Now that the holiday shopping season has officially begun, you may see lots of ads for all kinds of wine gadgets, many of which can be useful and probably twice as many that are not.
In the wine world, the biggest splash this year is the Coravin. The technology it employs allows wine drinkers to sample wine from individual bottles without pulling the cork. Simply, you insert a thin needle straight through the foil. The bottle is pressurized with argon, a very heavy inert gas, and the wine that is displaced flows through the needle and into a glass. You can decide how much you want to drink. Once you remove it, the cork reseals itself and the argon sits on the wine, keeping it away from oxygen.
I’ve seen it in action and tasted some wines that were first siphoned off a few weeks earlier and must say, I was pretty impressed, as the wine tasted fresh and did not show any signs of oxidation. Can wines age for years like this? Some claim so but without experiencing it firsthand, I would not suggest Coravin for that use.
While I’ve been skeptical of a lot of wine accessories that have come out over the years, Coravin 1000, as the contraption is called, seems to have something to it. I’ve been using argon both personally and professionally for nearly 20 years and have never found any system that preserves wine as well and that includes pumps, which I actually do not like, or mixed gases that work well for up to a couple of days.
The Coravin 1000 system costs around $279 without the pressurized capsules. The company says that each capsule ($10.95) is enough for 15 five-ounce glasses of wine. Depending on your consumption that could be an expensive proposition over time, but if you have very good wines it may be a worthy investment.
I’m waiting for someone to buy me decanter brushes. (Hint.) You would think I’d have a backup, but nothing fits inside of the decanters I inherited that my ancestors used for a variety of whiskeys and schnapps. I noticed the Pampered Grape Sommelier Kit online that comes with a decanter washing brush, a goblet brush and a stemware brush for under $20. Match it with a Pampered Grape Stainless Steel Decanter Drying Rack ($12) and your wine will get all the dry pampering it needs. By the way, I’m not particularly insistent that it has to be made by this company, though their products have a good reputation.
What else makes sense? Glasses are always good and useful. You don’t need to go all-out. One can often use another set of basic wine glasses made from reputable glass makers such as Riedel, Schott Zwiesel, Spiegelau and Stolzyl, as with each dinner party at least one seems to break.
So there you have it, three wine gift ideas that I believe are truly useful and not meant to just look pretty on a shelf. If anyone has other suggestions, please let us know in the comment section.
Let the season begin!
Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.