Are you looking for a clever hostess gift? Have you found a present yet for that hard-to-buy-for wine lover? Hark! Now is a perfect time to find wine-related accessories as the holiday entertaining season gets underway.
story: Mary Ann DeSantis
Stores are stocked with items that wine geeks everywhere will love — at least for the first few bottles. Many of those what-you-thought-were-clever wine tchotchkes often wind up in the spring garage sales. Some wine accessories, however, are quite useful. Here are a few of my personal favorites, as well as some new items that are on my list to Santa.
CHILL OUT: THE CORKCICLE
If you love stories about old-fashioned American ingenuity and kids inventing things in their garages, then the Corkcicle story is for you. Ben Hewitt, a young Orlando entrepreneur, hated dealing with ice buckets to keep wine chilled. In November 2011, he began tinkering with prototypes of the Corkcicle, a BPA-free plastic rod containing a non-toxic thermal gel that maintains the proper temperature for opened bottles of wine. He asked two friends to join him: Stephen Bruner, who came up with the name, and Eric Miller, who took the company international within three months. Less than a year after the product was launched, Corkcicle was named “Best New Company” at the 2012 American Business Awards in New York.
Does it work? You bet. I was an early believer in the stick that resembles an icicle with a cork on top. It maintains the proper temperature for already chilled whites and cools down reds that are usually a little too warm if they’ve been sitting on the counter. Corkcicles retail for about $24.95.
ALL-TIME FAVORITE GIFT IDEA: THE CORKER
Several years ago, I bought my first Corker at the annual Mount Dora Craft Fair. The attractive handmade corks caught my eye, but I hardly believed owner Fred Albrecht’s claims that liquids would not leak, especially from bottles laid on their sides. The artwork is stunning with inset medallions crafted in various art media on the handles. And the best part: Albrecht’s claims were true. The Corker worked beautifully with not only wine but also vinegars and oils. The nonporous Portuguese corks are tapered to create a leak-proof seal. The second time I found Corkers at an art festival, I bought several to give at Christmas. I believe the Corkers were more popular than the bottles of wine I gave with them. Orders can be placed online at thecorker.com, but a few specialty shops also stock them. Prices range from $10 to $20, depending on styles.
CRADLE IT GENTLY: THE WINEDIAPER™
When someone gave me a WineDiaper™, I truly thought it was a joke. I even laughed nervously when I packed a 12-year-old bottle of Bordeaux to bring home from France. All I had to lose was a suitcase full of dirty laundry, so I placed the bottle inside the well-padded bag and hoped the wine would survive the luggage-tossing escapades of Air France baggage handlers. My Bordeaux arrived safely and my WineDiaper™ has been reused several times since. The WineDiaper™ not only protects a bottle from breakage, but it also contains an absorbent material to soak up any spills if the bottle does break. Many wine merchants, Amazon.com, and even airport shops sell the WineDiaper™ and other similar products. Prices begin at $15 for a set of three.
CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT IT: VACUVIN® WINE SAVER
More often than not, my husband and I will have only one glass of wine with dinner. I always had a tinge of anxiety about leaving a half bottle of good wine for a day or two later. Rarely did the wine taste the same. My VacuVin® Wine Saver has prevented more bottles of wine from going down the drain than I can count. My first wine pump was a plastic gadget that didn’t work, so I was skeptical about buying another one. A friend recommended the VacuVin® so we bought the lower price model for $10.95. The pump extracts air from an opened bottle and reseals it with a reusable rubber stopper. The VacuVin® Wine Saver’s newer models feature a “click” sound to let you know when to stop pumping. Stainless steel models are also available for about $30. Although the manufacturer says it keeps wine fresh for 14 days, many wine reviewers disagree. I have kept my own pumped wine only two or three days without a loss of flavor; after that, it’s time to open a new bottle.
BEST SELLING WINE ACCESSORIES LOCALLY
Kelly Davant, one-third of the mother-and-daughters team for Kaydee Kay Gourmet Kitchen Products in Mount Dora, says the Govino® polymer cups continue to be the store’s hottest selling wine-related accessory. “They look like elegant glassware but are shatterproof and very affordable,” says Kelly. “They are perfect for tailgating, picnics, and poolside.”
She expects the new stainless steel Corkcicle.ONE will be popular this holiday season, especially since it now has a pour-through feature and aerator attached. In addition, she recommends new silicon bottle stoppers by French design company Charles Viancin as great stocking stuffers at only $2 each. “We can’t keep those in stock,” says Kelly. “We hope to have the new snowflake design available for the holidays.”