Wine Accouterments

By Posted on Oct 29 2009 | By

The statistics are impressive.

  • Wine consumption in the United States has risen 30% in the last decade, extending a fifteen-year trend of consecutive annual growth.
  • An anticipated 3.7 billion bottles—yes, billion—will be sold stateside in 2009, making the United States the largest wine-consuming nation in the world.
  • 70 million “millennials”—the population between the ages of 21 and 30—are the fastest growing segment of wine drinkers. And there’s no sign of their thirst slacking.
  • Virginia is the fifth largest wine producing state in the USA, boasting over 150 wineries, up from just one in 1972.

Clearly, wine is on the ascendancy worldwide and especially in America. And, like weekend golfers tempted to purchase any club touted to lower their handicap, wine lovers are always on the prowl to find ways to enhance the enjoyment of their favorite beverage.

Let’s take a look at the most popular and latest vino accouterments—or more appropriately, wine toys—that are being marketed to enophiles everywhere.


Air is the enemy of wine. Once a bottle is opened and not finished, it begins a slow deterioration in aroma and flavor due to oxidation. The good news is it’s always safe to drink. With its combination of alcohol, acids and tannins, wine can safely be consumed even after losing its tastiness. But why would you? Life’s too short. Enter the preservation systems.

Keeping air at bay can be accomplished in a number of ways. Here are a few such items from the least expensive to “check your portfolio” before buying.

Vacuum wine pump

Vacuum wine pump

· Vacuum Pumps: These simple devices come with rubber stoppers and a hand held pump that enables you to remove air and create a protective vacuum with a few quick pumps. Priced around $12.

· Inert Gassing: These items include cans of carbon dioxide, nitrogen or Argon that you squirt into a half empty bottle, laying down a layer of protective gas. More elaborate units require the bottle to be placed in a stand-alone unit that automatically gases and seals it. Prices range from $10 to $400.

But, let the buyer beware. There is some disagreement among the aficionados as to how useful these processes are in extending the life of a wine. In any instance, preserved bottles should be drunk within 6 to 10 days. After that, even the preservation systems don’t do much to protect the wine from oxidation.

One no-cost way to help preserve your half drunk bottle is to refrigerate it. Cold temperatures slow down oxidation for both white and red wines. If you have more than one bottle opened after a party, consider blending. After a test taste of the potential blend, pour one wine into another half full bottle and recork it. Blending rarely harms flavors if they are of similar varietals and can be a fun way to play “winemaker” for a day.


After discussing how excessive air can harm wine, it must be revealed that small amounts of oxygen can enrich a just opened bottle. This process is called decanting. It’s usually reserved for red wines.

Whenever someone swirls a glass of wine before sipping they are aerating the wine. Decanting, on the other hand, is intended to separate any sediment that has formed in the bottle.  However, most wines today throw very little sediment and decanting is more often used to promote aeration and develop deeper aromas.  Unlike an opened bottle that sits for several days and goes bad, a wee bit of oxygen introduced into a freshly uncorked bottle releases aromas and flavors, enhancing the wine’s character.  Here are some items used to accomplish this effect.

Crystal Decanter

Crystal Decanter

· Decanters: The array of sizes and shapes of decanters is impressive. From a simple glass carafe’ to a beautiful Waterford crystal vessel shaped like a swan, the size and form of decanters is seemingly limited only by one’s imagination. After a bottle is opened, the wine is poured into such a vessel and allowed to sit for about twenty minutes before drinking. As an alternative, an inexpensive way to decant is to simply pour the wine into a pitcher and immediately return it to the bottle. Decanters range in price from $40 to $300, depending on quality and design.

· Mini-Aerators:  These small items are relatively new and are based on the same air and wine integration process. The units are either held over a glass and wine poured through it or inserted in the top of the bottle. They draw oxygen in along with the wine as it flows into the glass. They are especially useful when you don’t expect to finish a bottle in one sitting. Prices range from $25 to $60.
Vinturi Red Wine Aerator

Vinturi Red Wine Aerator




Small Wine Cooler

Small Wine Cooler



Most wines today are produced to be consumed young. They are vinified in a fruit forward and easy to drink style and are usually drunk within a few years of their release. Such wines rarely need extended aging. Nevertheless, laying down even inexpensive wines for short periods protects your investment, modest as it might be. And high quality wine can clearly benefit from extra years in the bottle. This is the reason for the growing popularity of temperature-controlled coolers.

· Counter Top Coolers: Designed to hold approximately 6 to 18 bottles, these units are ideal for the casual drinker. Like the more expensive models, they are temperature and humidity controlled and safely keep wine from damaging light and heat. They are priced from $100 to $150.

· Stand Alone Coolers: For the more serious wine lover, these wine protection units are both functional and aesthetic and equipped with digitally controlled temperature and humidity controls, adjustable shelves, UV safety glass doors, interior lightning and door locks. They can hold from 30 to 500 bottles. Expensive wines can rest easy when stored in these units. Prices vary widely depending upon size and features and range from $500 to over $5,000.

In addition to these wine accessories, there are numerous other products designed to enhance the enjoyment of wine. Among the more popular are: delicate and very expensive crystal glasses; strong and break resistant titanium-based stemware; a variety of opening devices ranging from the simple corkscrew to gas operated removal systems that gently push the cork out of a bottle; fancy carrying cases meant to impress when you bring your wines to a party or picnic; wine art for decorating your storage area, and wine racks made in a variety of sizes and materials to fit any budget.

There are many purveyors of these accessories and a simple Internet search for a specific item will offer the buyer a broad selection to choose from. Two of the largest firms are: International Wine Accessories at IWAWINE.COM and WineEnthusiast at WineEnthusiast.com.

By now, the thought might be flickering across your mind, “Can there be any more visible sign of conspicuous consumption than these superfluous wine gadgets”? Perhaps. But, we all work hard and look forward to the small moments of enjoyment we are able to carve out of our busy schedules.

If moments of innocent pleasure are created by our love and enjoyment of wine toys, why not partake? After all, being a kid isn’t just for the young.



Published in the Culpeper Times on October 28, 2009.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES