Whether you drink once a year or once a day, no wine aficionado can survive without these basic tools in their cellar. While you can take a rain check on the fancy glasses (despite what wine snobs may think, you really can appreciate wine out of a Wal Mart glass) there are a few gadgets out there that make your wine experience so much easier and more enjoyable without breaking the bank. Here are my Top 5 budget-friendly wine toolbox must-haves.
5. A Foil Cutter
Ever try slicing at that wine wrapper with a steak knife? Yeah, not so good. Spend a few bucks on this little tool that will get you into the bottle that much quicker. This one from Le Creuset verges on high end (if there is such a thing in foil cutters, which there most assuredly is) in price, but the four-wheel system will spare you the wrist-cramps and keep going long after those cheaper models have jammed up and bit the dust.
4. A Good Corkscrew
The Butterfly Corkscrew is my personal favorite. I happen to own one that graced my grandfather’s bar since the mid-1960s. If you don’t shop flea markets or have access to that kind of nostalgia, be sure to shop for a heavier gauge model. Don’t waste your money on a cheaper model made of lightweight metal. If you do, you’ll bend the arms of the opener long before you pry the cork from your bottle.
Many friends favor the electric bottle openers, but don’t be fooled. Unless you’re willing to invest in a truly high-end model, these openers are all talk and no action, and nothing is worse than losing charge in the middle of opening a bottle.
The Rabbit Corkscrew, the favored opener among middle aged women everywhere, is an easy alternative. With a no-slip grip and lever screw, the Rabbit opens a bottle in 3 seconds making it the ultimate tool for Girls’ Night Out.
3. A Spout Pourer/Aerator
Aerate your red wine. Your tongue will thank you. Red wine drinkers throughout history have decanted their wines hours before drinking so that they may “breathe”. Tasters anxiously swirl their glasses to oxygenate before taking a sip. Hosts throwing parties sans fancy glassware buy aerator/pourers to attach to their bottles, allowing them to aerate as they serve. Want to accurately reflect the taste of that awesome dry red? Yeah, I thought so. Spend a few bucks so your friends can get as excited as you.
2. A Wine Rack (or two, or three…)
Okay, it’s not a “gadget” per se, but without it you’re risking the ruination of your stash. The key to storing wine: Cool (55-60 degrees), dark, dry spaces. If it’s corked, store on it’s side to keep the cork moist. We started out with the basic Butterfly Rack that holds 8 bottles. Eventually, our collection grew into about 5 Storvinos stacked behind our bar. Their milk-crate design made for easy storage with a retro vibe. Then we visited the Finger Lakes and, upon our return, invested in the pine rack that holds 44 – well, 3 of them to be precise. It’s a DIY kit my husband picked after some careful Amazon research.
Leave it raw or stain it any color you like before assembly. Note: It’s made for standard sized bottles (put your oversized ones in the Storvino that has clearly separated compartments) and assembles better if you countersink the screw holes with a drill bit before putting it together. Tall and thin, the rack stores well under stairwells, in closets or other dark spaces where wine likes it best.
1. The Vacu Vin with Extra Stoppers
While red wine requires aeration no wine likes to breathe too long. Nothing is worse than cracking open a bottle for one glass after work, only to return to it that weekend to find it soured. The key is to get oxygen away from the wine as quickly and cleanly as possible. Enter: The Vacu Vin. Pop the stopper in the top, suction out the air with the pump and voila! You’re promised an extra 7 to 10 days with the Vacu Vin, but I’ve had wine last up to a month thanks to this handy little tool. Warning: It only comes with two stoppers, so buying an extra set is a requirement, especially if your friends, like ours, have a penchant for leaving one glass worth left in the bottle at the end of the night.
Do you have a favorite wine gadget that I need to know about? Leave a link in the comments section!