by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)
I’m not a big believer in wine accessories. All too often, they rely on some measure of hype, along with unsubstantiated claims. But the holidays demand a new wave of these every year, so that your wine loving friends and relatives can have something new to try out.
So when I saw this list of ten wine accessories in a Palate Press article (which can be found at:
http://palatepress.com/2012/08/wine/top-ten-wine-accessories-gizmos-that-earn-their-keep/), I thought I would pass judgment on them. So here goes.
Number one on the list was a lever screwpull and foil cutter, which is really two items, but since they are often sold together, I can understand why this is just one item. But I’ll treat them as two. The lever screwpull, I have to admit, I do use, though not very often. They actually work pretty well, but after awhile, the Teflon coating on the screw itself loses its stuff, and the screwpull starts losing its Mojo. True, you can buy replacement screws, but I never seem to be able to find them. I also find that they often strip their gears, for lack of a better term, and become useless.
I have nothing good to say about foil cutters. First of all, most of the time, I just pull off the entire foil from the bottle and that works quite well. Admittedly there are foils I can’t pull off, in which case any kitchen knife does the job just as well a foil cutter. Really a useless piece of equipment.
Next up is a waiter’s corkscrew. These really are handy devices, and work real well. I like the double pull type, which makes opening a bottle even easier. And these corkscrews are generally pretty cheap.
Ah So cork puller. I have one of these, and almost never use it. But sometimes when you have a cork that pretty much disintegrates on you, these do come in handy.
Sparkling wine stopper. I heartily endorse these. They are cheap, and work well to keep the bubbly bubbly.
Decanter. This has to be the most overused, and most misused, of all wine accessories. For some reason, people seem to think older wines should be decanted. That’s probably because of the terror that a little bit of sediment evokes in so many wine consumers. But older wines are very fragile, and give up their charms (limited though they often are) when exposed to oxygen. So using decanters with older wines is really a bad idea, stripping them of what little they often have to offer. I do find that young wines, that are tannic and closed in, often benefit from some oxygen exposure such as decanting can provide. Unfortunately, these are the wines least likely to be decanted.
Next up is the aerator. I have had numerous people swear by this little device. For those not in the know, it introduces, at least in theory, more air into the wine, allowing it to open up. All I know is that when once we poured several wines with a aerated and non-aerated versions, no one could tell the difference. Enough said.
Oggi Wine Chiller. I’ve never used one of these, but the concept at least sounds worthwhile.
Private reserve. This is a can of inert gas that can be sprayed into a practically consumed bottle. In theory, it’s a good idea to replace the oxygen in the half empty bottle with something else. In practice, I have never found it to do very much good, though I’m not sure why. But a bigger criticism is that there’s a far superior, and far cheaper, alternative. Just put that half a bottle’s worth of wine into a half sized bottle (which costs pretty close to nothing). It will preserve the wine much better.
Riedel polishing cloth. No experience with this, but I can’t say that the shininess of my glasses has ever been an earth-shattering issue with me.
Glassware: Riedel Vinum Series, $18–25 per stem. I can’t say as I’ve found this glass to be better than other good quality glasses, but it certainly is a good glass. And there’s no question that a good glass will do more than you can ever imagine to improve a wine. Once we did a tasting of the same wine in different glasses. While all the quality glasses performed about equally well, the cheaper glasses we far inferior. Or see cheap glasses in winery tasting rooms, much to the detraction of the experience of their wines. I can’t believe how often I see people consume expensive wine in cheap glasses. They’d have been much better off spending that dough on the glasses instead of the wine.
Bottom line, aside form the glasses, I don’t think any of the other items are all that important (with the exception of the sparkling wine stopper for those who are into sparklers). But the glasses are well worth the cost, and will repay their price many times over in the improvement they make in the wine tasting experience.