With Thanksgiving squarely in the rearview mirror, it's time to turn our attention to the gifting season. There is a common perception that buying for a wine enthusiast presents a tremendous challenge. But why go through the anxiety of choosing the perfect wine for your friend or loved one?
There is a better way. Gift that person something that enhances the wine experience. Of course, I have a few ideas.
The Coravin Wine Preserver (about $300) allows you to pour a glass of wine without removing the cork.
The advantages here are obvious. Over time, air is the enemy of wine. An open bottle will oxidize within a matter of days. No biggie if the wine is a grocery store special you snagged for under $10. Expensive wines, however, are a bit more precious. If you want to pour just one or two glasses and save the rest for another special occasion, the Coravin is the ticket.
Embraced by many high-end restaurants with ambitious wine-by-the-glass programs, the Coravin wine preservation system utilizes a specially designed thin stainless-steel needle that is inserted into the cork. As the wine is poured, argon gas fills the bottle interior and protects the remaining wine from oxidation. The cork re-seals itself as the needle is removed.
For those who enjoy nursing a great bottle of wine over days or weeks, the Coravin is an ideal solution and a gift that truly keeps on giving.
Then there is the Repour Winesaver. At $9 for four stoppers, it's an economical way to preserve wine over the short term. The stopper utilizes technology that removes oxygen from an open bottle and keeps the remaining wine fresh for days or weeks.
The only downside is that the stopper's ability to remove oxygen diminishes as it is used, and it is recommended that you dispose of the stopper after just one bottle. I've had good success with the Repour over a couple of weeks, and the manufacturer touts its staying power in terms of months.
The beauty is that the Repour stoppers are quick and easy and get the job done when you just want to save what's left for another day.
But enough about the harmful effects of air. There are times when air is a wine's best friend. When opening a bottle for immediate consumption, aeration enhances the tasting experience.
This is true for both red and white wines. Contact with air gently brings out the more subtle aromas and flavors, and in young red wines, it softens the tannins. To properly aerate, it is best to use a decanter.
The decanter serves two functions. Aeration is the first. If you've ever noticed that a bottle of wine seems to taste better near the bottom, you've experienced firsthand the benefits of aeration. By using a decanter, you can produce the same result in minutes and enjoy the benefits with the first glass.
Decanters have also been traditionally used to remove sediment from older bottles of red wine. It's quite the ceremony to see a sommelier decant a wine over a lit candle, all the better to see the sediment and stop decanting before the sludge makes it into the decanter.
A decanter needn't be Baccarat or Waterford crystal, though those are certainly beautiful and pleasing to the eye. An everyday Riedel glass decanter that you can find at any department store, or even Target, will suffice. In fact, you would probably use the everyday glass decanter more often, rather than risk an accident with an expensive crystal decanter.
And, finally, there is the wine glass. Never underestimate the measure of pleasure a wine enthusiast experiences when sipping outstanding wine from an exceptional wine glass. There are a couple of features to look for.
The glass should have volume, enough that a 5-ounce pour barely reaches halfway up the bowl. This allows for the swirl. The swirl accentuates the complex aromas of the wine in the glass. (Please note, however, that even a fantastic wine glass won't make a mediocre wine great.)
The top of the glass should be narrower than the middle of the bowl, lest you slosh wine on your guests when you swirl. I have Riedel glasses, Baccarat glasses and Lenox glasses. They all work.
And any of the aforementioned gift ideas would be welcome additions to the stocks of serving utensils in your favorite wine lover's cupboard!
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com. Email Robert at [email protected]
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