The market is flooded with wine gadgets and accessories. With a wide array of low-tech, high-tech, practical and novelty items, it can be hard to decide which ones you truly want on your bar.
That’s partly because wine gadgets are not one-size-fits-all. Depending on what types of varietals you enjoy and how frequently you drink wine, a tool that might be a great investment for you could gather dust on someone else’s bar. It all depends on your preferences: Do you prefer bold, tannic red wines? Do you love a crisp, cold, white wine with dinner? Do you like to entertain and have multiple bottles open at once, or do you take several days to finish a bottle?
We took a look at a dozen or so gadgets you’ve probably heard about to see whether they’re worth buying. Here’s what we found:
Wine gadgets that deserve a spot on your bar
Decanters: Decanters are especially useful for mellowing out bold, young, tannic red wines, as well as for opening flavors in fuller-bodied aged wines. Those with a punted or raised center best facilitate vigorous swirling and introduce oxygen, thereby opening up a wine’s flavors. For reds with heavy sediment, first pouring into a decanter allows you to keep the sediment in the bottle and out of your glass.
Vinturi: The Vinturi serves the same purpose as a decanter, but aerates on a glass-by-glass scale. It sucks oxygen into the wine as it passes into your glass and also comes equipped with a mesh strainer to trap large sediment or bits of old cork. For those who want to open up their bold reds, but only want one or two glasses at a time, this is much more efficient than a decanter. The Vinturi is also easy to store and clean.
VacuVin: The VacuVin is a vacuum-seal gadget useful for extending the life of an open bottle for a few days. If you like to enjoy only a glass or two at a time, consider one of these for your collection. The rubber stopper helps seal the wine from oxygen, and the vacuum pump removes the remaining air. You’ll have an extra day or two to finish the bottle without compromising the wine’s quality. The VacuVin is easy to use, inexpensive and compact for storage.
Nitrogen Spray: Nitrogen is an inert gas, and when you spray the gas into a half-full bottle of wine, it forces the oxygen out of the bottle, slowing the process of degradation. A few sprays of this inert gas, combined with re-corking or re-stopping, will give your open bottle up to an extra week of drinkability. Private Preserve will preserve your wine better than the vacuum-seal gadgets, but also is more costly if you use it frequently.
Corkcicle: The Corkcicle is an excellent gadget for keeping wine cold at the dinner table without needing an ice bucket. Essentially, it’s a silicone stopper attached to a long, thin, icicle-shaped ice pack that rests inside the bottle. Store it in the freezer until you’re ready to use it, open your already chilled bottle, and insert it to keep your whites cool and crisp.
Wine Chiller: A marble wine chiller is another great way to keep a bottle cold at the table. Store your chiller in the freezer an hour ahead of time, and once you’re ready to serve your wine, you can keep the bottle at the proper serving temperature.
Ice buckets: If you haven’t thought ahead and forgot to put your wine chiller in the freezer, almost nothing works better than a deep ice bucket filled with ice and water. Buckets tend to be relatively inexpensive, attractive and durable and can fully chill a bottle in about 15-20 minutes. A monogrammed or customized ice bucket makes a thoughtful gift.
Every wine lover should own a waiter’s corkscrew. The Laguiole is a classic, most low-tech and versatile opener. Other openers include the screwpull lever style, the Butlers Friend style corkscrew and Cork Pops.
Not worth it
Novelty stoppers: With an array of decorative tops such as monograms, fleur de lis, team mascots, animals and even holiday ornaments, novelty stoppers might seem like a fun, decorative choice. But most tend to favor form over function. Novelty stoppers typically don’t form an efficient seal, leading to quick oxygenation of wine. If you aren’t using a vacuum saver, then you’re better off reusing your old cork — it’ll make a better seal, and it’s included in the cost of your bottle!
Rapid bottle chillers: Many of these high-tech gadgets do work well, and might seem an attractive option if you regularly forget to chill your wine ahead of time. However, for a far lower cost, you can chill a bottle nearly as quickly with a bucket or bowl of ice and water — no electricity needed.
Winged corkscrews: You’ll come across several cutely ornamented versions, and they can do the job — sometimes. Yet even though this is one of the most popular corkscrews on the market, there are too many other better options for this to be a go-to. Your precious bar space is better served with a waiter’s style corkscrew.
Maybe worth it
Wine charms: Most of us don’t lose track of our wine glasses all that often, so this is likely not a vital staple in your collection. Still, you’ll find many beautiful, and even handmade wine charms, making these an attractive touch at home and a lovely host or hostess gift when attending a party or tasting.
Neoprene bottle totes: As with wine charms, these are something you can likely get by without. But if you rely on public transit, love to picnic or frequently attend outdoor festivals, these can be a great option. They keep the wine protected and cushioned, gently insulated from extreme temperatures, and will keep a cold bottle from sweating all over the rest of your purchases. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and make a great gift for wine lovers.
The gadgets you choose for your cellar and bar should be unique and reflective of you and your lifestyle. These practical tips will help you decide which to snag and which to avoid. Happy shopping!
Are there any useful gadgets we missed?
About the author: Rebecca Cox is a Chicago-based actress, wine lover and wine shop-girl. Check out her blog Chicago Uncorked to follow her thoughts on wine tasting, enology, viticulture and wine in the Windy City.