Last Updated on December 16, 2020 by Jeremy
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To enjoy a bottle of wine, all you really need is the bottle, a corkscrew, and enough wine glasses for however many people you're splitting the bottle with. It really is as simple as that. But just because the number of tools you need to get into wine is minimal, that does not mean that there aren't a lot of other products out there that could pique your interest.
We love buying wine accessories and other wine gadgets as they are often fun to use even if they aren't quite the most practical of the bunch. In this guide, we wanted to share some of our thoughts on the products we've purchased so far to help you determine if you should pick them up for your own personal collection or as gifts for wine lovers in your life.
Notes: We've owned a version of every item featured in this guide. Some links may go to similar products if the one we own specifically is no longer available. Some of the products below may only be recommended in select scenarios as well. As such, this guide doubles as a review database in addition to a wine gift guide.
We can't start a guide to wine accessories out without going for the most reliable product of all- a decanter.
These vessels are designed to provide a few key elements that are often recommended when drinking certain wine. First, a properly shaped decanter should allow for sediment to settle out and prevent it from being poured into your glass when it is inverted. Second, they should provide a sufficient surface area at the liquid level to allow for air-water contact to facilitate oxidation. Finally, and perhaps least important, they can be a wonderful aesthetic to any dinner table!
While you can get pretty elaborate designs to satisfy that final point, we simply like decanters with a wide base as a means to satisfy the first two principles as our priority. Function comes first!
So do you need this product? If you like to drink an entire bottle over the course of a meal or evening (especially fuller-bodied reds with higher tannins which are primarily decanted over white wines), the answer is an unequivocal yes. As we are both chemical engineers, we thoroughly understand the principles of oxidation and how contact with oxygen could impact wines over time. But it wasn't until putting wines in our decanter did we really see this in practice. Sometimes the difference over two hours is so drastic your bottle almost tastes like a completely different wine!
You may also need: Stainless steel decanter balls or decanter scrub brush for cleaning as well as a decanter stopper if yours does not come with one by default. Note that you should confirm the mouth width of your decanter before buying a stopper to ensure the right fit.
The Coravin is a rather ingenious wine tool that uses a small needle to pierce through a cork (and only a cork- it does not work with synthetics) to pour wine out of a bottle. However, to pour wine out of the sealed environment a gas must be added to displace the liquid. Instead of letting air in that would oxidize the wine, the Coravin comes with inert gas (argon) cartridges. A quick puff gives a sample and a longer squeeze helps pour a full glass- simple!
The final trick that makes the Coravin work is due to the intrinsic properties of cork. When the needle is removed, the hole the needle makes effectively re-seals itself thanks to a mix of cork's elastic properties, the fact that the cork is inserted into the bottle under pressure (and is compressed), and, of course, is wetted on the interior side. As you rely on the cork's properties for this step, older bottles and those with potentially damaged corks may not work as well- especially for repeat samplings.
We highlighted several ways we use our unit in our full Coravin review, and really like its versatility for when we want to have quick tastes of wines over opening a bottle. Likewise, it does seem to help preserve wines long-term if it is utilized correctly; however, we generally like to consume our bottles sooner rather than later after using this one.
So do you need this product? As much as we really like our Coravin, we also have to admit its a bit of a novelty unless you do quick tastes of bottles regularly or, more likely, work in a wine bar and want to pour glasses of high-end wines intermittently. While we do believe this one works as advertised, it is also quite expensive. We also have to admit we purchased this one on points.
You may also need: Extra inert gas cartridges.
Vacu Vin Wine Saver
The Vacu Vin Wine Saver is another preservation system for wine. But instead of using a needle and inert gas into a corked bottle, this one is designed to remove air from an open bottle via its unique cap design and a hand pump. The caps are designed to click when you hit a certain pressure in the bottle and is a great audio cue to tell you when you're ready to put the bottle away.
Does it work? Context is key here. A hand pump can only remove so much gas from the bottle and likely does not get close to a true vacuum (read: zero oxygen environment). As such, it is safe to assume that some oxygen will remain in the bottle and that oxidation will occur to some degree. So while this one does work in helping preserve wine, we think it is best only used on bottles that you want to finish within 24-48 hours at most- and even here you may notice slight oxidation all the same in some wines.
So do you need this product? We like to use this one in between pours of wines we're not decanting and for overnight storage for wine we'll finish the next day. While the latter category is much rarer than the former if only because we tend to consume bottles outright in a sitting, we'll take any assistance in minimizing oxidation that we can get. These pumps are often priced low enough to justify having one on hand, so we'd recommend buying these over basic stopper any day. But if you want to preserve your wine any longer than a day or so, you should look into a Coravin.
You may also need: Extra stoppers for replacements (they can get damaged or lost rather easily) or to have more for use on multiple bottles.
The Vinturi Aerator is an interesting wine accessory. It uses the venturi principle to funnel wine through a small channel that produces a pressure drop across the unit. This pressure drop draws air in via a small opening on the side and, thanks to the unit's design, then vigorously mixes with the wine. The rapid contact is said to aerate the wine and achieve results akin to what you get when decanting- but rather than taking minutes or hours is done almost instantaneously as the wine passes through the unit.
Does it work? To a degree, yes. We definitely notice an improvement in aroma and flavors when pouring wine through our Vinturi Aerator, and, scientifically speaking, rapid air contact in this design should result in some oxidation. How much actually occurs (and how well you can control it), well, we're not entirely sure if that can be stated outright. All that being said, we personally like how we can taste our way through a bottle of wine as it develops in our decanter over an evening, which is something that you can't quite replicate with a Vinturi.
So do you need this product? It depends- we more or less stopped using ours once we bought a decanter. But if you do not have a decanter and are unable to purchase one for any reason, this could be a more compact alternative that may get you partway there.
Wine Pouring Spouts
If you find yourself spilling your wine regularly when pouring, a wine spout may be the accessory for you. These come in all range of styles from insertable spouts with tips, to simple discs that can be folded into a spout shape and quickly inserted into a bottle, and even spouts with built-in aerators! While we generally can pour from a bottle without making a mess, we personally like the foldable discs all the same for how easy they are to use.
Do they work? Yes, they really do. We were actually quite impressed with how well they work and noted a marked improvement in the pour versus not using one.
So do you need this product? We can see the merit of these to help avoid dripping wine when pouring. This really is a skill that you can develop over time, but if you can't quite get the hang of it then these are not a bad item to have on hand. That being said, despite the fact that we like them we also very rarely use them anymore.
A corkcicle is very much what its name implies- an icicle attached to a cork. Okay, well, it's not a real icicle. This is a plastic one filled with a gel that can be re-frozen time and time again. Put it in your freezer for a bit, insert into a partially consumed bottle of wine when you need it, and it'll help keep it cold while sitting out in the open.
Does it work? If you are simply thinking of wanting to keep an open bottle of wine cold, this serves its purpose to a degree. You're essentially inserting an ice cube that won't melt into the bottle of wine. But in most cases, we find a bottle will hold its temperature just fine for how fast we drink bottles (which is, admittedly, rather quickly).
So do you need this product? Not really. It is a novelty for the most part. That being said, if you were looking to serve a cold rose or champagne and did not have access to an ice bucket or refrigerator while drinking the bottle, this could help keep the wine a bit cooler longer. How long and to what degree, it is hard to say. But even though we've had this one for almost a decade, I can safely say I don't remember the last time we used it. So there's that.
This one is a fairly old product, and some more sophisticated options have come out since our original purchase.
A Wine Refrigerator
Finally, we end this guide with a rather robust wine product- the wine refrigerator. These come in all shapes and sizes, with capacities as low as just a couple of bottles to huge units rated for several dozen. We were fortunate enough to get a two-zone wine fridge when we purchased our house, and very much enjoyed being able to have perfectly chilled whites and reds on hand at a moment's notice.
Does it work? Yes. A wine fridge is pretty straight-forward and can have either one or two zones for temperature control. However, based on reviews we've read some can be prone to regular maintenance issues (ours included).
So do you need this product? The word need here really should be replaced with want. Personally we like having some of our bottles stored at the ideal temperature so they are ready to drink at a moment's notice. If we want to drink a bottle we have in our cellar and need it cooled down a bit, we simply put them in the wine fridge for at least 30-60 minutes and are good to go there as well. Do we need one? Not really. But after enjoying the refrigerator that came with our house, well, we like it. (Although, we admit that finding one with the right size for your intended space may be the hardest part!) If you cannot have a properly controlled wine cellar at home for whatever reason, this could be a good alternative choice, too.
More Gifts for Wine Lovers Coming Soon
As mentioned at the start of this article, this gifts for wine lovers guide doubles as a review database for all the products we've personally tried. As we test out more, we'll update accordingly!
What products should we check out next? Comment below to share!
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