Wine Gadgets You Actually Need
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Better Wine on a Dime
When it comes to wine gear, it's easy to go over the top, through the shop and galloping across the vineyard. There are dozens of tools out there, and there are just as many sales reps saying that you ought to buy them all; you don't. To get the most from your wine, you need only a few items. You don't even have to spend much money — although, if you have the budget, there are beautiful, useful things to buy. A couple of worthwhile tools are downright cheap, and a couple of handy ones are free.
Photo courtesy of Naomi Kawase/Getty Images
Vacu Vin Wine Saver, $14
Vacu Vin's a wine saver. For that reason alone, you'll find this item in many a bar and restaurant. To preserve an unfinished bottle of wine, Vacu Vin creates a vacuum seal that eases back on oxidization. It’s so tight that bottles are set-on-their-sides safe, with no dripping. It's easy to use: Work the pump until you hear a little "click." That's how you'll know the vacuum's set. This little gadget takes up negligible space, which is good news for those of us who are trying to cut back on clutter.
Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover, $9 for 12 Ounces
Spills happen, but stains don't have to. Evergreen Labs' Wine Away isn't a miracle substance — some stains (especially old ones) will resist it — but an astonishing percentage of the time, it will remove an equally astonishing percentage of a red wine stain. It'll pay for itself in one round of dry-cleaning, and it's far cheaper than replacing your sister-in-law's favorite linen blouse.
Waiter's Corkscrew, $10
What makes a good corkscrew? A solid feel; cheap plastic is going to fall apart like a conversation on a bad first date. Yours should have a decent-sized blade to cut through foil, a coil that's long enough to sink deeply into a cork and, most importantly, a double-hinged fulcrum to make easing the cork out of the bottle completely foolproof. There are masses of brands in the marketplace, but Pulltaps corkscrews are sturdy and reliable, making them popular with servers and bartenders.
The Rabbit, $50
If you need more leverage than a waiter's corkscrew can provide, it's time to up your game. Those who want muscle in their tools would be best-served by the original Rabbit, the tool that pulls and releases a cork "in three second flat," according to its description. There are many versions, but the original bunny that built the brand's reputation is sure to earn you a rep for being a natural at opening wine.
Champagne Stopper, $2.50
There's no need to waste beautiful bubbles. If you drink champagne, Prosecco or sparkling wine, then you definitely need a champagne stopper. A good champagne stopper has a flexible rubber inner ring and two hinged sides that swing down and clamp the bottle closed. You'll find champagne stoppers in housewares shops, liquor stores and wine stores. You'll recoup your minimal investment — and then some — in one unfinished bottle.
"The One" Wine Glasses, $30 to $50
Proper stemware is designed to make wine drinking a more pleasurable, well-rounded experience, but buying wine glasses needn’t be confounding or expensive. While there are manufacturers who create specific glass designs for every type of wine, master sommelier Andrea Robinson has simplified the genre. She spent three years designing glasses that enhance all red or white wines, without making it necessary for you to add an extension to the kitchen. Her resulting line, The One, is made up of just two designs: a glass for reds and a glass for whites. The glasses come in four-packs, two-packs and — joy for the single person — one of each.
Riedel Wine Glasses, $17.50 and Up
If you do have the money and space to invest in an array of gorgeous glassware for your wine-drinking pleasure, then there's only one word you need to know: Riedel. Bookmark the site, and check back for discounts. Start with the Ouverture Magnum for red wines and the Ouverture for white. Be advised: Riedel is an easy habit to develop and a very hard one to break.
Riedel Decanter, $39 and Up
Visit a sommelier at home and you're likely to find a few Riedel decanters in the house. Although they're designed for performance, Riedel's Austrian crystal decanters look like art — and they cost just as much. The Swan ($525) and Amadeo ($425) decanters have clean, swooping lines and small footprints, making them perfect for the dinner table. Riedel's newest baby, the Ayam decanter, takes up even less space. It can perch on the table or, thanks to a clever bend of crystal, hook onto the edge. At $425, you'll want to hang the decanter by your seat — but that's appropriate, as it's your party, after all. Although tradition holds with decanting red wines, 30 minutes in a decanter will do a musky white wine a world of good.
Wine Markers, $10
At a dinner table, every guest has a place. At a walk-around party, people and glasses wander. Help your friends to recognize their glassware (and waste less wine) with tags that wrap around stems or stick on glasses. A bonus: Whether they stick or slide, tags make it charmingly simple to add character to your party. Sold by the colorful dozen, Vacu Vin's Party People have suction cups, so they stick on the sides of glasses — even through condensation. Let your stemware express itself with Charades clip-on arms, curl cats (pictured) around the stems or drape your glasses with grapes. And if you're more of a do-it-yourselfer, Wine Enthusiast's pens come in a set of green, gold and silver, so you can write on glasses and wash them off with a sponge.
You don't want to forget which wines you loved, liked or loathed. Notebooks are great in theory, but let's face it: You're not going to carry a book around. Your phone is at hand anyway, so turn it into a wine tool. One of the best apps isDelectable (pictured), which makes it easy to photograph labels, add notes and view ratings. If you want to connect with friends or follow sommeliers and winemakers, then take advantage of Delectable’s social community. You can also fit Wine Spectator's knowledge in your phone. WS WineRatings+ has a frequently updated list of ratings — not just numbers, but notes and explanations as well. With Delectable and WineRatings+, you'll have insights from experts and yourself, whether you're at home, out to dinner or trying wines abroad. Both apps are free for iOS and Android.