Wine gadgets: The good, the bad and the don't bother
Wine Adviser Paul Gregutt warns that there are a lot of stupidly expensive and genuinely ridiculous gadgets littering the field.
Special to the Seattle Times
Pick of the week
NxNW 2011 Wallula Benches Riesling; $12
THE WALLULA Benches vineyard — a site also prominently featured in Pacific Rim's riesling lineup — is the source for this outstanding, steely-dry riesling. It's vivid and gin-like, with citrus fruit and botanical highlights. (Distributed by Young's Market)
OVER THE years I have tried dozens of wine accessories, and yet I am still surprised when new twists on old cork-turners arrive. There really are a lot of stupidly expensive and genuinely ridiculous gadgets littering the field. As we approach gift-buying season, here are some to avoid, and some that might be at least as welcome as that excellent bottle of wine you could have purchased with the same dollars:
Avoid anything that claims to pull out a cork using a gas-powered needle or a battery-operated screw. Avoid those double-winged metal monstrosities that supermarkets sell. They are great for drilling out holes and creating cork dust; not so good for actually opening wine bottles.
A well-designed waiter's corkscrew is the right tool for the job. Spend $15 or $20 and you can get a very good model; most tasting rooms stock them. It should feel ergonomically comfortable in your hand. The "worm" (that is the technical name for the screw itself) should be long and Teflon-coated; avoid those made of thick metal. The part that grips the lip of the bottle should be a double hinge for added leverage with longer corks.
This is the only cork-puller that will work on just about every type of closure, including those rock-hard rubber and plastic corks that will destroy your fancy lever pull devices.
Those can be spendy, but they are worth it. I have tried them all, and the Screwpull brand is the best. If you open several thousand bottles a year, as I do, this thing is a real wrist-saver. You will need to replace the worm periodically, but that's about it for maintenance.
Two gizmos that fail relentlessly are the myriad devices that trim the capsule or claim to stop drips. I'm still waiting for the dripless bottle to be invented. Meanwhile, resign yourself to the fact that the cheap plastic foil cutters will break, quickly and often. It may be best to throw in the towel and just slice the entire capsule off with the little blade attached to that waiter's corkscrew you've cleverly purchased.
Another category of gadgets that seem pointless to me are the aerators. There are several options, none cheap, and some even claim that your white wine needs to be aerated differently than your red wine. Give me a break!
Anything that beats the heck out of your wine is running completely against the grain of what the winemaker has so carefully tried to do, which is to batter the wine as little as possible. Why take a perfectly sound wine, fresh out of the bottle, and put it through a mini-hurricane? Better idea: Buy a decanter, the original aeration device.
About Wine Adviser
My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.