Monday, January 10, 2011

Super Tasting Tools II

Interested in a few inexpensive, easy-to-use tools that make affordable wines taste expensive, and make the bottle last longer once you open it?  I got a lot of comments on my last posting about my favorite wine tasting tool – the aerator – so I thought I’d share a few more tools that I find enhance the enjoyment and convenience of every-day wine drinking.
As far as enjoyment, my other indispensable tool is the Riedel wine glass.  Many of us go to great lengths to choose a good wine, store it properly, and serve it at the right temperature.  But we don’t realize what a difference the glass that we serve it in makes. 
Riedel has created a line of wine glasses, one for each major varietal, designed to emphasize and promote the different flavors and aromas of a given grape.  For example, the Cabernet Sauvignon glass is more conical to focus the aromas, and the lip is designed to direct the wine toward the tip of the tongue, where the taste sensors are tuned to sweetness.  This enhances the rich fruit in the wine before it spreads out to the sides and back of the palate, where we then experience the more acidic and tannic elements.
If all this sounds absurdly high-brow or like a marketing gimmick, I thought so too.  Then I attended a trade show in Dallas where a Riedel representative poured wine from the same bottle into two glasses, one Riedel and one the conventional tulip-shaped glass.  The difference was profound.
Moving on to convenience, the two wine tools I use every day are the Vacu Vin wine saver, and a simple waiters corkscrew.   The Vacu Vin is an inexpensive plastic vacuum pump which extracts the air from the opened bottle and re-seals it with a rubber stopper.  The vacuum slows down the oxidation process so much that I find I can keep a bottle of white wine open for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator, and a bottle of red open for up to a month.  While this takes away a good excuse for finishing a bottle in one sitting, it can certainly save some money by extending the life of the wine.  Further, if you like variety in your wines as I do, you can have several bottles open simultaneously.
The final tool is perhaps the most essential of all – the corkscrew.  Since wine corks came into common use in the 18th century, people have seemingly spent more time trying to design a better corkscrew than mousetrap.  The next time you visit the Napa Valley, stop in at the old Christian Brothers winery, now the Culinary Institute of America building, and see Brother Timothy’s collection of corkscrews – hundreds of models in every design imaginable, some made with precious metals and stones.
Personally, I like the classic waiter’s corkscrew since it’s effective and still has some degree of flair.  But many consider the Screwpull to be the most nearly effortless and infallible design.  Which corkscrew to use is strictly a personal choice – just make sure it has a long, thin helical open worm that can penetrate and grip the cork without shredding it, and a method to lever the cork out with ease.
So there you have it – the four simple wine tools I would take if stranded on a desert island - an aerator, Riedel wine glass, Vacu Vin saver, and corkscrew.  With those and an endless supply of good wine, what more would you need?  A votre’ sante!

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