Now that we’re all starting to get a bit more fancy pants about our food and wine at home, I guess it’s time to discuss accessories.
Or as I like to call them wine gadgets designed (mostly) to impress your friends!
There are oodles of them out there. Ranging in price from a few dollars to thousands. And of course, if you like that kind of thing and have the money then go right ahead.
But I’m going to share a list of the basic things I think you should have at home that won’t break the bank (along with one that will!).
Corkscrew, waiter’s friend, electric wine opener… whatever you prefer to use, if you have a bottle of wine with a cork in it, you’re going to need something to take it out with.
My personal favourite is the Waiter’s Friend.
It’s lightweight, relatively simple to use (when you get the hang of it) and you can buy them for as little as $4 at the supermarket!
So there is no excuse not to have one handy wherever you might need it. Get one for your kitchen utensil drawer, dining room, lounge room, office drawer, glove box, handbag, backpack and bathroom cupboard!
Having said all that, you do want to probably spend a reasonable amount of money (around $20 or less) on one that feels right for you.
There are so many different types of openers though. And if you’ve never been able to get the hang of using a Waiter’s Friend (it took me a VERY long time) then there is absolutely nothing wrong with other easier to use versions.
This one on the right is a classic and does the job perfectly!
Check out this article from our friends at Wine Folly for a great summary of the different types.
Wine Decanter or Aerator
Aerating or decanting wine is a simple method of exposing wine to oxygen. It helps smooth out harsh tannins while releasing aromas – especially in red wine. Decanting or aerating wines also ‘blow off’ any undesirable smells in the wine. Of course, wines aerate slightly as they pour from the bottle into your glass, but these tools increase the rate of this process.
But which gadget is right for you?
In my opinion, there is no going past a beautiful glass or crystal decanter. Not only does it do the job, but it also looks classy on your dinner table. But a $4 glass jug from IKEA works just as well (speaking from experience!).
And while all those fancy shapes sure do look beautiful, all I can think about is how on earth am I going to be able to clean that thing at the end of the night (or, let’s face it, the next morning)?! Keep it simple.
You can also use a newer style plastic wine aerator to achieve the same result. These ones (pictured on the right) you hold above the glass as you pour the wine direct from the bottle. There are also those ones that you pop in the top of the bottle and it doubles as a pourer.
Aerators are a quicker way to get the wine in your glass, so I guess it comes down to how much of a hurry you’re in!
Stainless steel strainer
The other purpose of decanting (especially an old wine) is to get rid of any gunk (yes, that’s the technical term!) at the bottom of the bottle. Wine sediment, like tartrates, won’t harm you but they do get in the way of enjoying the wine right to the end of the bottle.
If you’re regularly opening older wines, you might like to invest in a nice stainless steel wine funnel and filter. Like this one…
In a desperate situation, you can use a tea strainer!
A good wine glass
You can very well drink wine out of any glass, but let’s talk about the benefits of a real wine glass. Wine glasses are not only a receptacle for wine, but they are also a container for volatile aromas. Volatile aromas are the key to enjoying the flavors in wine.
Let’s face it (pun intended)… we all have different lips and noses. Keep in mind that your personal preference may have something to do with the shape of your face.
Also, you might be conscious of the fact that you like to flail your arms when you drink (a reason to consider stemless glassware). Choose a wine glass that fits your personality.
Here are some basic things to look for when choosing a wine glass…
- Crystal glasses are physically stronger so if you like thin glasses you might want to consider crystal. Be prepared to hand wash your crystal glassware for life though.
- A large bowled wine glass is designed to capture more aromas. Important if you really enjoy aromatic wines like Pinot Noir.
- Small glasses don’t collect as many aromas, but the benefit is that the wine’s temperature will maintain longer. This is ideal if you like white wines.
- Stemmed glasses don’t collect fingerprints (because you can hold them by the stem), but on the flip side, they are easy to knock over.
- These days you can get a different glass designed specifically for almost any wine and/or situation. While I’m not suggesting you go out and buy a set of each, there is evidence to suggest that these types of glasses do compliment certain varieties of wine. Read all about it in this post from last year where I got to try it out for myself. So, if you do prefer to drink one variety more often than others, it may be worth considering.
A polishing cloth
Now that you have a set of lovely wine glasses, how do you keep them clean and shiny?
It’s time to invest in a good polishing cloth.
Fortunately, this isn’t a very high dollar item. There are fancy microfiber cloths or the always available ‘flour sack’ cotton cloth. We use them at the cellar bar and they do an amazing job!
Ooorrrrr… maybe like me, you don’t mind putting up with the dried water droplets on your wine glasses pulled straight from the dishwasher?! Either or!
A wine preserver
Imagine, for just one second, you have wine left in the bottle at the end of the night. I know… it’s hard to get your head around but all I ask is you try!
If you just let it sit open on the kitchen bench your wine will go bad before morning. If you (remember to) put the cap back on or use a wine stopper it will help by limiting the exposure of oxygen to the liquid surface. But if you want to keep it for more than a day or two (I know, I know… just use your imagination!) it’s not quite enough.
There are several wine preservers on the market that start at around $30 (like the vacuum pump pictured on the left). Others can set you back thousands.
The basic rule of storing open wine is to limit the amount of oxygen. Some wine preservers create a vacuum inside the bottle with a special one-way valve cap. Others preserve wine by putting a heavier inert gas (such as argon) on top of the surface of the wine.
Now, in this category, I’m going to introduce the one gadget (even though it’s outside my budget!) whose benefits do (almost) justify the $600 price tag…
It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you like keeping old wines and don’t like to share then the Coravin could be for you!
I just like it because it means you don’t actually have to “open” the bottle by pulling the cork. It has a little needle that pierces the cork and creates an opening from which to pour the wine. Then it pumps it full of argon to protect the wine that is left. The cork seals naturally once the needle is removed. Nifty!
If you’ve ever wished we had a Museum or Reserve Shiraz open so you could have a glass or a taste at the cellar bar, then feel free to buy us one of these for Christmas!
Bottle opener and Champagne stopper
If you love sparkling wine… ours, in particular, you’re going to need a stock standard bottle opener to crack the crown seal. You’ll thank us when you don’t take an eye out with the regular Champagne cork!
And if you like it just enough to have a glass or two before you move onto something else, then you’ll also need a Champagne stopper. Because getting a cork back in a sparkling bottle (or a crown seal back on) is close to impossible!
Do you own any fancy wine toys you couldn’t live without? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!