When it comes to wine gadgets and gear, as you might imagine, I have a bunch. Whether I forked over some of my hard-stolen cash or the product was sent to me for review, I have amassed a fairly impressive mound of crap that I rarely, if ever, use.
There is another group of items that I use all the time. Again, some of them I have acquired through a traditional exchange of money for the goods, while others people have sent me in hopes that I would publish a kind word or seven.
Most of these I use on a daily basis….
Ah-So Opener: I do not use this two-pronged opener nearly enough. Every time I pull an older bottle, I first start with a standard corkscrew and invariably the cork breaks, causing my sons to hear some rather colorful language. They also hear me lament that I should have started the process with the Ah-So in the first place. No one knows for sure, but most agree that the name comes from “Ah! So that’s how it works!”
Cellar Tracker: Long before I started blogging about wine, I started using Cellar Tracker to keep track of my wine. It is essentially an online interface for cellar management. It is also the largest depository of user reviews of wine anywhere. It is freeware, but several other features are available with a “donation.” The best of these features for me is the average price that users have paid for the wine—it helps to determine if that “killer deal” is really all that “killer.”
Château Laguiole Corkscrew: Several years ago, I subscribed to GQ, a men’s style magazine. [Ed. note: my two boys would vehemently dispute that I was ever influenced by said magazine.] In one edition of said magazine, there was a snippet that immediately caught my eye as there was a bottle of wine in the tiny accompanying photograph. The gist of the piece, as much as I remember it, was that the absolute best corkscrews are made by Château Laguiole (in French, it is pronounced “la-YOULE”) for a number of reasons. They are a bit pricey (>$100), but I acquired mine as a gift from a former girlfriend (no need to get into that here), but I use mine on a daily basis. I get a ton of corkscrews–most confiscated by the TSA–and this is by far the best I own. The problem? The word “Laguiole” is not regulated in any way. It is a town in France known for cutlery, but there are countless producers that use the name. Look for Château Laguiole.
Foil Cutter: This is an item that I honestly wish I could throw away for it should not be necessary since the foil on top of wine bottles no longer serves any purpose. Wine bottles did not have them “back in the day” but they became necessary when it was discovered that rodents were chewing on the exposed corks and the addition of a tin foil on the top os the bottle would dissuade said vermin from feasting on those tasty corks. It seems that for most collectors these days, rat infestations are rather rare. The capsules, in fact, are rarely (ever?) made from tin today, thus if you do have several rats in your cellar (I am talking about literal rats, not your mooching neighbor or your lush of a brother-in-law), current capsules might not save your corks. Normally, I just twist the capsule off, but when I can’t, for whatever reason, I use a foil cutter. I particularly like this metal one from Screwpull.
Last Bottle: I have written about the great people at Last Bottle many times and I will continue to do so for a couple of reasons. First, they have outstanding wines on their site without all the drama. Second, I get a $30 credit every time that someone creates an account and buys some wine from them. That has kept this shaved-leg imbiber awash in bubbles for some time. And that is a good thing no matter what way you look at it.
Sophienwald Stem: Over the last couple of years I have been getting a bit more stemware and while I like the idea of stemless glasses, the fact is I rarely (if ever) use them. I am not sure where or when I got this Sophienwald stem, but I do know that I never used it—it seemed that it was far too delicate and that I would end up breaking it in short order. So it just sat there on the shelf. Until I used it. I love this glass. Sure, it is pricey ($50 a stem), but I use it to taste everything from bubbles to Port and it is fabulous. I have been using it almost exclusively for the last six months and it is still standing tall. Super light, super thin, but apparently super strong. (I realize that it will likely break today after typing these words….)
Vacu Vin: A wine preservation system that is fairly simple in concept and execution: insert the stopper and then use the pumping mechanism to remove most of the air in the bottle. I purchased this “system” several years ago and I used to use it religiously. Somewhere along the way, I read that using the pump feature to “vacuum seal” the bottle actually removed esters from the bottle and rendered the wine less aromatic. So I stopped using the pump, but I still use the stoppers on that rare occasion that we don’t finish a bottle.
Wine Carrier: This is a bit of an honorable mention since I have no idea where one could buy this (it was a gift from a good friend in France), but I use this carrier all the time. Whether taking wine over to my in-laws’ house (have I mentioned that they live right around the corner?) or distributing left over samples to neighbors, I love this thing.