Posts Filed Under wine products
Ok, last-minute shoppers, I present (see what I did there?) to you the December 2015 edition of the 1WD Wine Product Roundup, in which I dive into the non-vinous portion of the product sample pool.
Today, I’ve two items that will receive the deeper-dive inspection.
The first is something about which I’ve serious mixed feelings: the Aura rotating wine glass.
The idea behind this one is interesting: create a glass that almost eliminates the potential to spill its contents, in that it cannot really be knocked over; as a side benefit, make it easy to swirl the wine inside of it (by the way, do any of you other wine nerds find yourself swirling any liquid in a glass? water? orange juice? I do that all of the time…).
First, the good news: it is, in fact, insanely difficult to spill wine poured into the Aura. While seeing the thing rotating on a table is a bit disconcerting at first (it has a weighted ball in its center, and so never actually sits “upright” when set onto a table), the effect overall is very, very cool. And, the center weight and large bowl dimension does seem to make swirling a bit easier when it’s in your hand.
The bad news is twofold: first, it’s expensive (over $50 for both the large and small versions); second, the trade-off for the Aura’s sturdiness is the thickness of its glass, which makes the rim a bit too thick for my tastes. Overall, this one is probably best reserved as a gift for the wine lover who quite literally has everything else.
I’m a bit more enthusiastic over the second product, Suzanne Mustacich’s Thirsty Dragon: China’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the World’s Best Wines (Henry Holt & Company, 338 pages, about $20). While one could argue that Bordeaux’s are not the best wines on Earth, it’s hard to argue that they’re not at least in the running, so we’ll forgive the dramatic subtitle.
It helps that Mustacich not only has a lot of wine writing under her belt, but that she also lives in Bordeaux and is an “insider” to the insane model that they execute for selling their wines. You might not think that a book that focuses on a culture clash between how China (as buyers) and the Bordelais (as sellers) would be all that interesting (this is a wine book that’s recommended to be listed in the Business & Economics section, by the way). But in this case, you’d be wrong.
Thirsty Dragon delves into the odd business dance between China and France in manners that are at times suspenseful (digging into brand squatting and counterfeit-busting operations) and humanistic (getting inside the heads of wine producers impacted by all of the madness in how they conduct their livelihoods). The result is a well-executed read, and one that might just give you some underbelly details about the wine business that you can never “unsee.”
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
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!).