I could fill my kitchen, dining room, breakfast room and bar area with wine gadgets, but over the years, have found it best to keep things simple. The following are a few things every wine lover can benefit from without filling too many drawers and cabinets. It’s all about preserving the quality of your wine, and making it convenient to serve friends and family. Here are six of my favorites that I never want to be without (excluding wine openera - see information on corkscrews/wine openers here).
1. Vacu Vin Wine Saver: This is the number one wine accessory in my house (excluding my wine opener). Hubby and I never finish a bottle of wine, and the Vacu Vin Wine Saver, does save your wine. The item pictured with two bottle stoppers can be found for $9 – $15, ($9 definitely on the low side, but it’s worth the search). Black is a new color. White and stainless are also available, along with packages of extra stoppers (gray, blue, pink and purple). See a great video demonstration below of how the Vacu Vin works.
2) Champagne and Sparkling Wine Closure: The idea is to keep the air out of a bottle of wine, whether it sparkles or not, but a Vacu Vin doesn’t work for bubblies. Once opened, you can cork a partial bottle with about anything you can squeeze into the mouth, but trying to put the original cork back in is close to impossible. Unlike a still wine cork, the bottom of the sparkling wine cork flares a bit, but some people do use still wine corks. I like to do it the easy way and use the stopper made for the job. Here’s one that is updated and stylish and sells for about $10 to $15, about double that of the ones we’ve seeing for years, but look at it, it is gorgeous.
3) Storage: A spot to store wine in a cool place, out of direct sunlight is important, but wherever you store it, always, always store it on its side. For wine you serve on a regular basis, a small wine rack on a cabinet works fine, but keep it away from the toaster, the stove top, and windows with direct light. The floor of a closet…maybe a hall coat closet, even under a bed works, but remember, summer months are brutal on wine. June through August in most locales, make more trips to your retail store, buy only a bottle or two, and serve it soon. Once autumn arrives, use the closet. If you have one of those lovely wrought iron wine cages, which often become a conversation piece – more like furniture… again, watch the windows, heat and air vents, fireplaces.
If you collect wine or plan to age good wine, a refrigerated wine cooler is a good investment. If you need storage for under 35 – 40 bottles, Sams, Costco, Lowes and WalMart sometimes carry them. Mine is a Haier 48-bottle. I keep mine in my laundry room with the copier perched on top. I think of these units as “wine keepers,” rather than “coolers,” because I use them to “keep” my wine, however, if you prefer your red wine at cellar temp, these wine “coolers” are perfect, along with preserving the integrity of your wine. Note that good humidity is important too, but I haven’t yet figured out how to ensure good humidity inside my home without a refrigerated wine cooler. As long as you are not collecting or storing for years down the road, you should be fine.
4) Good and Proper Wine Glasses: I cannot emphasize how important a proper wine glass is to the enjoyment of vino. Glassware can be very pricey. For the pricey price you get incredible beauty, a bowl designed to aerate the wine, and deliver it to the proper sensitive areas of the tongue, design mechanisms to advance the bouquet to it’s peak and straight to your nose, a perfect glass lip – so nice to sip from – a stem with a perfect feel and crystal that lets the hue of the wine shine through brilliantly. Alas, we can’t always afford the best or even next to the best, and the “best” is subjective anyway, so here are a few tips:
a. If you want to be budget-minded, yet purchase a quality wine glass, buy a 12 ounce lead-free glass. When you begin shopping you’ll find some of the best wine glass producers market a 12 ounce wine glass as a white wine glass. Ignore that for now. Buy the best 12 ounce glasses you can afford and use them for both red and white dinner wines. Glasses today are named for a grape, i.e. a Merlot glass, a Cabernet glass, a Chardonnay glass and on and on. I believe this marketing strategy has merit, but that’s a story for another time. Starting with a 12 ounce glass is a very good and proper start.
b. Buy the best quality lead-free glass (actual glass) you can afford. If you thump it, and it doesn’t ring, that’s okay, but thinner and with no seams is good.
c. A lip without a roll – important and perfect.
d. Always buy clear glass with clear stems – no colors until you can afford more than one set of wine glasses. The “color” is for fun, only. Clear glass/crystal shows the natural hue of the wine.
e. Buy thin stems – again, no seams.
Online I see Riedel’s Ouverture 12-3/8 ounce glass for four for about $40.00. Steinmart carries Riedel, sometimes Ouverture and sometimes the more expensive lines. Target has partnered with Riedle to market their Vivant brand – lead free and reasonably priced. Spiegelau, now owned by Riedel, has a lead-free series - VinoVino.
Check Home Goods if you have one near. You never know what Home Goods will have available, but whatever it is, it is always an amazing bargain. Buy one glass a paycheck at $5 to $10 and before you know it, you’ll have a few glasses that make a difference. Find a rim without a rolled edge, at least a 10 ounce bowl, and hopefully 12 ounces, and unless it’s thick and ugly, buy it up. It’s a place to start. If you cannot afford the cut rim, and must buy a glass with a rolled edge, take heart, it will be far more chip resistant than the straight edge.
I have a lot of Riedel crystal. At one time I sold it, and believed it worth every penny, so I may never run-out, but here’s and important tip: I put my Riedel in my dishwasher if I’ve had a fairly large number of guests. I have a crystal setting on my dishwasher. It works perfectly. The glasses come out spot free. For daily use, I hand wash. I dry the outside with a soft cloth, including the foot and then invert on a cloth. When dry I polish the inside with a lint-free cloth. If they need touching-up, it’s little. Good glassware is easier to care for than you might think.
One last caution, do some research on lead-free crystal, some of which include new processes. Schott Zweisel’s Diva Tritan Crystal series is an example. Minute amounts of lead may leach into wine served in lead crystal glasses. So it depends on how often you use them, and your personal comfort level.
This video from Spiegelau tells the Spiegelau story, but more importantly, there is a great view of a well-made glass. Whatever the size or shape, the video provides a good look at the lip, stem and foot.
5) Wine Charms: A wine “necessary?” Well, yes in my house, my little wine charms make life easier and more pleasant knowing that I’m not sipping hubby’s wine while I’m stirring the sauce. When I see my little beach chair and umbrella dangling on the foot of my wine glass, it makes me happy. Likewise, when we have guests, I’m not throwing out wine and pouring something fresh for a guest who didn’t pay attention. I buy them on sale, and when I travel, especially when I find charms that will remind me of a fun vacation.
6) Wine Aerator: I don’t like to decant unless I have to, so I use a wine aerator for red wine, which hubby and I can use as we pour each glass. I have two. I began with the Soiree (see the second video below) and then purchased the Vinturi. Each has it’s own advantage. The Vinturi has a small wire basket that will catch any sediment or crumbling cork, but the Soiree moves the wine around better – more action as you pour the wine into the glass, and more as the residual moves back into the bottle. More action should equal better aeration. I haven’t taste-tasted the same wine using both aerators, so can’t offer a real opinion, other than I always use one of them when a bottle of red is open in my kitchen.
Soiree Wine Aerator (video)
That’s my top six. What are yours?