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With the holidays fast approaching, now is a good time to take stock of holiday supplies: wrapping paper, tape, bows ... and bottles of wine! Whether for gifting to friends this holiday or sipping a relaxing glass by the fire, having a stock of wine is essential this time of year.
But having the wine on hand is only the first step in presenting it with the dignity it deserves. There are a number of gadgets and wine-related devices on the market today that serve the purposes of uncorking, aerating, and chilling wine. But which are worth the dough, and which fall short of their purpose?
A wine aficionado might pour a bottle of fine wine into a decanter before serving it, not just for the beauty of the presentation, but because aeration allows a wine to breathe. However, decanting doesn't help every wine; it works best with young wines that are age-worthy, such as reds from Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon from California. Whites and fully matured reds don't benefit from, and might even be hurt by, decanting.
For those wine drinkers with a propensity for immature reds, the Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator for Red Wines ($31.14 with free shipping, a low by $13) can help improve their body. Shaped something like an elongated football, wine is poured into the top chamber of this device and passes through a filter where the dregs are removed. Then the wine passes through an air chamber where the bouquet is drawn out. Wellesley Wine Press's Bob Dwyer appreciates this device for its ability to remove sediment and open up the wine. What's more, this essential aerator lets drinkers pour a single glass at a time.
Oxygen can change the characteristics of wine, but the Vacu Vin Wine Saver Vacuum Wine Pump ($9.70 with free shipping via Prime, a low by $7) prevents such spoilage by creating a partial vacuum within the bottle. However, wine expert John Cesano, ETS Laboratories, the Wall Street Journal and Consumer Reports, all conclude that this device has no discernible effect on wine. In fact, the Wall Street Journal's investigation found that the vacuum did not hold for even 12 hours.
Serving wine at the proper temperature is crucial if it is to develop its full depth of flavor. But using an ice bucket to chill and hold wine is akin to cracking walnuts with a sledge hammer: too much cold will take the legs right out from under a crisp Chardonnay.
The Corkcicle Wine Chiller ($24.95 with free shipping a low by $5), however serves as both a cork and an icepack. It fits inside the wine bottle and cools the wine from the inside out. The Corkcicle will chill a bottle of white to its ideal drinking temperature in an hour, and a bottle of red (which is usually consumed warmer) in 15 minutes.
Yet, a couple of testers found that this device didn't work as promised. Some found that the Corkcicle only kept the wine chilled for 45 minutes to an hour, requiring quick drinking at an ideal temperature. Others suggested the device was better used to keep already chilled wines at the proper temperature tableside. Consumer Reports, too reported the same issue with unchilled white wine; the Corkcicle only dropped a chilled bottle in temperature by two degrees after 20 minutes, and an unchilled bottle by seven degrees. That said, this tool might be handy on a picnic.
The primary hassle most wine drinkers have is actually removing the cork; and no one likes to pour wine through a strainer to remove cork particles. Fortunately, there are devices available that take care of the uncorking headache.
The Oster Inspire 4207 Cordless Electric Wine Bottle Opener ($18.59 with free shipping, a low by $1) houses a corkscrew that uncaps a bottle of wine with the push of a button: the corkscrew spirals down and neatly retracts the cork. And with another touch of the button, the corkscrew releases the cork as a whole. The battery-operated tool can be recharged and can open 30 bottles between charges. Steve Mountain of My Shiny Kitchen raves that not only does the Oster wine opener look good, but it "does the job perfectly and is the best reviewed of all options thanks to the very low price."
The gas-powered Cork Pops Legacy Wine Opener ($14.95 with free shipping, a low by $1) can also efficiently open wine bottles. In fact, the folks at Home Brewers Outpost call it "the fastest, easiest way to open a bottle of wine." It is essentially a canister of compressed carbon dioxide attached to a needle. The needle is pressed down through the cork, and once inside, a switch releases the gas and compresses the air inside. The pressure then causes the cork to pop out. Each gas cartridge will open around 60 bottles of wine.
The folks at Consumer Reports opened nearly 100 bottles of wine to test out an assortment of corkscrews. And though it's unlikely most folks have that much booze laying around, as we mentioned, having a supply on hand during the holidays is always a good idea. For a wide selection of perfectly priced wines, Amazon is now selling wine from the vineyard of Francis Ford Coppola and The Rolling Stones Forty Licks Wine. Keep in mind, though, that Amazon can only ship wine to certain states.
You can also enjoy the "Best of Everything" in a 12-bottle wine sampler for $95.89 or just $7.99 per bottle (with 1-cent s&h, $92 off) courtesy of Wine Insiders. This sampler includes six red and six white California wines from wineries such as Burke Family, River's End, Moon Crest, and others. Plus you can also choose all red, all white, or mixed wine samplers. If $96 is a little rich for your blood, instead spend just $59 for a $150 NakedWines credit (expires December 6) and pick up any pre-mixed or custom 12-bottle wine case. What's more, all orders enjoy free shipping. Now that's something to toast to!
Nothing completes a long, successful day of shopping or a holiday celebration like a glass of fine wine, and with a couple of tools the process of presenting the perfect glass to your friends and loved ones can be a breeze.
Front page photo credit: Taylor Eason