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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Debunking Wine Gizmos

There's pretty much only 3 things you need to enjoy a good glass of wine.  Granted, there's all of these high tech, newfangled, Sharper Image, Brookstone type gadgets that claim to do all sorts of wonderful things.  I can personally guarantee you that pretty much all of them are useless.  I'd like to take this opportunity to make sure that all of you know the essentials, and what you shouldn't waste your money buying.

The essentials:

Double hinged waiter's corkscrew


You've probably seen one of these.  Millions of waiters and sommeliers worldwide manage to open plenty of bottles successfully with these.  There's a knife blade for cutting through the top of the capsule.  You know, that piece of foil that is wrapped over the top of the bottle.  I bet most of you don't even know what it's used for.  It's simple.  1.  It's decorative.  2.  It keeps the dust off of the top of the cork.  I don't even have the patience to watch someone do this.  I just grab the bottle, yank off the capsule, and pull out the cork.  No time for fancy schmancy around here.  Give me the wine!  Feel free to use the provided link to Amazon if you need to get one of these for less than $3.  It's the only wine opener you'll ever need.  I have dozens of them, as I keep getting free ones from my sales reps.  I even keep a couple in my glove compartment.  You never know when you'll need one.

There are all kinds of crazy different types of wine openers.  There are some that will attach to your countertop, some that are battery operated or rechargeable, some that use little gas cartridges to suck the cork out of the bottle.  There's the classic "winged" corkscrew, that my wife insists on using.  This one is the worst!  More often than not, the screw has too large a thread, or is just a big spike with a spiral going around it.  You'll wind up breaking more corks in half with this one than with any other type of wine opener.  Most people that use these wind up sticking the screw right through the foil capsule and pulling the cork right through it.  Appaling.  If you're going to drink wine, please take 5 minutes out of your life and have someone that knows what they're doing show you how to use a waiter's corkscrew so you don't embarass yourself.

Can't handle the pressure?  Don't worry.  Screw caps are cool.

Wine glasses


I am a firm believer in using proper glassware, or better yet, high quality crystal stemware.  There are different styles of glasses for all types of wines, designed to capture the nose of the wine, or even to place the wine on a different part of your tongue.  That's great.  I don't know about you, but I really don't have time for this either.  Most of the bottles I drink are $20 or less.  As long as it's clean, and I have enough room in the glass to swirl it around a bit, I'm pretty satisfied with something relatively basic.  Stems or stemless?  Depends on my mood, I guess.  I have both, and I honestly don't believe that it makes a difference one way or another.  Some of my sales reps have stemless polycarbonate wine glasses that they bring with them for tasting.  Meh.  The polycarbonate material won't make the wine taste funny, but they will melt in the dishwasher, even on the top shelf.

Some people swear that you shouldn't wash wine glasses in the dishwasher, or even use soap.  Agreed.  Soap can leave a residue.  I like to handwash with just a little bit of dish soap, in very hot water, and rinse thoroughly.  Nothing worse than finding lipstick on the rim of a glass when you pull it out of the cabinet, especially if it's not your wife's color.  I suppose that if my wine budget were to go up significantly, I might get nicer glasses too.  In the meantime, basic will do nicely.


I had this exact one in the picture, until I broke it.  My wife found another one for me at a yard sale a couple years ago, and it's pretty heavy duty lead crystal.  It weighs about the same as a bowling ball, so I hope I never drop it on my foot.

In any case, this is not an essential accessory, but it can help if you have older bottles of wine that may have sediment, or younger wines that will need to "open up" or breathe before you dive in to drinking them.  The idea is that since the decanter has a wide base.  This increases the surface area of the wine that is exposed to air, therefore allowing the tannins to break down more quickly than just opening the bottle for a while, or even swirling in the glass.

As far as sediment goes, wine bottles are designed for that already.  "Bordeaux" bottles have those shoulders for a reason.  That reason is to catch sediment as your pouring.  Same deal as the ridges on the inside of the punt or "kick up" on the bottom of the bottle.  Some people will argue that the punt on any bottle is just a leftover from a long time ago when bottles were blown by hand.  It is NOT a thumb hole for all of you pretentious sommeliers out there that insist on holding a bottle by the punt while pouring at a fancy event.  I've seen so many of you drop the bottle, and I can assure you, the sight of that,  it's just priceless.

Burgundy style bottles with the sloped shoulders are typically used for wines that are already filtered, or don't contain much sediment to begin with.  Makes sense.  I actually like getting a bit of sediment in my wine glass.  It's just grape must and dead yeast cells.  It can't hurt you.

I have used my decanter on occasions when I feel that a particular wine needed it, but I always pour a small sip of the wine first, right out of the bottle, just to see what's going on.  This will usually tell me whether or not I should decant it, and for how long.  I don't know if any of you reading this have picked up on the fact that I'm a bit impatient.  I'm not impatient.  I'm efficient.  Decanting is usually for a more special wine, on a more special occasion, and can take anywhere from 30-40 minutes to achieve desired results.  My dinner's getting cold by then.  I most often like to drink a bottle immediately after opening it over the course of an hour, and see how it evolves.  Besides, If I bust out my decanter, I'm going to have to wash it.

Of course, there are all kinds of other wine realted accoutrements available.  There are wine aerators, and special pourers that claim to oxygenate your wine by the glass.  They do make a funny noise, but that's about it.  Oxygenating a wine is a chemical process that simply takes time.  Pouring wine through a little plastic doohickie doesn't do a thing except waste your money and give you 1 more thing to wash at the end of the evening.  There is another device that a friend of mine posted on my Facebook page, that claims to remove sulfites from your wine.  Seriously?  This thing cost about $120.  That's about a case worth of wine for Mrs. JazzFoodWineDude's rack.  Guess what.  Every bottle of wine I bring home is small production, organic, biodyamic, or sustainably produced, and for the most part, no additional sulfites are added.  Bottom line, even if this thing works, we don't need one.  Stop buying bad wine, and you won't need one either.

Happy Wine Wednesday, everyone, and cheers!  -JFWD

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