Frequently Ask Questions & Knowledge
Essential Wine Accessories
You have decided to join the ranks of millions and become a wine enthusiast. You might be wondering to yourself what this entails exactly, and what sorts of gadgets and gizmos are you going to need to properly enjoy your wine. To be honest, there are few accessories that a person absolutely needs to enjoy their wine.
The first of the more important wine accessories is a bottle opener or corkscrew. There are many kinds of wine bottle openers on the market today. The most common corkscrews that people know about are either the winged style or waiter's friends (sometimes called a wine key). A winged style looks exactly like the name states; it has a lever on each side that will rise when the center screw is inserted into the cork of a bottle. To remove the cork, the wings are lowered causing the screw and attached cork to rise with it and be removed from the bottle. A wine key is smaller and uses a single lever positioned onto the side of the bottle to provide leverage to remove the cork from the bottle. Both types of corkscrews are rather easy to find and usually start out selling for around $5.00. These openers in most cases can cause a cork to break in half if not pulled out correctly, or if the screw is not centered though the cork.
Lever pull corkscrews tend to be more expensive than winged or waiter's friends, however, they are usually more user friendly. Ranging from $20.00 to $80.00, most lever models are designed with a clamp to hold the neck of the bottle in the corkscrew for ease of handling. Typically, the lever arm swings over the top and extracts the cork in a few very easy movements; ensuring removal is quick and effortless.
There is, however, another type of corkscrew that appeals to those looking for an effective and easy to use corkscrew but also one that is not overly expensive. Selling for roughly $15.00, the Vacuvin style corkscrew is my pick. Made from a heavy grade plastic, the Vacuvin opener is easy to use and only involves two steps: placing the opener on the bottle of wine and twisting the handle until the cork is released. This opener does not require a user to have super human strength, and I have yet to have a cork break during opening. The main reason the cork does not break is because the screw completely removes the cork from the bottle for you, there is no need to pull on the opener to remove the cork like some corkscrews require.
Once you have your bottle of wine open, the second must have accessory are wine glasses. Most people believe that there are certain glasses for certain wines; this is not necessarily the case. Usually a larger, broader bowl style wine glass is used for red wines with bigger bouquets, and smaller glasses for white wines to help concentrate the more subtle aromas. However, if space or budget are limiting you to one type of glass, many companies nowadays manufacture universal style glasses which are suitable to both red and white wine, and are inexpensive and attractively designed.
Another must have accessory for your collection is a wine stopper. Bottle stoppers come in a variety of colors, styles, and finishes to fit every taste and personality. Usually solid metal, metal and plastic, or metal and cork, wine stoppers are an excellent way to close an open bottle of wine to preserve it and protect it from air contamination for short periods of time.
A simple bottle stopper however, is not going to protect an open bottle of wine from the air that has already entered the bottle. Air trapped inside the bottle will cause a bottle of wine to expire much quicker than an unopened bottle, which is why I suggest using a vacuum bottle stopper system. A product such as the Vacuvin Concerto Wine Saver can greatly extend the life of an opened bottle of wine compared to a simple bottle stopper. Easy to use and inexpensive, all that a person does is place one of the specially designed bottle stoppers in the open bottle of wine and use the pump to draw the air out of the bottle. When the air is drawn out, the seal of the stopper is so strong the bottle can be held upside down or stored on its side without spilling. Starting at roughly $20.00, this type of bottle stopper is most effective for those looking to store open wine for longer periods of time.
Now you have your opener, glasses and bottle stoppers, what else do you need? A wine rack of course! Wine racks are available in a variety of styles and finishes to compliment any décor. Styles include wall mounted, counter top, hanging and free standing wine racks. Finishes are varied as well and include wood and wrought iron. If interested in learning more about wine racks and what to look for in picking out the perfect rack, my article, “How To Select The Finest Wine Rack For You Home” is quite informative.
The list of wine accessories that are available on the market today can be quite exhausting, however it is important to keep in mind that not all accessories are essential to becoming a wine enthusiast, or simply to enjoy the pleasure of your wine. The most important to remember are the ones essential to drinking and storing a bottle of wine: a bottle opener, glasses, a bottle stopper and a wine rack. Once you have these, the other accessories become fun extras to collect to make your wine experience all the more enjoyable.
How do I know what wine to cellar?
All wines should be cellared; some for a week, others for many years. Your cellar becomes a store from which you can draw a wine to suit most occasions. Start by cellaring the wines you are currently enjoying and extend to wines that will expand your range of vintages and varieties; you should avoid carrying too many of one variety or vintage. Be guided by your preferred wine writers and choose to cellar wines you are confident you will enjoy in the future. Use the Vinot?System to record your tasting notes and reorder your favourites.
How long do I keep wines for?
Ask the sales person when you buy the wine or contact the winery for good advice; many wineries now publish cellaring information on their websites. Any information will assume that your cellar maintains optimum conditions. If this is not the case, you will need to adjust the storage time - remember that it is always better to open a bottle too soon than too late. By using the Vinot?System you will ensure your wines are opened at their optimum.
What are the optimum storage conditions for wine?
Wine should lie undisturbed in a quiet, dark and slightly humid place, within a temperature range of 10 to 15 C. Wine stored in temperatures above the optimum will age faster. A light and dry atmosphere does not suit good wine storage. Choose a space that will remain constantly cool and dark. Use your Vinot?cellar records to show off your wines, leaving your bottles resting quietly. Contact Vinot?for other good ideas for keeping your cellar cool.
What do I put my bottles in?
There are many alternatives on the market, or you can create your own racks or bins. Bins can be created from wooden boxes set in a diamond profile and racks can be built up using timber planks resting on bricks. Using the Vinot?system means bottles do not need to be held in individual cells. Each bottle has a numbered neck tag placed on it and your choice, selected from a cellar list, is located by finding the number. Contact Vinot?for further storage ideas.
How many bottles should I store?
Store as many bottles as space and funds will allow, but be aware of the drink-by dates. If you find yourself holding wines for too long, it may be that you are cellaring too many bottles, or not sharing enough with your friends! On the other hand, you should store at least enough bottles to allow the selection of a wine to suit most occasions. Your wine appreciation will grow with cellaring, so your original goal may change with your growing enthusiasm. The Vinot?System helps you manage your cellar and share your wine list.
What is the cost of cellaring wine?
Cellaring wine will lead to greater wine appreciation and this can lead to more expensive wines being purchased however, many people find that the satisfaction gained from drinking higher quality wines actually reduces the quantity consumed. In addition the ability to buy wine when a good deal is found can result in major savings, while having the correct wine on hand for any occasion will give you greater value for money. Cellaring with Vinot?can save you money.
How do I manage my cellar?
You use a Vinot?System, consisting of Vinot?numbered tags and Vinot?compatible cellar software. Each bottle has a numbered neck tag placed on it, before being put to rest in the cellar. Data on that wine, including any tasting notes of yours or others, is recorded in your Vinot?Catalogue or in your Vinot?Plus computer program. Your selection is made from the cellar list, and you locate your choice by finding the numbered neck tag. Updated tasting notes and whom you enjoyed the wine with, are recorded after the event.
How do I get the most from my cellared wines?
Store them correctly.
Know when to open them - use quality cellar software.
Know which have been opened - un-tag your wine.
How do I get the most from my Vinot?Tags
Every bottle is allocated a Vinot?tag displaying a pre-printed unique number and barcode.
The tag makes it easy to find a wine and then is held as evidence of opening. This allows you to soberly and accurately maintain your cellar list.
- Identify your wine locations
Name your columns of racking or bins as 'locations', with each location holding no more than 100 bottles.
Cellar racking is often made up in columnar units of 8 or 10 bottles wide. Each of these columns may be identified as a single location. In wine cabinets each rack level may be identified as a location.
Providing an exact location for every bottle can cause chaos; when a wine is moved from one cell to another inadvertently, your computer will loose it for ever.
- Place your wines randomly
Let the software collate your wines. Trying to store your wines in tag numeric order, will waste storage space.
- Reduce the search area
You can halve the search area within a column location by placing whites at the bottom (cooler part) and reds at the top.
Finding your selected wine
A. Let your software help you choose the wines to open.
B. Note the tag numbers of the wines which have been selected.
C. Go to the location, look in the appropriate area (red or white) and find each matching 3 digit number.
Maintaining an accurate inventory
- Ensure that every wine placed in your cellar is tagged and catalogued. Even casual drinking wines will be treated better, if they are tagged and properly selected for each occasion.
- Avoid removing the tag from any bottle until you open it, allowing identified wines to be returned to the cellar.
- Accumulate your used tags. Later - enter the tag number or scan the barcode to remove the wine from your cellar list.
- Abide by these three rules and your cellar inventory will remain accurate for ever. - You will trust your cellar list, derive more pleasure from your wine selection and make every good wine taste great.
While it may seem a trivial thing, serving wine correctly can add class to any occasion from a casual get-together with friends to a more formal wine and dinner party. Here are some things you should know about preparing, serving and pouring wine, and types of wine glasses suitable for the wines served.
Wine Serving Temperatures
The temperature at which a wine is served has an immense impact on its taste. Serving wine cool will mask some imperfections-good for young or cheap wine-while a warmer wine temperature allows expression of the wine's characteristics-best with an older or more expensive wine.
A bottle of wine will cool 2 °C (4 °F) for every ten minutes in the refrigerator, and will warm at about this same rate when removed from the refrigerator and left at room temperature-the temperature of the room will affect the speed with which the wine warms up. If you need to chill a bottle of wine in a hurry, 35 minutes in the freezer will do the trick.
Decanting is pouring wine into a decorative container before serving. Decanting is typically only necessary for older wines or Ports, which contain sediment that can add bitterness to the wine. Wine decanters allow the wine to breathe and may improve the flavour of older red wines. Younger wines also benefit from the aeration and rest that decanting provides. But a wine decanter can also be used simply for aesthetic reasons.
Before decanting a wine that contains sediment let the bottle rest upright allowing any sediment to sink to the bottom. Then slowing pour the wine into the decanter keeping the bottle angled to prevent any sediment from making its way into the wine decanter. The wine can be poured through cheesecloth to help filter out any wayward particles. Decanting wine should be done out of the guests' sight.
Still wines should be poured towards the centre of the glass, while sparkling wines should be poured against the side to preserve bubbles. To control drips, twist the bottle slightly as you tilt it upright.
When pouring wine, fill the glass no more than two-thirds (about 5-6 oz). This will allow your guests to swirl the wine, smell the bouquet and check out the wine's "legs." A glass can always be refilled if desired. At a dinner party, serve wine to the women and older guests first, then the men and end with your own glass.
As important as wine serving temperatures is the type of wine glasses in which wines are served. The shape of a wine glass can impact the taste of the wine, and for this reason different types of wine are served in different glasses.
The three main types of wine glasses are:
- White wine glasses: tulip shaped
- Red wine glasses: more rounded and have a larger bowl
- Sparkling wine flutes: tall and thin
A suitable all-purpose wine glass should hold 10 oz, be transparent to allow the taster to examine the colour of the wine and its body, and have a slight curve in at the top to hold in the bouquet. While an all-purpose wine glass is fine for serving a red wine, do not serve a white wine in a red wine glass.
Opening a Bottle of Wine
To open a bottle of wine is to indulge in a sensory experience that carries with it thousands of years of history. For nearly 200 years, the act of releasing wine from the bottle has involved removing a cork-and removing a cork can range from the most simple of acts to a real challenge. We've been opening wine now for more than a few years, and we'd like to share a few of the tips we've learned.
Using the right tools
Since the 1800's, corkscrews have become increasingly sophisticated in terms of style, diversity, and user-friendliness. There are primarily two types. The more traditional type, which includes the waiter's corkscres, winged corkscrew and Screwpull, has a twisted prong to screw into the cork and then pull out. The other type is technically not a corkscrew but more of a puller. The two-pronged Ah-So squeezes the cork around its sides for removal. The waiter's corkscrew, with its small size and simplicity, is the one most commonly used by wine professionals. Winged corkscrews require less leverage, as the cork comes out when the handles are pushed down. Easiest of all is the Screwpull, which extracts the cork simply with continuous turning of the handle until the cork inches up the screw and out of the bottle. Test as many different corkscrews as you can to find the type you're most comfortable with.
Fixing a problem cork
Because corks come in all grades and types, there varying degrees of density make them easier or more difficult to remove. A good cork should release with little effort. It should be damp on the bottom where it has been in contact with the wine but dry elsewhere. Occasionally, a cork may break, in which case you should remove the broken part and then gingerly reinsert a corkscrew into the remaining piece. If this proves too difficult, or if the cork falls further down the neck of the bottle, you may want to go ahead and push the cork all the way into the wine. Although tools do exist for extracting a cork that has fallen into a bottle, a floating cork poses no detriment to the wine.
Left over cork?
Despite the many rumors around the act of smelling or feeling a cork, the only thing you really need to keep a cork around for is to remind guests what they're drinking if the wine has been decanted. Otherwise, corks may be discarded or put to practical use around the house protecting the sharp end of tools and knives.
Reinserting the cork
The best way to store wine is to replace the cork in the bottle. Typically, the cork may be replaced into the top and pushed in until it fits tightly. To prevent wine from changing drastically overnight, a small amount of nitrogen may be inserted into the bottle before replacing the cork. Sold in canisters at most wine shops, the nitrogen acts as a blanket over the wine to protect it from the oxygen and helps retain its taste. Refrigerate leftover wine for up to a week.