There is no shortage of gadgets and gizmos promising to enhance the wine drinking experience. From fancy aerators and decanters to argon gas and bluetooth wine fridges, the market is flooded with innovative tools catering to the desires of the discerning wine nerd. But amidst the buzz and excitement surrounding these wine gadgets, the question remains: are these the best wine gifts out there?
Hand Spun Crystal Glasses
Crystal glassware is undeniably bougie, ultra sparkly, and it can even sing! But does it make the wine drinking experience any better?
Not really– but wine sure does look pretty in a crystal glass! Though crystal glass is not necessary, real glass is. Plastic, paper, and metal will alter the aromas and taste of wine for the worse. So as long as you’re drinking with some type of glass, you’re in the clear.
Crystal glassware does not actually contain any crystalline structures. The key difference between crystal and standard glass is that it contains several minerals, including lead, that allow it to be spun extra thin while still maintaining its strength. A thin wine glass is elegant, but the thickness of your glassware does not have any impact on how your wine will taste.
So, crystal glasses can be more durable, thinner, and better at reflecting light than standard wine glasses, but all that glimmers will come at a hefty price point (and must be exclusively hand washed.)
Unless you’re throwing the swankiest dinner parties with the most discerning guests– or putting a pair of crystal wine glasses on your wedding registry– we would recommend taking these off of your shopping list in favor of some high-quality all-use large wine glasses. Here at First Bottle HQ, we use the RIEDEL Extreme Cabernet glass for all of our tasting needs.
Luxury Wine Decanters
The hardcore wine decanting crowd can be… intense. Yes, decanting is important– young wines need some air and old wines need to be removed from their sediment. But the mega enthusiasm from the aeration crowd leaves the rest of us wondering how much should I really be spending on a decanter?
Luxury decanters can be found in all shapes and sizes (check out this lobster shaped decanter) and most of all: prices. It’s not uncommon to see decanters exceeding $500. But don’t fret, your $50 decanter will do the trick.
The secret to decanting is not hidden behind a paywall of hand-blown crystal. It’s just about surface area, the more your decanter has at the base, the more effective it will be. Special materials and fancy shapes will be a rocking centerpiece, but that’s about it. Also, remember, you’ll be leaving wine in here for sometimes hours… so pick a shape that is easy to clean!
Pro tip: if a decanter size is given, always buy the “magnum”… basically, some folks’ regular decanters technically hold a 750 ml bottle, but the wine will go high up into the neck, and then you’ve lost all that oh-so-crucial surface area… and what’s the point of decanting half a bottle at a time? For ultimate surface area under $100, we like the Ravenscroft Ultra Magnum Decanter available on Amazon.
If decanters are your wine niche, then go for the bold! But for most of us, luxury decanters just aren’t worth the price.
High-Tech Wine Fridges
The uninitiated may call them glorified mini-fridges, but we know that they are so much more.
If you’re a wine collector, your bottles are your investments, and you need a proper place to store them. Wine fridges are one of the most important innovations in wine collecting, but do you really need all the bells and whistles?
In 2023, you can buy totally suited-up wine coolers equipped with bluetooth speakers, wifi connection, touchscreen displays, temp-controlled compartments for reds and whites, and more. A standard wine cooler will do the trick just fine, but if you’re a serious collector, we think a wine fridge splurge is not a bad idea – but go for function over form… fewer things are likely to go wrong if you keep it simple and forgo all the bells and whistles.
Pro tip: wine fridge makers always lie to you about capacity – so unless you only have one single producer of identically shaped bottles of the old-school, thin, green Bordeaux shaped bottles… take whatever capacity they list and take off 15-20%… your Burgundies, Alsatians, Champagnes, and cult-y Napa Cabs simply aren’t gonna stack like that.
Looking for a ton of space to store your wine? Our friends over at Global Storage Network know a thing or two about that!
Electric Wine Chillers
Who needs a bucket of ice when you can have an electric bottle chiller to keep your opened wine at the ideal temp in between pours? You can get yours for no less than $100.
We understand why you might want this– sometimes you’re ready for a bottle that isn’t ready for you. (Say, a bottle of white that’s been sitting in the cupboard or a bottle of red that’s traveled for too long in the trunk of your car.)
Electric bottle chillers are fast, they can get your bottle to the ideal temp in as little as five minutes. Sounds great, right? But these machines aren’t perfect, they can be bulky and loud.
If you’re running into this temperature problem all too often as your wine obsession grows– get a wine fridge, you won’t regret it. The electric bottle chiller just isn’t worth it.
This gadget is still relatively new, and the tech isn’t there yet. Show us a sleek, silent bottle chiller for less than $100 and our answer might change. Instead, pull 4-5 sheets worth of paper towel, get it nice and soaked under cool water, and wrap up your bottle like you’re swaddling a child. Pop it in the freezer and set a timer (very important.) 15-20 minutes should do the trick… just enough time to make a martini! Or, if you just love gadgets, get a Corkcicle and spend what you would have spent on an electric chiller on a splurge-worthy bottle. We have some for you to browse now!
I am going to be vulnerable here. I am a slow sipper. Painfully slow. I can nurse a glass of wine for over an hour…maybe even two. If you feel my struggle, then the VoChill might be a sound investment.
Imagine pool sipping this summer with a perfectly chilled glass, that’s what the VoChill can accomplish! Just keep them in the freezer until you’re ready for some outdoor sipping, then use them like you would a coaster. These are in my cart now, and a great option for gifting your wine lover friends!
The Coravin System
We use the Coravin at the office everyday. It’s an investment, but it’s a pretty sweet setup. Here’s the elevator pitch: drink your bottles without uncorking.
Sounds like some sort of miracle, but the Coravin makes it happen with some simple science. As you attach the Coravin to your bottle, a surgical needle (seriously, the inventor was a spinal surgeon) pierces through the cork (yet is sharp enough to not rupture the individual plant cell walls of the cork) and pulls wine from inside the bottle. The juice is exchanged for a replacement amount of argon gas that blankets the wine – ensuring that the contents of the bottle are not exposed to the less dense oxygen, which allows the bottle to last up to three weeks with minimal flavor or aroma loss. The cork cells realign after an hour or so, et voilà, a properly sealed bottle! (The company states the wine will last longer than three weeks, but hey, they originally pitched this as “indefinite” and have had to walk back on that… we’re not getting any kickbacks from this article… and a few weeks of extra drinking time is awesome enough!)
So, yeah, you can pour glasses without having to finish the whole bottle! Hurrah! For experienced wine collectors and emerging wine enthusiasts alike, this is a great tool to have. The replacement capsules aren’t cheap however, so keep that in mind.
Vacu Vin Wine Pump
Securing your wine’s freshness for longer doesn’t have to be a science project, albeit, an expensive one at that. If you want to make your opened bottles last a bit longer, all you really need is the Vacu Vin wine saver.
You can find these for under $20 in stores all over, including Amazon! The system comes with a pump and a few reusable stoppers. To seal your bottle, just place the stopper on the bottle, and the pump over the stopper. Then pump until you hear the patented click that indicates a vacuum seal.
The vacuum pumps air out of the bottle to slow the oxidation process. The product manual will say it ensures freshness for up to two weeks (we beg to differ.) The Vacu Vin is cost effective and does provide a seal, but it only adds a day or two to the shelf life of wine. Any additional preservation is great, so this product is still a win in our book.
This is one of the most practical wine gifts on our list, perfect for the introductory wine geek.
This is the latest wine-gimmick to come around. Buy a pack of single use purifiers, stir them around your glass, chuck ‘em to the landfill and repeat! All that so you can drink “sulfite free” wine.
Go to a magic shop, buy a magic wand and say abracadabra over your wine glass. It’ll do all the same for you that a sulfite filter will. Unless you’re adding hydrogen peroxide to your wine, you won’t be neutralizing any sulfites. And here’s a fun fact: there are more sulfites in a child-size box of raisins than an entire 750ml bottle of wine!
Get it as a gag gift for your geekiest wine friend, or better yet, just don’t bother.
WineStation Home Sommelier
Some wine geeks have everything, and all that’s left to get them is the WineStation. This stainless steel monstrosity is a wine preservation and pouring machine that can sit on your countertop and tell all of your guests how intense you are about wine.
It uses the same preservation technique as the Coravin, but get this, it also pours your wine through a little spout (how sweet!) You can get all that for only $6,500!
Okay, okay… now that we have ragged on this product, let’s face the obvious truth: this would look pretty baller in your kitchen. If you have the cash to burn, then go for it! But just know that this is extremely difficult to clean, bulky, and totally unnecessary.
The Durand Wine Corkscrew
A corkscrew is a corkscrew, right? Well, according to The Durand, you would be wrong. The Durand Corkscrew is priced at a whopping $135. It is a two-step wine opener designed to uncork aged bottles without damaging the cork.
There’s nothing worse than having cork sediment fall into your bottle, which is a common result when breaking open an aged wine (think 10+ years from vintage.) With the Durand, your corks are far more likely to be extracted intact. I have seen several Monopool-style wine openers online for cheaper, but none with glowing reviews and reliable quality like the Durand.
If the price tag scares you off (we get it, truly) opt for an ah-so instead. Not quite as fool-proof, but your next best shot for sneaking that crumbling cork from out of your prized 1961 Latour! (And only about $7). At the end of the day, if you’re investing in aged bottles, this is a worthy splurge.
If you would have asked me in my wine-box soaked youth if I would even consider paying $135 on a wine opener, I would have laughed (because that’s obviously a joke, right?) But now, to my own surprise, it’s on my wish list.
We are living in the age of supplements. Seriously, the sheer volume of organic vitamin gummies crafted by Goop-adjacent celebrities is nothing short of astonishing. I can’t go online without seeing an ad for some dewey-faced socialite’s wellness brand. If you haven’t had an after-drinking supplement practically shoved down your throat at this point, honestly, I applaud you.
But even in my strict Hydroflask hydrated regimine, every wine hangover leaves me looking less and less like those dewey-faced heartthrobs. So, I looked into it.
Here’s the verdict: hangover pills are whack, but hangover prevention is where it’s at.
Science shows that there’s only so much you can do after the hangover has manifested. All you really can do is sleep, hydrate, and wait. The best way to combat a hangover is to nourish your body before it starts, and, this is key: rehydrate as you’re drinking!
Before you start, take a supplement loaded with B vitamins– Myrkl offers a great one. If you’re planning for a day of heavy drinking, keep some Liquid IV on hand. Pour a big glass of it and drink those sweet electrolytes in between every glass of wine.
Even though the gadgets can be fun, the most important element to your wine collection is wine, and we have tons for you to geek-out about. But when it comes to gadgets, their worth ultimately depends on preference, the tech behind the product (and how much you can be influenced by the placebo effect).
Do your research and save your money, folks! The next must-have wine innovation awaits…