It is easy to spend a fortune on wine items so what items do you really need and what are just a waste of money? Our view is that affordable and simple is the best way and that you rather should spend the money on the wine rather than expensive equipment for the most part. However, it is still good to get the basics right. Below you will find a few recommendations of wine equipment depending on what kind of wine drinker you are and at the bottom you will find some warnings of items to avoid. This post will hopefully answer questions such as “Is Coravin a good buy?”, “What wine opener should I get?” and “Is a wine aroma kit a good purchase?”.
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Wine Conservation – How to make the wine last longer
You are probably aware that opened wine loses its flavour and that there are 1000 methods to reduce this from simple to expensive. In our opinion then it would depend on how fast you drink the wines and how expensive the wines you drink are. Below are some different ways to make the wine last longer, all with different price points.
Vacuwine (recommended for all – 10£)
EVERYONE should purchase this as it is so affordable and yet effective. What it does is that it sucks out the air of the wine increasing the shelf life for a few days which often is enough for most situations. It comes with a pump to get the air out and you notice when you have pumped it out when there is a small click. It is currently for 9.99£ via this vender and should be around 9-12£ and it should last for a very long time (years).
Champagne Stoppers (good for sparkling lovers)
Vacuwine are great but is not recommended for sparkling as it does not keep the fizz. These champagne stoppers are exclusively for sparkling wine and are often used in wine bars, they do extend the life of sparkling. As you see they are quite affordable. However, it is easy to argue that sparkling is so easy to drink and finish and best had all in one go to preserve the bubbles but as this also is an affordable item, it is still a good buy to have the option to save it as it is not pricey at all.
Coravin – 175-300£ – For Expensive Wine Drinkers
This tool was created by a guy that developed needles for penetrating bones (yes!) to make that as painless as possible and then got an interest with wine. What it does is that it penetrates the cork, sucking out wine and replacing it with neutral argon gas adding no oxygen inside the bottle. This one is frequently used in wine bars for more rare and expensive wines but keep in mind that the capsules cost money to replace as well.
How much does it cost per glass?
There are so many different models of Coravin and various factors but if we make a rough calculation with current prices it states that 1 capsule could go 15 glasses of 5 ounces. Putting that into the (more intelligent) metric system you have about 150 ml which is an average/big glass of wine. A 12 pack on amazon costs 108£ so it works out to be about 0.6£ per glass and that is fully excluding the purchase price of the device.
Only works on natural cork
It might be tempting but before you buy it be aware that it only works on cork and it has been said that it often breaks with plastic corks. So forget screwcaps and sparkling and be careful with plastic corks. Update (15/05/2020): There is a screwtop version now that you put on top of screwtop and then you use the needle to suck out wine. If you are interested in that be sure that it is included in your pack.
Is a Coravin worth it?
It depends on your drink habits and price range. If you are someone that drinks bottles of 40£+ and want to sample a lot of wines in one evening, potentially by yourself then it would be a very viable purchase. However, if you drink wine on a regular basis and/or is with a group you could argue that it would be better to share it and potentially use a vacuvin to drink it the next 3-4 days. We have used it at times in a wine bar for only the more expensive bottles as we had 20 bottles or so by the glass but if you were to offer 100+ wines by the glass and thus have a smaller rotation then this would make more sense.
Update: 15/05/2020 – Coravin now also supports screwtops up to 3 months. The way it works it that you replace the top with theirs and then use the needle.
This is probably the most overwritten topic and is probably the biggest nonsense of all wine equipment as you just need one good one and it will last forever. The purpose of a wine opener is to get the cork out, plain and simple and the vessel to do so just needs to get the job done decently. Get a basic decent wine opener! Get a class on how to use it if need be, I am sure you will figure it out! The only thing we would recommend is to get a model like this with rounded edges, ideally with thicker metal just like this one here where you push the wine upwards. In some models, these are quite sharp and both causes the metal to slide off the glass but also potentially chipping the glass. We would also discourage buying most plastic ones as they will deform more easy.
These model above is a good one as it contains both a knife, a bottle cap opener as well as it is the smallest of them all and you would always see this used in a restaurant. If you, for whatever reason, want to keep the cork intact then you have the Ghidini-version which keeps it intact.
Some wine is better to have opened up and let it breathe. This is also something subjective and if you for example are used to low tannin wine such as a lot of Pinot noir, Beaujolais etc you will probably not enjoy a highly tannic wine without letting it breathe. You can choose to do it by just opening the bottle earlier, pour it early in the glass and wait OR pour it into a decanter. The positive is that it looks nice, the negative is that you have yet another thing to clean and it does not go well in a dishwasher! You will often find these with wine stains inside and the trick to clean them is to have small metal balls and soap that in effect scrub it off.
Wine Aroma Sets
This is a divider as some people in the wine business does not appreciate them plus that they often cost a bit more than expected. But if you buy a good one our opinion is that it really does help plus it lasts for a very long time. We incorporated an aroma smelling warmup in our wine tastings in Madrid where we selected 10 relevant smells in the wines we were trying and trying to identify them. It turns out you can really train your sense of smelling and as these flavours are pure and not mixed it makes it a lot easier to pick them out rather than in a wine where there are usually a lot going on at a same time. This wine warmup was always well appreciated.
Items to Avoid
Stoppers of This Specific Model
We have tried these and while they are cheap, look quite clean then our experience is that they do not work very well for a longer period of time. First issue is that they do not fit on all the bottles at all which wastes time. The second issue is that even though it fits they often lose the pressure and all of a sudden when you want to drink at times you notice that it has not been sealed. Even though they might be uglier and take more time, go for the vacuvine as they work a lot better both in eliminating the oxygen inside the bottle but also they remain sealed.
Items with a Warning
There are some items that you might want to consider but if you are interested in purchasing them, at least read this warning.
Specific Wine Glasses (Burgundy etc)
Fancy a burgundy glass, a big bordeaux glass, a sweet wine glass etc? As you might realize, buying a lot of glassware not only costs a lot o extra money but it also takes up space. Most wine professionals (sommeliers etc) agrees that one universal glass that has a certain curve will do the trick for both white and reds of all kinds even including sparkling although you will certainly find some people claiming it will champagne the aromas (if this is psychological or not is for you to decide).
What is good about a universal style of wine glass is also that it works well for various type of serving sizes, doing a 25 ml tasting serving in a big glass will look quite silly.
Learn More About Wine
If you are interested in learning more about wine here are some posts complete with wine maps and graphics on our site!
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Copyright and Disclaimer
All images above are taken from Amazon and copyright belong to them and/or the manufacturer of these items.