Ask any wine lover to show you their “wine stuff” and you’re going to witness a grown adult turn back into a 5 year old pulling out their toy box for show-n-tell.
While my arsenal is small, I wanted to show you some of things I’ve picked up along the way in my wine adventures. So this post is dedicated to the apps, trinkets and gadgets that make my wine life more fun!
1) The Wine Aroma Wheel:
This is a “wine aroma wheel” which looks similar to a color wheel. Most of us think we make poor wine tasters because we don’t believe we understand what we’re smelling or tasting for. I would argue the contrary. You usually know what you’re smelling/tasting, you just might not be able to verbalize it. Learning to identify the flavors you’re experiencing is part of “training the palate” and this is just the tool to help you.
While there are hundreds of aromas and flavors in wine and dozens can be present in one bottle, this will teach you the basics on how to identify what you’re experiencing. The aromas and flavors in this wheel represent the most common items tasters usually identify when tasting.
You’ll notice the inside of the wheel starts with the most basic aromas while the outside is the most specific. When smelling/tasting a wine and using this wheel, work your way from the inside edges outward. So if you have a glass of white wine that seems fruity to you, start with “Fruits/White Wine”. After that, narrow it down from there whether you think it’s “tropical, tree or citrusy”. If you think it’s “Citrus” then try to decide if you’re smelling or tasting lemon, grapefruit and so on.
What can even be more fun is making an effort to notice these smells when out and about in the world. After all, how can anyone possibly know what sandalwood smells like in wine if they’ve never actually smelled it in their daily life? This tool can help anyone branch out in a number of ways.
There are two great ones available:
• The one above is free and you can download here.
• Another one – which I think is easier to use and much better is available here for $6. This one was developed by an enologist at the University of California, and it’s the one I use.
2) Vinturi Wine Aerator
I don’t know if you’ve seen this thing at Bed, Bath and Beyond (or wherever) and wondered what it is. Well, I’m about to tell ya!
These little guys are wine aerators. While some people snub their nose at them and say they’re a gimmick, I actually know they work and expert wine reviewers agree including Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
While they do not equate to the proper aeration that occurs naturally when placing your wine in a wide bodied decanter (shown below in #5), they absolutely add a little extra punch of air to your wine if you’re in a mad rush (such as pouring drinks for impatient house guests shoving their empty glasses in your face.)
It works by holding the Vinturi over your wine glass and pouring your wine through it. It has a mesh filter that separates the wine in addition to two holes on the side that pushes air into the vino before it hits the glass. BHAM! Instant aeration. Depending on your decanter, you can sometimes place this in the neck of the decanter and aerate the entire bottle while you transfer from bottle to decanter.
Terri and I have tested ourselves by doing blind tastings with and without it. I can attest that we always picked the glasses that were aerated with this. I’ve even met a few wine connoisseurs that pour their wine through it twice. They’re hard core and swear by it.
While we made the big mistake of purchasing it at a vineyard for $59.95 (drinking and shopping do NOT mix well), you can grab one from amazon.com for as little as $30. They sell a few different “models” such as red vs. white. I use my red wine version for both. Don’t waste the money on multiples. One is sufficient. 😉 This is also makes a great gift!
3) A Quality Corkscrew
I know some of you are saying “DUH”. But seriously though, I cringe when I go somewhere and somebody has an old corkscrew that ends up leaving chunks of cork in the bottle. Trust what I’m saying. I’ve tried them all. This is coming from a woman that once opened a bottle of wine with a pair of scissors in a hotel room (I had just been around my family. I REALLY needed a drink and had no corkscrew.)
I have a few friends that LOVE their electric wine openers. But me – I stick with the manual lever style like the one shown in my photo. There’s something romantic to me about uncorking a bottle, and the electric ones sort of ruin it for me. Maybe it’s the sound? Either way, if you want to try the electric ones, I would encourage you to get one. I’ve heard they’re fun and work extremely well!
Popular brands of manual lever styles like the one shown below include Le Crueset® and Rabbit®. It’s even better if you purchase a set that includes a foil cutter.
4) Wine Glass Markers
While these can seem cheesy and I’m sure some men would rather go make-up shopping with their girls before before they walk around with these dainty little things on their wine glasses, these can be a life saver at a party. So ladies, either find some macho ones or override the men. I’m telling you, if you don’t have some of these, get them pronto.
Markers/Charms come in all shapes and sizes, and they usually come in packs of different variations. You place them on the stem of your glasses. This way if you ever get separated from your glass at a party, you can easily identify it by the marker. Simple brilliance.
Etsy is usually a great place to find them.
There’s nothing better than enjoying a bottle of wine. But what if you could make your wine taste better by simply allowing it to breathe while you drink it? That way the flavor has a chance to settle in after being corked up for a few years.
I know that many of us (I’m totally referring to myself here) don’t have the patience to wait 20-30 minutes for wine to aerate before we drink it hence the Venturi. However, doing something as basic as pouring the content of the bottle into a wide bodied decanter while you sip your first glass will let the remaining wine breathe while you drink. Ah yesssssss. That way it’s ready to go for your second glass.
You can get these from any homewares store or online. They’re usually around $20. The wider the base, the better. That way more wine is exposed to the surface.
6) Vacuum Pump and Stopper
While left over wine in our house happens as frequently as leap year, it does occasionally happen. I know a common practice is to simply place the cork back in the bottle and put it back in the refrigerator, but that is not nearly enough. Wine starts to oxidize from the moment you open it. Although placing it somewhere cold such as your fridge can slowdown the process, sucking the air back out of the bottle to create a vacuum seal will help preserve your wine longer and more efficiently.
You can pretty much get these anywhere that you can purchase kitchen wares. It’s definitely worth the $15 investment if you want to stretch a bottle of wine an extra 24-48 hours after you’ve opened it.
And PS: You can refrigerate your left over red wine no differently than you would your white. You just have to let it sit out and warm up to 65 degrees or so before you drink it. Extra cold red wine is NASTY. LOL
6) LocalWineEvents.com – The APP and Website
I would have to say that 75% of the wine events I’ve been to over the past year have been because of this app. You can also go to the website, but I usually use the app when I’m bored and playing on my phone. All you have to do is punch in your zip code and it will give you a list of wine events in your area; everything from restaurant events to festivals. Check it out if you’re looking to network with local wine people, taste some vino or take some classes.
7) Something to display your corks
I left this one for last because it’s not a gadget, tool or anything that enhances your wine experience. I know that most of you probably chunk your corks in the trash. I mean, they really serve no purpose unless you plan on refurbishing them for some art work or something functional. But I love them.
I have a personal love of corks because I am a lover of history and wine corks do that for me. Here’s why:
During the World Wars, thieves use to steal empty bottles from well known vineyards and refill their wine bottles with cheap wine, re-cork them and resell them under the guise that they came from the original vineyard.
It was then that wineries started stamping the corks with their logos so customers could match the logo on the cork to the logo on the bottle once they were opened. This is how wine drinkers could verify they were not scammed or robbed. This is also why still today, certain restaurants will formally present the cork to you when you order a bottle of wine. It’s a historical tradition in the world of wine. It’s not because you’re supposed to do anything with it. 😉
So every time I look at my corks and all the stamps on the side, I am reminded of a little piece of wine history.