Guide to Wine Accessories

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When shopping for wine online, finding the perfect bottle is only the beginning. Next comes the wide world of wine accessories: From aerators to decanters, stemware to storage options, you'll find hundreds of tools to help you serve and save your favorite wines. Use our complete Guide to Wine Accessories to help choose the right gifts and gadgets for you.

Aerators

    Conversations about aerators from the Snooth Forums

  • Red Wine Aerators

    I'm going to be purchasing an aerator as a gift and wondering if anyone has a recommendation for a good one. I'd love to hear both... Read Topic »

    Posted on Sep 10, 2012 by TKINSDTKINSD


By introducing air into a wine as it’s being decanted, a wine aerator can soften a wine, and speed up the process by which it “opens” or breathes. While this may produce effects that are similar to aging a wine, an aerator does not actually age a wine. The introduction of oxygen simply speeds up the natural reactions that would take place in your glass or your decanter.

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Corkscrews

    Conversations about corkscrews from the Snooth Forums

  • Corkscrews - the best, and how many?

    I usually end up collecting far too many of the average useful implement, but have been fairly restrained on corkscrews thus far. I have... Read Topic »

    Posted on Mar 12, 2008 by PhilipPhilip

  • Wine Openers

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The first challenge you'll face when preparing to enjoy a glass of wine is getting the cork out of the bottle, making the corkscrew the first of many wine accessories you'll encounter. While there are many types of corkscrews, you’re most likely to come across these four standards:

The Waiter’s Friend. This classic corkscrew folds up a bit like a penknife, with three moving parts: the blade, the lever and the screw (also known as the “worm”). A well-made waiter’s friend is the best all-around solution for removing a cork. Look for one that has an extra long worm with 5 ½ turns, with grooves that increase its surface area (giving it a better crab on the cork); two levers to offer the best leverage for extracting the cork smoothly; and a decent blade to help facilitate the removal of the foil capsule on the bottle.

The Butterfly Corkscrew. With the butterfly, as you twist the worm in, the two levers on the side rise up, making it very easy to extract the cork. The main drawback with this style of corkscrew is that the worm itself is solid. This greatly increases the likelihood of gouging out the center of a stubborn cork.

The Screwpull. The screwpull combines the convenience of the old butterfly corkscrew with an open, turned wire worm. These corkscrews take full advantage of the principle of the screw: Continuous turning of the worm not only introduces the worm into the cork, but also works to extract it. There are also full automatic corkscrews of this type that work with an easy swipe of a lever.

Screwpulls are usually reliable, functional corkscrews, but still pose a few problems; they can get stuck in a particularly stubborn cork, or inadvertently push in particularly loose or soft cork into the bottle. There’s also the cost, which can reach 5, 10, or even 20 times the price of a good waiters friend.

The Ah-So. A must for any collector’s cellar kit. Perfect for the soft and loose corks that are frequently encountered in old bottles of wine, the Ah-So uses two tines that are eased down the sides of the cork (in place of a worm). These tines are thin and flexible; when the Ah-So is gently twisted, they dig into the side of the cork, grabbing it by its outside length. This allows you to slowly extract even the softest corks in one piece.

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Decanters

    Conversations about decanters from the Snooth Forums

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    Hello everyone, I have a 1994 Monticello Gran Reserve Rioja that I am looking to crack open soon. And since it is one of the older... Read Topic »

    Posted on Oct 16, 2009 by kylewolfkylewolf

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A decanter is an indispensable accessory for the wine lover. There are many sizes and shapes, and the effects of each style can be strikingly different. When choosing a decanter, first consider why you’re decanting your wine--this will determine how much of the wine’s surface you want exposed to oxygen, which in turn will determine which shape of decanter you need.

One reason to decant a wine is to pour the clear wine off the sediment. This is done primarily with older reds, though some red wines have impressive levels of sediment even when they're young. In this case, you may not want the wine to be exposed to a lot of air, and should select a narrow decanter with straight sides to keep the surface area of the wine as small as possible.

If, on the other hand, you want to get a lot of oxygen transfer with the wine, hoping that it will soften and open up, then a wide-bottomed decanter will be your best choice.

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Filters & Funnels

If your favorite bottle is full of sediment (or has inadvertently been shaken up, introducing sediment throughout the wine), there are very effective filter techniques you can use to strain it off.

The first involves pouring the clear wine off the sediment into a clean decanter; using a wine funnel makes this process much easier. The best funnels have a screen or set of screens to assist in the removal of sediment.

The most common filter is the “port filter.” Port wine, because it is aged for long periods of time without moving, frequently forms a crust. During decanting, this crust can break up or get dislodged; the large pores of the port filter are perfect for intercepting these chunks. Finer screens are used to keep the fine sediment out of the decanted wine. (In general, once this sort of sediment is all that shows up on the screen, it’s time to stop decanting).

Two other types of filters you’ll find in the wine lover’s arsenal are good old fashioned cheesecloth and unbleached coffee filters (though these are best used only in a pinch). Cheesecloth is the near-perfect filter for wine: A loose ball laid across the opening of a funnel will keep most if not all of the sediment out of the decanter. Coffee filters can be super-efficient, as well, but beware – the paper tends to absorb quite a bit of wine, and the density of the paper can strip a wine of some of its flavor.

Articles about filters & funnels

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    Decanting Vintage PortWhilst it is fun to do, there is no real mystery to mastering the act of decanting vintage port (or any other wine).Most people feel more comfortable using some kind of filter: either a purpose made funnel, or other such material eg.... View Article »

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Gift Bags

This is one of those wine accessories that can be as simple or as complicated as you'd like: it can be as inexpensive as a decorated paper bag wrapped around a bottle, or it can be a gift in and of itself.

If you want something more than mere wrapping, consider a neoprene bottle bag. These are relatively inexpensive (perhaps 2 to 3 times the price of a paper gift bag), and can insulate the bottles in transit and offer some protection in case your gift bottle is bumped or dropped.

If you want to give a bag that that is a gift above and beyond the bottle of wine inside of it, look at sturdy wine bags or boxes that can be reused. These sturdy carriers come in many configurations, from single bottle to 12 bottle cases. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and is an accessory that will be valued by any wine lover.

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Stemware

Once the wine is clear and decanted, it’s time to implement your greatest ally in the enjoyment of wine: the wine glass! There are so many wine glasses on the market, choosing the right one can be confusing. Don’t worry, you can start (and finish) with a decent, nicely shaped, all-purpose bowl that holds at least 10 ounces. You can choose a Burgundy or Bordeaux bowl, but the Bordeaux bowl is best if you’re only in the market for one type.

Glasses range from cheap, poorly designed, and virtually unusable, to exquisitely shaped, finely crafted, and, well … virtually unusable. Luckily, there are many options in the middle that are perfect for everyday use.

There are four general categories of wine glasses, each with their own pros and cons:

The first group includes small, machine-made, sturdy but not particularly well-crafted glass. These have the advantage of being inexpensive and dishwasher-safe, but tend not to enhance one’s enjoyment of the wine.

The second are nicely machine-blown glasses with a large bowl--10 oz is the smallest we would suggest. This is the sweet spot for most wine drinkers. The glasses are more expensive than basic glasses, and are not recommended for the dishwasher, though it may take many cycles before one breaks.

The third category is expensive, usually unusably large, hand-blown glasses that are as fragile as a butterfly’s wings. While these glasses do indeed enhance the enjoyment of wine, they do so at a price: Each stem might be $75 or more, the glasses are too tall to fit in many cabinets, and they're so delicate that even gentle hand washing will end up breaking them at some point.

The fourth style is the stemless glass, an option that is now available across all the previous groups. By getting rid of the stem of the glass, leaving only the bowl, glassmakers have made glasses easier to store, safer in the dishwasher, and safer at the table. While stemless glasses may take some getting use to, they help mitigate some of the drawbacks of the best wine glasses.

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Wine Chillers

When preparing a bottle for service, the best tool is your own, regular old refrigerator. Perfect service temps vary with wine styles but, generally, 60F for red wines, and 45F for white wines is considered optimal. In a pinch, you can put your bottle in the freezer to get it to service temperature. Don’t forget it, though -- it might shatter!

Another way to get your wine to the proper serving temperature is simply to drop it in salted ice water (salt water is the coldest, and therefore quickest, way to go.)

There are accessories, however, you can use to keep a bottle chilled once its at the table: Marble bottle chillers, that have been stored in a fridge or freezer, and terracotta versions (which work by being bathed in water -- the evaporating of the water actually chills the holder down) are both easy, attractive ways to keep your wine at the right temperature.

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Wine Refrigerators

Whether you buy wine casually or maintain a substantial collection, you’ll eventually need a method to get your bottles to the correct temperature and keep them there.

A wine refrigerator is likely the biggest wine accessory you’ll ever need to buy. These come in sizes that range from 6 bottles to 6000 bottles or more. The idea behind buying a wine refrigerator is to create an environment that is perfect for the aging of wine. That perfect environment is about 55F and 75% humidity, which will allow your wines to age slowly for decades until they’ve reached the peak of perfection!

When planning on buying a wine refrigerator it’s worth asking yourself a few questions: Are you interested in aging wines, or just in keeping a selection of wines on hand? If the latter, you’ll only need to consider buying a wine refrigerator if you don’t have a place in your home that is consistently lower than about 70F.

Temperatures above 55F will speed up the aging process of wines, and wines stored at this temperature will never be quite as good as those stored at 55F, but they will be close -- and ready to drink many years sooner! If you have a nice space that gets to 70F in the summer and is humid enough to keep the corks in the bottles nicely hydrated, you may not need a wine refrigerator.

Of course there are other reasons to buy a wine refrigerator. They can make your collection look great, and help you keep it more organized and easier to access. Whatever you end up deciding, put a lot of thought into this purchase, and err on the side of space. Choose one that holds two or three times as many bottles as you are planning to have (trust us, it will fill up), and make sure you like the look as you’ll probably be looking at it for a very long time.

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Wine Savers

There are two main styles of wine preservation systems on the market: one that removes the air from the headspace in a bottle, or one that introduces a layer of heavy gas that covers the wine’s surface like a blanket, preventing the oxygenation of the wine by displacing the air.

The advantages of the gas wine-preservation system are two-fold. The first is simply that it lasts longer. The gas introduced into a bottle or decanter with some wine in it has no place to go once the bottle or decanter is stoppered. It’s the heaviest gas in the bottle, so it naturally settles to the surface of the wine. The second is that it doesn’t significantly change the environment of the wine, unlike the vacuum systems.

The vacuum systems work by removing most of the air from a bottle or decanter. In the process they not only remove all the aromatics that have evaporated into the decanter, but have also created the conditions to allow more of these precious compounds to volatize in the decanter as they try and fill the vacuum.

The fact of the matter is that the vacuum created by use of these systems is far from perfect, and while there might be a satisfying sucking sound when the bottle is unstoppered after an evening, the actual vacuum is long gone.

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