright silly. But all of them are interesting. One of the best catalogs I have seen is published by the Wine Enthusiast magazine. Here is just a sample of the kinds of items that can divert some of your wine dollars.

When it comes to opening a bottle of wine you can do it with brute force or with technological elegance. Cork extracting is achieved in one of three ways, four if you count pushing the cork into the bottle with a kitchen knife or a screwdriver. There is the traditional corkscrew that comes in all sorts of styles and prices, ranging from cheap little plastic versions that sell for about fifty cents to massive and ornate counter-mounted versions that cost hundreds of dollars.

Another style of cork puller consists of two metal prongs that you wedge down the sides of the cork, and there is the cork pump, which pushes the cork out with air or gas pressure rather than pulling it out. If you have to resort to the fourth method of pushing the cork into the bottle, there is a clever cork retriever that consists of three long prongs connected to a handle that can be used to capture the cork and remove it from the bottle.

Another item that borders on the indispensable is the foil cutter. This is a nifty device for cleaning removing the foil, tin, or plastic cap the covers the cork.

After you have the wine open there is a variety of gadgets to help pour the wine without dripping on your tablecloth. There are silver plated pour spouts and silver plated rings with felt inserts that slip over the neck of the bottle to absorb drips. But one of my favorite such devices is something called a "Pour Ring." This is flexible silver Mylar disk that you roll up and stick in the neck of the wine bottle, thus forming a neat dripless spout. And if you or a guest still splashes wine on your fine Irish linen tablecloth, there is a product called "Wine Away," which removes even set-in and old wine stains from all sorts of fabric and carpet.

If you like to decant your wine there are useful containers made of cut and hand-blown lead crystal and others that I bought at Wal-Mart for about $2 each. One of my favorites decanters is one of those sensuous heart shaped vases that come from Oxford Floral Company.

Another simple but useful gadget is something called "Rapid Ice." This is just a sleeve filled with a gel that you keep in the freezer. When you need to chill down a wine in a hurry you slip the sleeve down over the wine bottle and it cools the wine to the correct temperature in about ten minutes. It works very well and can be used for all sorts of beverages.

Once your wine is chilled there are insulated buckets to place the bottle in to help keep the wine cool. These eliminate the mess inherent in ice buckets, which make the wine too cold anyway. You can even get an external thermometer that clamps on the bottle to give you the temperature of your wine.

There are all sorts of racks to store your wines and your wine glasses. You can get everything from a one-bottle rack in the shape of Santa's sleigh to entire custom designed, temperature and humidity controlled wine cellars.

One of the most frequent questions I get is, "How long can I keep a bottle of wine once it is opened?" There are a number of gadgets you can spend your money on to try to preserve your wine. But tests have shown that even expert wine judges can not consistently detect any differences in wine stored under one of these systems and wine that simple had the cork partially reinserted into the bottle. However, if it makes you feel more secure to use one of these devices to suck the air out or to squirt nitrogen gas into the bottle before you re-seal it, by all means do so. It certainly can't hurt the wine.

There are all sort of peripheral items that don't really have anything to do with the actual wine drinking experience. There are wine posters and other art forms that can be stunningly beautiful or grotesque, bulletin boards and trivets made from old corks, candles in shapes of grape clusters and wine bottles, and dinnerware with wine and grape motifs. There are thermometers, hydrometers, and inventory books for the wine cellar. There are refrigerator magnets in the shape of famous wine bottles, all variety wine books and Christmas ornaments. There are velvet gift bags and luggage to carry your wine while traveling or going on picnics, and music composed specifically to accompany wine tasting.

When it comes to fashion, wine seems to lend itself very well to the creative touch of Nicole Miller, who can outfit you from head to toe in grapes, wine glasses, corkscrews, and wine barrels. And all of this is available from a single wine catalog.

If you are interested in wine and the paraphernalia that goes along with it, you only have to find a copy of one of the major wine magazine to find many sources for some of the most imaginative items. And once you place your first order from a wine catalog company, you will soon be on the mailing list of every other supplier of even remotely related items.

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