This might be one of the earliest monthly wine product samples roundups here on 1WD, but I’m tending to a sick kiddo at the moment, and figured that I’d use the limited available writing window give you the lowdown on a couple of rather not-so-inexpensive wine products (no book reviews this month!)
before I accidentally kill the brain cells housing my thoughts on them while they were still fresh in my memory.
First up is “The Wine Glass” ($112 for a set of 2), part of the 1 Collection, a collaboration between British Master of Wine (and friend of 1WD) Jancis Robinson and Notting Hill native designer Richard Brendon. The idea behind the glass, as per its creators, was to create a drinking vessel that can be used “for every wine, whatever its colour, including sparkling wine, port, sherry, sweet wines and anything else you want to savour and enjoy to the fullest… specially designed to maximise your enjoyment of all wines’ aromas, flavours and textures in the most practical way possible.”
That’s a lofty goal, and one that, in my testing experience, the glass mostly achieves. While I found it a bit large for dessert and fortified wines, it does a fair job on those, and an exceptional job on anything bubbly or still. Robinson describes the style as “gossamer-thin” and she’s right – The Wine Glass is so light that you might forget that you’re holding anything at all when it’s in your hand. This comes with the anxiety that it might break easily, but for its lack of thickness it is surprisingly durable, and handles stints in the dishwasher with ease.
It’s also a stylish item, and for that you are paying a dear farthing, my friends, at about $56 per stem. Is it worth it? I have serious reservations about answering that question in the affirmative; while The Wine Glass is superior in almost any measurable way to most of the stemware available designed for everyday use, it’s simply too luxurious an item to fit into such a category. This is especially pertinent considering that you can get nearly the same durability, style, and all-in-one applicability from Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson‘s The One stemware line, which currently goes for under $30 a pair. And lest you think $15/stem suggests an experience fit for inferior sipping, when I sat for the 2010 Romanée-Conti vintage tasting in NYC, they used Andrea’s glasses…
Next, we have an even more expensive item, the NewAir AWR-290DB Compact Wine Cooler (about $750). Here’s roughly how this product sample exchange went down over the past couple of weeks:
NewAir: “We want to send you a product for possible review.”
Me: “Ok, what did you have in mind?”
NewAir: “The AWR-290DB model.”
Me, looking at the price tag: “That’s f*cking crazy, you’re taking a big gamble on sending a sample that expensive.”
NewAir: “It’s on its way.”
Well, don’t say that I didn’t warn ya, PR folks!
Here are the basics on the AWR-290DB: it’s sized for 29 standard 750 ml bottles, with super-cool-looking blue LED internal lighting; an upper area that can be adjusted between 40- & 50-degrees Fahrenheit (for reds), and a lower area between 50F & 66F (for whites, rose, sparkling, etc.); while it can be used as a free-standing unit, the dimensions are targeted at fitting into a standard trash-compactor spot under your kitchen counter; the combination of a stainless metal front and wooden shelving makes for a pretty stylish presentation indeed; it’s estimated to cost about $25-$30 a year to operate.
The pros: the dual temperature areas work exceedingly well, and cool down to their target ranges nice and quickly; overall, the unit looks great, particularly if you can get it under a counter and if the door front matches your other kitchen appliances; there’s a key lock to keep your teenage kids out of your stash; vibration (which wines do not like), while present, is minimal; the LED lighting is way cool; and this thing is quiet… I mean, really, really quiet… like, mouse-sneaking-around-when-it-knows-you-have-a-pet-cat quiet. Setup, by the way, was minimal – attach the door handle, and you’re pretty much done.
The cons: my sample cooler arrived with some exterior cosmetic shipping damage (bent metal in the back, and a small ding on one side); while the vibration is minimal, it’s still there, which could impact (very) long-term aging of some fine wines; I found the instructions a bit lacking (some parts have no explanation of their purpose, for example); while it’s not too heavy, it’s still a fairly major appliance and therefore isn’t exactly light, either; the door on my sample was a bit noisy when opening, and the door seal of all such units just smells odd, and even at this price tag the AWR-290DB is no exception (you can try using baking soda to mitigate this, YMMV).
The final verdict is that the AWR-290DB is a great wine storage solution, but given the lofty price tag (competing units can be found for 25% to 50% of the price of this particular NewAir model), I have some reservations about the shipping quality and the comprehensiveness of the included instructions.