This time of year, it seems everyone is on the hunt for the perfect wine to serve at holiday events or to gift friends and family. While there are an infinite number of wines to suggest, narrowing down exactly the right ones for each occasion or gift can be a bit daunting--although you really can’t go wrong with good Champagne. But when it comes to gifting wine accessories, there are a few that really stick out in terms of practicality, usefulness, and scoring high on the overall cool factor. Sure, a couple of them come at a hefty price, but considering the great expense wine enthusiasts go to secure delicious wines at times, it doesn’t hurt to have a collection of handy wine-related accessories at the ready. Below are my top five picks for wine accessories that are perfect for this holiday season. Some may be better for giving, while others may be better to add to your own wish list:
Coravin Ultimate Wine Lover’s Gift Bundle, $500, https://www.coravin.com/the-ultimate-wine-lover-s-gift.html
While the Coravin is not a new device, it has become more and more ubiquitous among wine enthusiasts and professionals alike. This slick device allows you to access wine from a bottle without pulling the cork by using a small, hollow needle. When used correctly, the technology eliminates the chance of oxidation, which allows you to enjoy a bottle of wine one pour at a time over the course of several months. The biggest caveat among restaurant professionals who have seen failures in the device is making sure you use it correctly, or you risk ruining an entire bottle of wine. While it has transformed the way restaurants manage their wine by the glass programs by enabling them to offer a more diverse selection of wines, including rare wines, it also allows people at home to do the same.
Granted, the price can seem a little steep, but if you’re a person who spends a decent amount on wine, particularly older wine, you owe it to yourself to allow this little device to quite literally change how you approach your own private collection. And there are a few different versions to choose from including the Model One, Model Two, Model Two Elite Pro, and Model Eleven. At a baseline you really only need the Model One or Two, but if you’re in the market for one, be sure check out the website for the packages you can buy.
I recently had the chance to sample the Ultimate Wine Lover’s Gift Bundle, which comes with a Model Two Elite, six additional capsules, a display pedestal, a carrying case, and four different needles. The real steal in this bundle is the inclusion of the different needles. The standard needle can be a little slow, but manages access wine just fine. The Vintage Needle is designed with a thinner gauge to access the older bottles in your collection that may have a fragile or delicate cork. And the Fast Pour needle has a slightly wider gauge that allows for a faster pour, a perfect option for restaurants wanting to pour every day wines by the glass without waste. Finally, the Premium Needle was designed to marry the speed of the Fast Pour needle with the gentleness of the Vintage needle using a a many-hole patter that reduces the amount of amount of natural cork fragments in a glass or bottle of wine. Altogether, the needles are $140 on their own, while the Model Two Elite is about $350, making for a combined price of $490. Considering the fact that this particular bundle offers you the extra capsules, a pedestal and a case for $500 total, you’re well advised to take advantage of this option.
The Durand, $125, https://thedurand.com/product/the-durand/
If you’re feeling spendy--or if you’re hoping someone else is feeling spendy regarding a gift for you--the Durand is a special item to have. It’s particularly useful if you’re a collector of older vintage wines as it makes it virtually impossible to mess up an older cork. Combining the practicality of both the corkscrew and the “ah so” cork remover, the Durand creates stability at many points of the cork. Provided you work slowly and deliberately, it’s the best way to ensure a clean opening. Do be sure to read the instructions before opening.
Fante’s Aunt Vittorina’s Champagne Stopper, $8, https://www.fantes.com/fantes-aunt-vittorinas-champagne-stopper
When it comes to preserving a bottle of Champagne for a day or two, not all stoppers are created equal. But I’ve found a favorite in the Fante’s Aunt Vittorina’s Champagne Stopper. It has a single side-hinge clasp with a rubber stopper for the spout of the bottle. I’ve found that on the rare occasion when I take more than a couple of days to finish a sparkling wine, this stopper does an excellent job of holding the carbonation. It manages to maintain a similar pressure to the original cork and the clasp holds very well, making it very hard to lose its grip. For eight bucks, a couple of these make the perfect stocking stuffer.
Pulltaps Double-Hinged Waiter’s Best Friend, $11, https://www.amazon.com/Pulltaps-Double-Hinged-Waiters-Corkscrew-Stainless/dp/B0055OGPWS
If you’re anything like me, you bring your own wine opener with you when attending a friend’s home for dinner. Too many times have I arrived to someone’s home to discover that they have some elaborate winged or levered contraption to open wines that leaves me perplexed and awkwardly inept. Plus, half the time they don’t even work, or work well. I avoid that situation completely, reaching for my own waiter’s friend to quickly and easily open bottles of wine without having to await instruction on how to use other devices. (I’ve also been known to leave one behind if a friend seems to be in particular need of an upgrade.)
Sometimes simple is just plain better. And in the case of the Spanish-made Pulltaps Double-hinged Waiter’s Corkscrew, you couldn’t get a better wine opener for the price. The serrated knife flawlessly handles wine bottle foil. The Teflon-coated worm quietly twists into both authentic and artificial corks. And its double-hinged fulcrum offers the best leverage for opening a bottle of wine without extra fidgeting. While it’s definitely at the other end of the affordability spectrum from the Durand, the Pulltap is a must-have. (In fact, go ahead and buy the two- or four-pack and save yourself the problem accidentally misplacing one somewhere, you’ll simply have a backup or two waiting for you.)
Shift Drinks Wine Cork Presenters, $20, http://shiftdrinkspdx.com/wine-cork-presenters-for-sale
So, this may not be a fit for the average wine enthusiast. But for anyone working towards certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers, or who just likes a little extra formality at home, this little accessory is a nice find. As those prepping for the service portion of the CMS certifications know, you are required to know proper service acumen in any restaurant setting. One of the standards for proper service is keeping the tradition that only the stemware should touch the table. The wine bottle should never be set on the table, but rather in a coaster or “under liner,” or in a nearby ice bucket depending on the wine. By extension, the cork must never be set directly on the table either. Instead, it is often set on a small plate. This particular cork presenter adds a little more panache with its sleek, modern stainless steel design. It’s fashioned with a modular c-shape with its solid foot resting on the table, while its overhang is fashioned with a hole wide enough to insert a regular wine cork as well as a champagne cork. This little accessory allows the cork to be displayed elegantly, while never actually touching the table itself. Pretty spiffy if you ask me. For $20, it may not be a necessity, but it would likely go a long way to impress those who find above-and-beyond service a valuable trait.