Has it really been almost three months since we did a wine product samples roundup on 1WD? Shame on me – though, in my own defense (against myself), my backlog of non-edible product samples, while certainly not non-existent, kind of pales in comparison to my backlog of drinkable samples (and those are usually more fun, anyway).
Since we are so long overdue… today I have a trifecta of samples from HiCoup Kitchenware, all of which I can recommend (one happily, another surprisingly, and a third, uhm… aesthetically-pleasingly?).
Available in too many finishes to mention here, our first item is their take on the trusty ol’ waiter’s friend corkscrew (my personal fave design for wrestling cork from bottle in almost every non-sparkling circumstance). This unit has good heft and stability in the hand, seems well-made in its metal sturdiness, and in my case featured an easy-on-the-eyes rosewood handle.
Interestingly, HiCoup’s is more-or-less identical to my current recommendation, the Barvivo, but slightly undercuts it in price. And I really do mean slightly… as in, by about one dollar. So, you more dutiful penny-pinchers out there might want to check this one out if the penny-pinching is getting particularly pinchy.
I have long hated the design of our next sample, a “wing” style corkscrew (see intro pic above). Like the Dallas Cowboys, there is almost nothing whatsoever to love about or redeem this design, which usually combines jettison-the-bottle-violently-off-the-table instability with a cartoon-super-villain-Mole-Man-underground-tunnel-borer style screw that apparently was invented to destroy natural cork both during insertion and extraction.
So… given all of that, I’m a bit shocked that I am actually recommending this product; because if you absolutely need one of these winged menaces, HiCoup’s is constructed well (though not as well as the waiter’s friend), and contains an honest-to-goodness thread (modeled after those on better corkscrews) that glides much more easily into the cork and doesn’t attempt to access wine by tearing the stopper to shreds.
Finally, we have a small stylistic wonder in HiCoup’s lead-free crystal, hand-blown decanter/carafe (see inset pic). This is a pretty thing to behold, and a fun item to use, and (more importantly) does a decent job of both decanting and adding a bit of aeration upon pouring.
The real meat with the potatoes, for me, is that, being hand-blown, no two will likely be exactly the same, and with that kind of construction and utility, you’re not getting fleeced on price just for a fancy, uhm, decanter-envy design. It’s stylish without being overtly ridiculous, and its only real drawback is that it’s probably a bitch to clean properly (I wouldn’t know, I am deliberately avoiding trying the latter until I have no other choice…).
We’re going to end the year with a bang on the Wine Product Review Roundup front, given that my travels in November necessitated that I miss that incarnation of this monthly post, and double-up on the number of products put under the review microscope. Hopefully this “holiday edition” (in terms of timing and volume, at least) will point you in the direction of a great stocking-stuffer (or two) for your greedy-ass self that wine geek on your Nice List.
First up is a product that, to this reviewer, at least, has an incredibly limited use-case scenario: the PortoVino Wine Messenger Bag (about $70). The premise here is that someone (presumably you) needs to a) be able to tote around an entire bottle of wine, b) keep it the appropriate temperature for as long as possible, c) pour it at a moments notice without drawing attention, and d) look incredibly stylish while doing all of the above. I don’t get it, either, but the PortoVino sample that I was sent is more handsome than just about any other piece of luggage that I own. It can function as a normal cross-body messenger bag, with a well-designed and modern interior, but also contains a “secret” compartment into which 1.5L of wine can be poured via removable plastic bag, with a bag-in-box style nozzle pourer that pops out of a flap-closed area on one side of the bag. A rather pricey novelty, I suppose, but one with classic good looks. If you’re a style-minded booze-hound. OK, whatever…
Next, we’ve got Amber Revolution: How the World Learned to Love Orange Wine (Interlink Books, 304 pages, about $35), a new book by Simon J. Woolf (Author) and fiend-of-1WD Ryan Opaz (photographer). This is a beautifully constructed, deftly designed, approachable, and well-written tome with one of the most flawed premises in the history of wine writing. The bottom line is that orange wine, as a category, has not been, is not now, nor will it ever be loved by the majority of wine drinkers. Having said that, the level of acceptance of the most capable examples of that much-maligned category has never been higher, and so the release of a good book that masterfully tells the stories of the regions and producers making the best orange wines – which as heart is what Amber Revolution truly is – has never been more timely…
As my pile of (admittedly somewhat neglected) wine book review copies is growing ever larger, this month’s wine product review roundup will focus on two soon-to-be-released bits of printed vinous educational resources. Both of these books will start to see shelf space in September, both are priced at $24.95, and both are about wine, and both were written in English by carbon-based lifeforms… and those are about the only things that they have in common stylistically. So if you’re up for a bit of an interesting Yin/Yang of vinous-related reviews, by all means read on and try not to get too dizzy.
First, we have Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis’s Ten Grapes to Know: The Ten & Done Wine Guide (The Countryman Press, 189 pages, $24.95). Ten Grapes is an unabashed attempt at simplifying wine for the uninitiated, the premise being that learning about ten key fine wine grapes (Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel) will provide pretty much all that one needs to know to begin successfully navigating most wine store shelves and wine lists, with the encouragement to branch out from there (provided mainly through recommendations of similar-but-lesser-known grape varieties at the end of each dedicated chapter).
Each of the chapters in Ten Grapes follows a similar pattern: historical/geographical/taste background of wine made from each grape, followed by food pairings and a recommended price-based shopping list, all sprinkled with anecdotes and concluding with a short quiz. While Fallis’s approach might strike the nerdier among you as overly-simplistic, it works primarily because it mirrors how most normal consumers actually start to experience and purchase wine, and if it has a fault it’s in prose that might be too friendly and familiar. Specifically, Ten Grapes has an un-apologetically feminine stylistic bent. To wit: one of the sections of chapter six, on Sangiovese, begins “I had a nearly religious moment outside the Ferragamo shop in Florence.” If you haven’t shopped Ferragamo in Florence (guilty!), you probably won’t be able to relate, but then it’s hard to fault Fallis for losing some of the audience in brief paragraphs, since there are entire wine books whose prose loses most of the potential audience…
Welcome to the June 2018 incarnation of the ongoing series in which I review samples that aren’t in liquid form. I am so, so, sooooooooooooooooooooo far behind in penning thoughts on various tastings and wine travels, but I’m also so, so, sooooooooooooooooooooo far behind in reviewing the never-ending flood of wine book samples coming my way that I felt compelled to knock off at least a small handful for this product roundup.
First up, we have the small-but-powerful 101 Wines to Try Before You Die (Cassell, 244 pages, about $12) by former Wine Magazine editor Margaret Rand. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of list-style books, but Rand’s clever ploy here – in which she devotes two pages each to the wines on her list, including a bottle/label shot – is not to introduce you to individual wines per se, but to get people thinking more about things like Savennières, Hunter Valley Semillon, or Bierzo.
Rand gets bonus points for employing a writing style that’s equal parts matter-of-fact, personal, and humorous (included with each selection’s vitals, such as trophy vintages and whether or not to chill or decant the wine, is a “What Not to Say” section; my personal favorite is probably “Is it German?” under Hugel’s Riesling Schoelhammer entry). 101 Wines to Try Before You Die is an honest and fun, if not essential, walk through some of compelling bottles.
Next, there’s (Mascot, 144 pages, about $25) by Michael Biddick. Biddick is a sommelier with an IT background, and his upcoming book is essentially full of vignettes about some of the world’s most important wine regions, accompanied by a sort of info-graphic that displays the area’s major grapes, soils, climate, and recent vintages.
Now, at this point, you’re probably asking yourself “why the f–k did he pick 43 regions?!?” and the answer has to do with Biddick’s IT geekdom, and is the kind of thing that’s just begging for controversy…
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