Wino Wally's 






January 4, 2001

Tools of the Trade

Letís start with the basics.  If youíre going to bring a bottle of wine home after reading any of the reviews on WinoStuff (or any other reputable website or publication), youíre not going to turn the spigot on one of those box wines.  Youíll need a reliable corkscrew.  The classic corkscrew that you see many waiters use is a knockoff of the Chateau Laguiole corkscrew.  Manufactured for over five centuries (centuries, what a concept for us Americans!) in Thiers, France, these are the devices that have a small knife blade on one end for cutting the foil, a corkscrew worm for the cork, and a leverage bar contoured to the lip of the bottle.  I like these tools for their all-around, handy-dandy convenience, but I donít recommend them for the beginner or for the Wino who likes to quickly open a bottle.  You can buy the original Chateau Laguiole corkscrew for about $90 (handmade with rosewood inlays) or a knockoff for $2.  It doesnít really matter which you use as long as you get the job done.  If you want to do the job quicker, I would recommend a foil cutter ($2 to $3) and a screwpull device.  The original screwpull sells for about $20 (#3110 at  It fits over the lip of most bottles and provides a stable base to turn the Teflon-coated corkscrew.  These two items will do the job.  If you want to get the job done quicker and have an unlimited budget, buy the Estate or Champion opener (#3146 at for approximately $99.

Ok, Wino Wally, youíve spent a paragraph on corkscrews, where is this write-up going?  I could have written more on corkscrews including stories about all the cheap ones I bought on the fly in a liquor store that worked (and those that didnít work).  I made a few recommendations, used a web proprietorís catalog for samples (and no, I donít get freebies from them, but would gladly accept them under the WinoStuff policy of accepting all freebies), and believe thereís enough variety to get any novice Wino started.

Now that youíve got the basics down on opening the bottle of wine, what other equipment do you need?  I think a valuable piece of equipment for any Wino is the basic Vacu-Vin wine saver system.  The Vacu-Vin allows you to pump out the air in an opened bottle so that it stays fresh longer.  Unlike Wino John and Wino Bob, I occasionally consume only a glass of wine.  I donít like opening the more expensive bottles and pouring out the spoiled wine a few days later, so I use my Vacu-Vin system to keep the wine fresh until consumed.  Basic system comes with a hand pump and two stoppers for about $14 (#3125 at  I would also add two additional stoppers for about $5.  For those of you who are single, you can use this system when youíre home alone, but always keep the line about needing to finish the bottle so that the wine doesnít spoil (just donít let them know you have a Vacu-Vin!).

Well, Iíve covered uncorking and recorking the bottle, what about glassware?  If you donít own any wineglasses, go to a Target, Wal-Mart, or Kmart and buy a pack of six or twelve.  Theyíre inexpensive and easily replaced, but are much classier and more practical than paper cups.  If you received some crystal wine glasses with your wedding china and stemware, use them for the fancier occasions, but Iíd still own some inexpensive glassware that could hold up at a party and which wouldnít dent your wallet if someone broke a glass.  For the true aficionado, I can only recommend Riedel crystal stemware.  Available through a number of proprietors, the Riedel glasses were first designed by an Austrian engineer who recognized that the size and shape of a wineglass could influence the bouquet, taste, balance, and finish of the wine.  Riedel Sommelier is the hand blown crystal version ($$$$) and Riedel Vinum is the less expensive version.  If your favorite wine is a Chardonnay or a Cabernet, buy two of these glasses and experience the difference.

We have a section on racking, so Iím not going to cover bottle storage here, but refer you to that sectionís write-up.  However, for the basic Wino equipment, thereís two more items that I want to recommend.  Both items are designed for consuming wine that has just been purchased from the retailer and has not been stored or chilled at an appropriate serving temperature.  The first item is a rapid chill cooler.  Brookstone sells one that I recommend (approximately $24).  Another good product is the Vacu-Vin Wine Cooler (#1101 for $10.95 at  Slip a bottle of wine into either of these products and your bottle will be chilled in 5 to 10 minutes.  The last item is something that you will find just about anywhere.  Iím referring to plastic cubes with distilled water that you keep in your freezer.  My wife and I use these to keep a Chardonnay pleasantly chilled while outside in the summer without having the dilutive effect of regular ice cubes.  We buy the decorative cubes in shapes of fruits and fish and keep a supply to share with any guests who come over.  This latter item wonít make the list of Sommelier Magazineís recommended tools, but I highly recommend it for wine consumption in warmer climates.



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