What’s Necessary, What’s Nice, and What to Nix
When it comes to wine tools there are a LOT of options on the market. But what do you actually need in your arsenal? Today, in our wine basics series we’ll look at tools involved in wine and let you know what you actually need, what’s good to have, and what is just plain ridiculous. Keep in mind, though, that even ridiculous has its place.
Do you need a foil cutter? Probably not, but we’d suggest everyone get one. They are generally cheap and sometimes come with an opener. Most rabbit style openers come with small foil cutter and must waiter’s friends have a sharp blade for cutting foil. Foil cutters make it easier to neatly open a bottle of wine. Here’s a hint: if you’re still using a winged corkscrew and using the worm to either rip the foil from one of the holes on top or to try and slice around, quit dulling your worm and invest in one.
Believe it or not, you could feasibly get away with just drinking screw top wine. More and more high quality wines are coming sans cork. That said, you need an opener. The question, of course, is which one. There are several styles and even more opinions but here’s our breakdown.
1. The Winged Corkscrew
While classic, let’s face it, this thing is a nightmare. Insertion is delicate, extraction is pretty easy, but getting the cork off the worm is more work than it should be. They take up considerable room, don’t always work, and have punctured more than one finger of a hand reaching into a drawer to find any number of kitchen tools. Nix it and go with a more user-friendly wine opener.
2. The Rabbit Style
It’s big. It’s heavy. But man does it make opening a dream. Pull up the lever, place on top of a bottle, squeeze the handles, press down, pull up. Done. The worm is protected by the sleeve that fits the top of the bottle so you’re less likely to injure yourself. Also, it’s really easy to get the cork off the worm – just press the handles down, squeeze the handles, and pull the lever back up. This is our favorite style for those who enjoy wine.
3. Butler’s Thief
Also called an “Ah-so style” opener, these tong-like tools are nice to have because they are perfect for brittle corks which can happen in old bottles and also in certain climates. While some swear they are the only opener they need, we suggest keeping one of these on hand as an addition to a rabbit style opener.
4. Waiter’s Friend
These are the fancy openers that sommeliers use and once you get the hang of it, they are nice because they generally include a knife for cutting foil. But, sommeliers use them for a reason: they’re a bit fancy and take some getting used to. That said, if you make your way from wine beginner to wine expert, add one. Otherwise? Meh… they’re pretty but honestly, we never use ours!
Decanting is a step in serving wine that opens the wine up by introducing oxygen. Red wines are decanted while whites open while drinking. There are some exceptions to this rule (don’t decant a pinot noir, for example) but reds should be decanted. Decanters are large glass vessels that come in all different shapes and sizes. Another option, to get oxygen in but drink without the wait, are aerators.
Tradition is a huge part of wine, and for many people that includes a large glass decanter. And we get it. It’s a tried and true method and, face it, you know what you’re doing or at least look like you do when you pull one of these bad boys out in front of guests. A glass decanter is nice to have and if you’re going to get one, believe us when we say you want one that is easy to clean and don’t need one with fancy tubing. This wine tool is definitely a nice one to have.
Just like wine openers have gotten quicker and easier with time, there is also a way to get around waiting to decant. Decanting takes a while, at least a half hour and sometimes much longer. Much longer. And unless you remember to take it out early and decant it right away you might not be able to serve it until much later into your evening. There are now wine aerators that easily attach to the bottle and aerate the wine as it is poured into each glass, opening the wine up as it’s poured. This is our go to way to open rather than a traditional glass decanter.
Having wine in the house means having a good way to store it. There are multiple options and, believe it or not, we’re not just talking about wine racks. There are economical wine fridge options out there to. Are these a must have in your collection? Read on and find out.
Wooden Accordian Style Wine Racks
A staple for many college students, these racks pull to open up diamond shaped openings that hold wine bottles lying horizontally. Many new wine drinkers think reds have to be stored and drunk at room temperature, making these incredibly popular. The truth, though, is that reds also need to be chilled, so these racks don’t serve much of a purpose. Except maybe one. If you have a wine fridge or use your refrigerator to store your wine and keep extras in a pantry, this is a great way to keep the wine before putting it in the fridge.
Large Metal Wine Racks
While some are under a bar, which makes a great conversation piece, other than for storing extra bottles decoratively, a large metal wine rack doesn’t serve any purpose when it comes to serving wine. It may look good or fill an empty space, but does not keep the wine at an appropriate serving temperature.
All wine should be served chilled, with different colors being chilled to different temperatures. Therefore, a wine chiller, or fridge, is really a must have for anyone who wants to enjoy wine at home. White and sparkling are served cold while rosé is a little warmer. Red wines are served cool, from the very high fifties to the low sixties. While you can use your regular fridge for keeping your wine cool, they are set far lower than the red wine temperature, requiring them to heat up over time. Wine bottles also take up a lot of space. Wine fridges come in dual-zone models to keep reds and whites, or you can store both in one chiller set for the white wines (the reds only need to warm up less than if they were in your fridge).
Ready to build your collection of wine tools? The way to start is with a good opener – consider a rabbit style one. You’ll want a foil cutter (many rabbit style openers come with one!), aerator, and a small wine chiller.