The Definitive Ranking of Wine Gadgets
Wine aerators are the worst. No other wine gadget has been able to pique my involuntary hate reflex as much as these things.
(And yes, I do seem to be on a bit of a pessimistic jag lately; blame the doldrums of late Canadian winter.)
I wrote about wine aerators in a Vue column just after Christmas, because Christmas is the only time of year I usually have to deal with them. A few family members, well-intentioned though they may be, have jumped on the aerator bandwagon and dutifully use the thing on every bottle of wine – even the $9 ones.
I gave a pretty thorough analysis of why my aerator hatred is justified, so I won’t repeat any of that here. Instead, here’s a rundown of wine gadgets in order of Yes, Buy This For Me For Next Christmas, all the way down to My Gratitude is Faked and I Will Literally Donate This to Value Village Tomorrow:
Good stemware is 150% mandatory. I will never, ever turn away a good wine glass. And I will definitely exchange a crappy glass for a good one. (Just include the gift receipt and you’ll never have to know.) We’ve all drank wine out of coffee cups before (right?) but investing in even a single good wine glass is essential for anyone even remotely serious about wine. Or even anyone who just likes the taste of it. Seriously guys, just go fucking buy a set of good stemware already – Winners always has boxes of deeply discounted Riedel stems, so you have no excuses.
Despite the prevalence of screw caps, you still need a good corkscrew for the bottles that stick with tradition and use a cork. Crappy corkscrews rate amongst my top pet peeves, as they often shred the corks, rip them in half, chip the top of the bottle (yes, it happens), and just generally suck. Waiter’s style corkscrews are the most economical for home use. Rabbit ears are terrible – throw it out right now. A while ago the screwpull, lever-style corkscrews became really popular as they are basically idiot-proof; I personally find them overkill but hey, they are better than rabbit ears or the corkscrew that comes free on a bottle of $10 Shiraz.
Whatever style you pick, pay the money for a good one and it will last you a very long time. (Unless you accidentally forget it in your purse while trying to go through security at the San Francisco airport. Dammit.)
#3: Wine Charms or Stemware Pens
Bet you didn’t expect this one to be so high on the list, did you? I don’t recommend wine charms for their bling factor – though some are really pretty and you know what? If I want to bedazzle my wine glass then I bloody will, thank you very much. No, I recommend wine charms for their sheer utility: it’s extremely easy to lose track of which wine glass belongs to which person, and since I’m generally not into swapping mouth germs with everyone who drinks at my house I’ll stick to my own stem, thanks.
Wine glass pens are also fun because who doesn’t like doodling ridiculous, profane and/or generally offensive things for public viewing? At the very least, these markers are good for giving you a few chuckles to punctuate your bleary hungover clean-up the next morning.
Pro tip: don’t waste your money buying pens that are specifically branded as wine glass markers – generic metallic pens are the exact same thing but without the 500% mark up.
As much as they are pretty and as much as I love them, they really aren’t necessary. The majority of everyday drinking wines don’t need to be decanted; and even if it would benefit from breathing a bit, just pour it into your nice big wine glass (because you have invested in properly-sized stems) and let it hang out for a bit.
That said, because decanters are beautiful and also not cheap, feel free to give me one. I won’t turn it away.
#5: Wine Away
Wine will be spilled on your carpet. This is one of life’s great inevitabilities. Wine Away remains the single most effective means of getting rid of wine stains. A few years ago I did a test of different wine stain removal methods (club soda, salt, dish soap, vinegar, etc.) and it was really the only thing that actually made a seriously noticeable difference. Also it’s a perfect gift for someone who often hosts various gatherings, as having this on hand alleviates a lot of their irritation when you inevitably slop wine all over the place.
#6: Coravin or Enomatic System
Potential for explosions aside, Coravins are pretty cool. They are also pretty expensive (~$300) so I’m certainly not buying one anytime soon, especially because they’re really designed for people with a decent collection of wine stocked up. (If it’s in my house, I will drink it. Soon. I have no regrets.) But hey, if you really want to drop some cash, do it.
I would also slot a home Enomatic system around this same level, for those who really want to blow some money.
#7: Wine Preservation Systems
Pop the cork back in the bottle and stick it in the fridge. If you’re going to drink the remainder of a bottle in the next day or two, this is really all you need to do: it’ll still taste fine. Sometimes wines even develop interesting secondary aromas and flavours the next day. It’s like a science experiment!
If you habitually open lots of bottles at once and don’t finish them all right away, you might want to invest in some kind of wine preservation system. Inert gas sprays work the best (I’ve used Private Preserve myself, but I’m sure there are others). Those vacuum pump things also work, but I don’t think they are as good as the gas. Also they look like too much effort.
Or, you could just start inviting me over and I promise you won’t have this “problem” anymore.
#8: Wine Bottle Toppers
Observe the glorious clusterfuck that my mother-in-law gave me a couple years ago:
Wow, right? I just don’t have words to describe how I feel about this thing. Part of me kind of loves it for how unrepentantly fuck ugly it is. And I’m pretty sure it’s hand-blown glass and was therefore not cheap, which just makes it all the more heartbreaking. I haven’t been able to bring myself to ditch it, but I’ve certainly never used it – because bottle toppers are useless. They almost never make a tight seal so you have to use the original cork or screwcap for resealing a partial bottle. Really, they are pure ornamentation – but unlike wine charms, I just don’t see the aesthetic appeal.
#9: Aerators, Bottle Thermometers, Wine Icicles and Everything Else
Wine gadgets are big business and there’s always some newfangled thing on the market that’s a thinly-veiled cash grab under the guise of some revolutionary innovation. Save your money and buy anything else on this list (except bottle toppers, unless you feel like trolling someone).
And if you are the recipient of such a gadget, just smile and politely thank the gifter. They really meant well, you know. Maybe even try it out once, if you’re curious.
Then donate it.