The April edition of the wine products round-up brings us two new items from the sample pool, both of which I can recommend with some reservations. How’s that for an endorsement?!?
First up is the Vinturi Champagne Opener. Yes, you read that correctly. Vinturi has branched out from their popular aerator, and now has a small armory of wine-related gadgets tempting the dollars from the confines of your wallet. Today’s victim of my in-house-testing is sold only via Williams-Sonoma, and will set you back about $35.
Insert your own crude marital aid joke here
The first thing you notice about the Vinturi Champagne Opener, aside from its shininess, and its resemblance to marital aids… okay, the third thing that you notice about it is that it’s heavy. This is a solidly-constructed bit of wine gadgetry, and I wouldn’t want to have this item dropped onto my toes. I will rank its hardy construction as a plus.
Essentially, it’s a twist-off wine opener designed exclusively for sparkling wines; you remove the foil, cage, and cap from your bubbly, and while being careful to keep your fingers out of any of the openings, put the Vinturi on top of the bottle and twist until you hear a “pop” (trust me, you won’t miss the signal; it’s loud). The cork can then be extracted from the upper opening of the Vinturi.
The thing works, and works well. I’m a little concerned about the aggressiveness of its functionality, however; it’s often said that the opening of a sparkling wine should sound as delicate as “a nun’s fart,” and this certainly is not nun-flatulent-like. It’s a loud pop, and whenever I hear that sound, I envision extra bubbles – for which we usually pay extra! – escaping unnecessarily.
Personally, I’m find using a towel and my own hands to pop open my bubbly, so the Vinturi might be of limited use unless you a) plan on opening a lot of bubbly, or b) have a physical issue that makes the traditional method of opening bubbly difficult for you, or c) are a wuss.
Anyway… on to our next “with reservations” item…
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When it comes to wine books, there’s a lot of printed material available that make excellent cases for protecting the world’s forest land and leaving it untouched for our children’s children’s children.
I know this because I receive those books as review copies for consideration with nearly as much frequency as I receive wine samples for consideration.
There are, of course, those wine tomes that transcend the superfluousness of their wanna-be peers, two of which I was lucky enough to receive as updated editions of products that I already though highly enough about to have purchased them on my own. With actual money and everything!
And so, those two re-releases are the focus of this month’s wine product roundup. They are works that, I think, are indispensable resources (the first for budding wine enthusiasts, and the second for anyone – consumer or pro – who loves the world of vino):
Chapter & verse
The Wine Bible, 2nd Edition (Karen MacNeil, Workman Publishing, about $30)
MacNeil’s Wine Bible holds a sentimental place in my heart, which will probably come as a shocker to anyone who has seen Karen and I interact together publicly (a sight that is almost always a strange mixture of civility and awkwardness, as I am pretty sure that she has absolutely no idea what to make of me… and I can’t say that I blame her). As I told Karen a few years ago, I used the first edition of her book as a welcome escape during the frigidly cold couple of weeks I spent in Toronto while my younger brother was having life-saving heart surgery performed there. I’ve heard many criticisms of The Wine Bible over the years, none of which I felt held much water aside from the fact that the details in it were becoming outdated, a situation now rectified in the excellent 2nd edition.
My wine career arc has more or less followed the publication history of this book, from newly-intoxicated wine consumer at its first printing, to a guy who can nitpick the shorter entries on emerging regions and play with some authority the “agree/disagree” game with some of the hand-selected wine picks in the second edition.
Thankfully, MacNeil has changed little of the two elements that really make The Wine Bible work. The first is the country-by-country format, which is ridiculously intuitive and works as one of the best wine-focused primers for which any wine newbie could ask. The second is Karen’s populist-style writing, which clearly demonstrates that she was and still is ridiculously excited about her subject; MacNeil encourages the joy behind wine exploration, which is one of the most important resources we can provide to any new wine lover.
Witness the awesomeness (image: oxfordcompaniontowine.com)
The Oxford Companion to Wine, 4th Edtion (Oxford, Edited by Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding, about $50)
With almost 200 contributors, the Oxford Companion has received a rather serious and significant once-over. As insanely authoritative and useful as this new edition is, it’s a testament to how well-executed this (altogether too heavy) reference book has been over the years that the previous edition was still my go-to wine reference book, hardly showing its age.
Sure, you can find most of the info. in the Oxford online, but what you won’t get is the killer one-two combo of attention to detail and nearly flawless prose that makes the reference such a gem (for a great example, look up the term “wine writing” therein, and try not to chuckle and its poignant accuracy and subversive cheekiness). The usefulness and depth of the information presented is without parallel (an example: after two years of working with the FurmintUSA project, there’s little background information about the grape that I don’t know at this point… two pieces of which I read in the Furmint entry in the Oxford!).
Jancis will no doubt hear the shrill sound of freshly-clipped nails grating the chalkboard when I write this, but I found a few minor typos (sorry!). Minor enough, however, that they won’t stop me from saying that if you’re involved in wine in any capacity and don’t have this book, you’re probably an idiot.
winonslots | chessrivals | Solitaire Champ
While I love Thanksgiving (eating, football, family time), if it weren’t for my daughter, I would loathe the Christmas season. Shopping, pressure, tinsel, pressure, and freezing temperatures? And pressure? Sorry, that just doesn’t sound jolly to me.
All the more reason to drown out the din of the real world with the alcohol content of fine wine, I suppose!
Anyway, I’m late on this (I would blame holiday shopping, but we both know I do that shizz online in my pajama pants), but I present below the 2014 November Wine.Answers.com article roundup for your reading pleasure:
- An Introduction to Organic Wine (with Bonterra Vineyard Director David Koball): From a recent trip to Sonoma, I returned with a lot of new knowledge about organic grape-growing and winemaking from Bonterra, who have been doing that stuff for just about as long and at just about as large a scale as anyone in the U.S. The added bonus is that their vineyard director is opinionated, which made for an entertaining and informative interview.
- Three Things You Didn’t Know About Lodi Wine Country: One of the benefits of attending tastings of wines from historic Lodi vineyards is that you also get access to the people who know those regions best, which for me translated into a collection of what I thought were fascinating tidbits about the region (but you’re a badass, and already knew all of the trivia in that article, right?).
- Wine Book Review: “Barolo and Barbaresco” by Kerin O’Keefe: O’Keefe has been on a tear lately on the Italian wine region overview book front, and “Barolo and Barbaresco” is a fine addition to her lineup (and are regions that were probably overdue for another overview treatment), if you can handle her terse writing style.
- Finally, in a significant departure for me in terms of the types of wine accessories I try out, I gave the wine-themed jewelry from Olive & Poppy a spin. You can check out their high-quality, relatively-pricey, and non-kitschy wares at oliveandpoppy.com.