"tis the season…

As we approach Christmas many of us are trying to figure out what to get for others and also making a list of those gifts we might want to receive ourselves.  Helpful hints are always appreciated by both sides of the giving equation and wine lovers usually have no problem with hints.  Let me tell you more…

The Wine Establishment had a booth at the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo last weekend and several items caught my eye as prospective list items. The following are highlights:

Reidel “O” Series Wine Decanter – while I am not a big believer in  decanting wines, there is still a lot to be said for the effect an elegant decanter can have at your table.  The Austrian wine glass company, Reidel, is known for its elegant and often very expensive decanters. This model is a reasonably priced, machine-made crystal vessel shaped in a stylish and functional manner and is a very good buy at $185.00 (model 1414/13).  If this price is too steep, try the “O” series 6 + 1 glass and decanter set for $72.00.  This set includes 6 “O” series Cab/Merlot glasses and the “O” Merlot decanter (model 5414/60).

Nuance Aerating Wine Finer – This is a brand new and already very popular accessory which does exactly what its name implies.  It is a wine pourer that aerates and filters the wine as you pour.  The device is inserted in the top of the wine bottle and accomplishes the things a Drop Stop, a filter and a funnel would do – three devices in one.  Note the filter is a fairly large gauge so it will eliminate only larger sediment and cork pieces.  The price: $29.95.  For more details on this novel item, check www.scantrendsusa.com/Wine%20Finer%20Brochure%20ENG%20(2).pdf

Wine Awakenings Aroma Kits – for wine students and consumers who simply want to learn more about wine there is a new kid on the aroma kit block: Wine Awakenings.  Until now the aroma kit market has been the exclusive domain of Le Nez du Vin, a France-based company that manufactures and distributes a number of kits, for red and white wines as well as a kit for learning the aroma character of wine faults. Wine Awakenings offers a reasonably-priced set of red, white and major variety kits (as well as a fault-kit) and all the kits are made in Canada using natural oils for the aromas.  The product is the brain-child of a professor at Brock University, Gary Pickering. The aromatics are stored in small vials, each of which is labelled with the aroma contained therein.  This is a distinct advantage over Le Nez du Vin where the aromas are also stored in small vials, with the identifying aroma number situated on the cap of the vial – it’s easy to get vial and cap mixed up and let me tell you, some of the aromas are hard to identify without help.  If you get them mixed up, matching cap and vial can be a problem. Wine Awakening s believes its aromas will last up to ten years –longer the those of Le Nez, they say,  although only time will tell.  Each kit of 12 aromas costs $159.00.  The Wine Establishment sells both aroma kit brands.  Let them help you select the right kit for your needs and budget.    http://www.wineawakenings.com/

GoVino Shatterproof Wine Glasses – These glasses look like the best stemless crystal but they are made of shatterproof food-safe pharmaceutical-grade polymer (similar to the PET now used for non-glass wine bottles). My wife bought a set of these when we were in BC last month; they are perfect for travelling and as they have a lightweight rim they feel like high-quality glass.  Ideal for patio or picnic use these are lightweight and indestructible when properly used and cared-for. $17.95 for a box of four/ $3.95 each (the box is clearly an expensive one…).

Wine Cruzer 12-pack – If you travel and if you are like me, you have no discipline when it comes to buying wine to take home with you.  Mistake!  It is a royal pain lugging boxes of wine, labelled FRAGILE (which means throw once, drop often) only to find your box leaking red and white wine when you pick up your treasure at the fragile items window at Pearson airport. This is quite separate from your wife’s reminders of your promise never to do it again the last time you travelled. The Wine Cruzer is the partial solution to this widely-experienced problem (it doesn’t deal with the complaints of your spouse).  The Cruzer is a thermally-sealed foam-lined heavy duty composite box which has detachable wheels and which will protect your wine from temperature and breakage-related damage.  The box is approximately 21” x 21” x 19” high so it must be checked with your luggage. Because the Cruzer is strong and foam-lined you will have no worries, other than extra luggage fees and the spectre of the greeting of an unfriendly customs officer when you arrive.  The 12-pack costs $795.00 (also available in an 8-pack format at $425.00).

Champagne Bottle Stopper – The ideal gift for someone’s stocking, this is also a great way to drop the hint that you would be very happy to have more sparkling wine served in you house.  I have one of these and it works with any sparkler for short term storage after the bottle has been opened: Prosecco, Cava, Crémant or Champagne, it doesn’t matter. This one is made by Trudeau and sells for $9.95.

Microfibre Polishing Cloth – If the list above is over your budget, try this very important and practical gift item.  Clean glassware is critical to ensure the effects of detergent don’t affect your wines.  This is especially important for sparkling wines where the mousse can be dramatically diminished by even the slightest soapy film.  I can tell you from recent first-hand experience even the most expensive automatic dishwashers don’t perform at their best because the water is often not hot enough to allow effective rinsing – particularly if you have a time delay feature allowing your machine to operate during low-rate time windows.  This cloth will remove film and also dust for those situations where you are pulling out your best glassware, the same glassware you last used last Christmas…Restaurant staff always dry-clean and polish their glassware before it is placed on the table.  So should you.  Price: $9.95.

A visit to the Wine Establishment this Saturday afternoon between noon and 4:00PM will see Mark Bolduc from The Vine serving wines from the Robert Groh portfolio: Cave Spring CSV Riesling (two thumbs’ up), along with wines from California, Washington and Italy.  The Wine Establishment is located off the courtyard at 250 The Esplanade in Toronto (telephone 416 861-1331).

As always I will add my declaration of independence:  The Wine Establishment has not paid me for these comments and I have no economic interest in that firm. They are good people and they operate the best wine accessory store in the GTA.  They also design and build custom cellars.

Feel free to leave this Newsletter lying around the house where someone may get the hint.  Happy shopping!

à bientôt…

Originally published in WVN, November 27, 2010. Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 -2010.