Posts Filed Under wine products
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Bible over the years, none of which I felt held much water aside from the fact that the details in it were becoming outdated, a situation now rectified in the excellent 2nd edition.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.
After the success of last week’s wine product roundup (why aren’t you people so free with your coinage when I ask you to donate to charities?), I figured I’d get an early lead on the October edition of the rummaging through of my product samples. Be forewarned, the selections aren’t cheap, but they are well worth a serious look-see.
First up, is yet another wine opener (I know… I know…). Before you throw up in your mouth, hear me out on this one: the Vinomaster Screwpull (about $45) has totally relegated my old “rabbit-style” opener to the bench for the foreseeable bottle-popping future.
While I like the rabbit-style action for fast cork extraction (particularly if you’re opening several bottles at a time), I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve nearly killed myself trying to stabilize the bottle while using that opener (this is for those instances where clamping the bottom of the bottle in my crotch would be considered socially awkward). The Vinomaster not only works like a charm for yanking corks, it also looks pretty good, feels very sturdy, and the design allows you get a firm grip on the bottle without having to employ crotch-stabilization techniques. The included foil-cutter is more run-of-the-mill, unfortunately, but that doesn’t spoil the excellence of the screwpull itself.
Next, there’s yet another wine aerator (again, mouth-puking should be withheld for a moment or two, if possible). I should first tell you that I’ve yet to encounter a wine accessory that’s more fun to use than the Aervana (about $100), which is billed as the world’s first electric wine aerator. While I haven’t researched it enough to challenge that claim, I have employed a modicum of aeration testing on the thing, and was thrilled with the results (particularly on younger, more tannic reds). The thing actually has a lot going against it: it’s pricey; it works great, but not exceptionally greater than much less expensive aerators (for my buck, the Soiree still wears the crown in that department when it comes to the price/results ratio); it’s a little top-heavy; it’s a little on the noisy side; and it requires six (!) batteries to run it, which is probably more than most marital aids.
BUT… There is no denying the fun to be had in using it. In my household, no one, including children, would let me get away with not showing them how it worked after catching a glimpse of it sitting atop an open bottle. Once you press the button on the top, and the whirring starts up, and the wine starts pouring out of the attached spout, it’s awesome. And the novelty doesn’t wear off quickly, either; it stays fun (though that might have as much to do with increased wine consumption as a result of using it as it does anything else). The second-best part? Cleaning the Aervana is almost as much fun as aerating wine with it (rinse the empty bottle, fill it up with clean water, and run the aerator again – brilliant!).
Since closing out my Answers.com gig back in June of this year, I have found myself still inundated with wine product/accessory/gizmo samples (I’ve totally given up on trying to keep samples to a manageable number), but without a convenient (and conveniently highly trafficked) outlet with which to share the better or more interesting of those products.
And so I’m breaking a loooooooong streak of avoiding wine product mentions here on 1WD, so that I can give you a gander at a couple of the vinous accessories that tickled my… whatever it is for wine geeks that gets tickled when they get to play with accessory samples.
Barvivo (image: Barvivo)
First up is a corkscrew, which at first blush sounds boring, but I’ve personally been fascinated by these bizarre more-or-less-single-purpose tools ever since researching their surprisingly interesting backstory for a PUBLIX Grape article I penned last year. Right now, I’m full-on a fan of the “hinged” waiter’s friend style of corkscrew, so I was pretty jazzed to try out a sample of Barvivo’s take on that design. This little number works like a charm, has the double-hinge action that I’ve grown to find invaluable, and it looks classy as hell.
I’m not accusing them of slave labor, but I’ve no idea how they managed such high production quality for such a low price. As of the time of this writing, they’re offering a coupon deal, which makes the corkscrew a total steal.
When I was contacted by the founder of Vivajennz, I wasn’t sure what to make of the idea of her product, which is basically an “up-style” of wine in a bag. “This is either going to be brilliant,” I thought, “or completely stupid.”
Surprise! We’ve got vino, beeatches! (image: Vivajennz)
Turns out that the result is somewhere in between, but I’m finding that I like the idea of the messenger-bag version of this wine tote more and more. The short version of the story behind Vivajennz is that instead of using a collapsible pouch for transporting your favorite vino to an event or gathering, you instead put it into a pouch, to which a dispensing nozzle/tap is affixed, and which all fits into one of the stylish, insulated bag designs. Open a flap on your way-cool bag, and take a tap to fill a glass; and boom, presumably, you’re the hit of the party.
The overall design isn’t the most practical, but I really like that the bag does double-duty (in the case of my sample, the messenger bag is perfectly capable on its own for acting as, well, a messenger bag, and it looks great). Might be worth checking out for the style lover / wine guzzler in your life.