Great grape gadgets
All too often, the manufacturer is trying to reinvent the wheel. That is, there are already products on the market that do the job quite well, some of which have been around for decades.
But on occasion, someone does come up with a marked improvement on the standard. And even more occasionally, something entirely new and different is introduced.
When either situation arises, media folks are among the first to hear about it. But even if an item captures my attention, and makes me want to know more, I am rarely motivated enough to actually request one for testing.
The truth is that wine-related products, whether as indispensable as glasses and corkscrews or as superfluous as coasters and neck tags, are not a frequent topic in this column.
But I do have my personal, well-used and much-appreciated favorites in openers and closers, as well as methods intended to prolong the drinkability of partially consumed wine.
Following are certain wine gadgets that have a permanent place in my kitchen, and the reasons why they earned this utilitarian honor. Let it be known upfront that I have no relationship of any kind with the manufacturers of these products.
Getting the most for your money means not only choosing a wine you like, but also being able to enjoy all of it. Remember, If you pay $30 for a bottle of wine, the cost per ounce is $1.18.
An easy, effective and attractive way to preserve the attributes of what remains in the bottle for several days is offered through a new product called Savino. Initially skeptical when I perused this attractive-looking product online, my first questions were, how is it supposed to work and does it actually do what it claims?
From a design standpoint, it seemed evident that there was no high tech component. No application of an inert gas, no pumping to create at least a partial vacuum, no collapsing bag or similar component.
Savino is a glass cylinder containing a free-floating stopper encircled by a precisely measured rubber membrane. After wine is introduced, the stopper floats on the surface, preventing oxygen from making contact.
The top is then sealed with another stopper device featuring a membrane. It closes off the open space between the floating disc and the entrance to the glass vessel, preventing spillage in the event it is tipped over.
All I can say is, it works. I tested a Savino several times with different wines and different approaches to consumption, waiting at least three days, and on one occasion five days, before consuming the last few ounces. In no case did the wine show signs of oxidation, volatile acidification or off aromas or flavors.
I tried leaving variously three-quarters of a bottle, half a bottle and a quarter of a bottle for three days. Then I tried leaving a quarter of a bottle for five days.
At five days, the wine was beginning to go off, but just beginning. It left me to conclude this deceptively simply device works as well as costly commercial machines that inject increasing amounts of inert gas into a bottle as it is slowly drained.
If you always consume every bottle at a single sitting, you won’t need a device like this. If, on the other hand, you’d prefer to enjoy a glass or two over a period of days, visit “Savino” on the Internet.
The device runs $59.95, including shipping. That’s not cheap, but it’s still a good investment for a consumer of quality wine.
Let’s move on to opening the bottle — a colorful and curiously intriguing world filled with every device imaginable, from ivory handled pullers to needle-insertion air pumps.
This world applies entirely to corks, of course. Screw-tops and glass stoppers do not require anything other than manhandling and perhaps a small knife.
By and large the corkscrew still reigns supreme. And, though many do the job poorly, they have somehow managed to survive.
Among them, methods of removing the cork vary. Some lift with a lever, others with gears, handles or threading. Some feature wing handles, wooden bells or colorful plastic casings.
But for ease, simplicity and convenience, nothing beats a double-hinged sommelier corkscrew. It’s been around for a while now, and professionals swear by it. It folds up to fit in your pocket, and it can tackle the toughest corks.
The secret is in the double-hinged lever. Unlike its long-lived, single-hinged and still-serviceable older brother, this lever is configured in two steps.
Positioning the shorter first step on the lip of the bottle provides more leverage to free the cork and lift it part way out. Then, using the hinged second step, which puts more than twice the length to work, the cork can be fully extracted with ease.
Many manufacturers offer these handy corkscrews, which also come equipped with a folding knife. They are called double-hinged or double-step sommelier corkscrews and average about $10.
For people who want a fancier, showier opening device, several single-action options are available from numerous companies. Of all the ones I have used, the Pampered Chef model works best.
This handsomely designed unit sports a single lever with a chrome grip. It is simple to operate and extracts even stubborn corks quickly and smoothly.
It’s way too big to fit in your pocket, but comes in a nice cloth pull-string carry bag, along with a foil cutter. It runs $34.
When selecting a corkscrew, never settle for a drill spiral, machined from a single piece of metal. It will drill a hole into the cork.
Purchase only a worm spiral — one where a round length of metal has been twisted into an open spiral shape. It will worm its way through the cork, grabbing as it goes.
The last two handy-dandy items will be of interest to sparkling wine lovers. One of them is relatively new, while the other has been around as long as I can remember.
Le Creuset, the French maker of fabulous cookware and kitchen tools, has devised a star-shaped Champagne opener retailing for $25. It looks like a very cool and shiny tool from a sci-fi movie.
This space-age device wraps itself around the bulbous upper part of the sparkling wine cork and gives the user enough leverage to smoothly twist that highly compressed cork from its neck-long, nesting place.
Last, but not at all least, is a tool that many have tried to replicate or improve, but with little success. It’s generically referred to as a sparkling wine bottle stopper and is made by a number of manufacturers.
One I’ve had for years looks and works as good as new, despite being used hundreds of time. There is no apparent wear and the spring inside seems as strong as ever.
Looking on the Internet, I found one that looks exactly like it on Amazon for $4.59 plus shipping.
With that, I think I’ll close. Here’s to happy hunting and hassle-free imbibing.
Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 503-687-1227.