’Tis the season to find the oenophile in your life the perfect gift, so let’s head directly to the accessories aisle.
My new favorite toy is the wine aerator. It acts a lot like a decanter, but it fits into the palm of your hand. You simply insert the top of an open bottle into the aerator and put the other side of the aerator into a glass. Voila, your wine is filtered through the aerator, giving it optimum exposure to air. The difference is instantly noticeable in the taste and aroma. Several companies make them, and you should be able to pick one up for about $30.
As for decanters, I come from the school that says any old carafe will really do. However, there are differences not just in form, but function. Decanters with larger openings promote greater oxygenation. If you want your wine to slowly open, then find a decanter with a small mouth. You can spend anywhere from $25 to hundreds of dollars for a decanter.
Wine glasses are always a good way to go. From a functionality standpoint, you don’t need to get a top-of-the-line glass — however, glassware can make or break a wine. For those of you who remember my interview with George Riedel some months ago, he believes the most versatile glass is the Riedel syrah-shiraz. My guess is that many wine drinkers have Bordeaux (cabernet) and Burgundy (pinot noir) glasses but not the syrah-shiraz glass, so maybe a set of four ($88.50) is in order for the worthy winos in your life.
There are all types of wine openers these days, from waiters key to electric levers that make superb presents.
If you want to get a fancy waiter’s key, Laguiole makes beautiful corkscrews with a variety of handles. Famous for their steak knives, the wine openers are finely crafted instruments that range in price from $65 to $250. If you want to spend a bit less, the ALLVIN wine tool ($25) is another cool gadget that opens screwcaps as well as corked bottles. Made from stainless steel, it easily fits into a pocket.
Electric wine openers are at the other end of the spectrum, requiring the least effort, so they are good for people who have hand or wrist pain. Then again, electric openers can make the difference between watching 49ers tight end Vernon Davis catch a pass and seeing it on the replay, so any and everyone will find them useful.
Of the electric openers on the market, consumers seem to be tickled pink with the Oster Inspire Electric 4208 Wine Opener, which costs just $20. Peugeot makes a rechargeable rendition that sells for $100. It is handsomely designed and has received generally positive reviews, but it seems like for the money, you are just as well off with Oster’s 4208 rendition.
Here are but a few ideas that won’t necessarily break the bank. There are lots of books, racking systems, refrigeration systems and other wine related products that could make great gifts, but the items mentioned above are the ones that have struck me as being especially useful over the past year.
Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant. Please submit questions to Pamela@Skrewcap.com.