Gadgets

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Okay, quick show of hands.

How many of you have more than one corkscrew? Almost everyone.


How many of you have more than one kind of corkscrew? Two kinds? Three kinds? Funny how they gather in the back of the drawer, isn’t it?

How many of you have a corkscrew on your pocket knife? (This is how we identify the real hard-core wine-drinkers.)

How many of you have a decanter? A few people. Not many, but more than a few years ago.

How many of you have a gadget for preserving the freshness of the wine in an unfinished bottle? Not as many hands as there should be, my friends.

Okay, how many of you have a triple-pronged neodymium-magnet instant wine aging tool?

Hmmm, no hands for that last one.

To tell you the truth, I never saw one of these before last night, when a friend showed me one that she had been given. At first I thought it was a joke, but the package goes on at some length about how you can age anything from a bottle of wine to a glass of whisky in seconds due to some mysterious forces in the magnets. I’ve got the thing at home now and will test it soon. It's probably a total hoax, but what the heck: better I warn you than you spend your hard-earned money on a.... gadget.

But while we're on the subject, let’s talk about wine gadgets. It seems to me that one of the surest ways to measure the democratization of wine in America is to measure the lengths connoisseurs have to go to in order to differentiate themselves from everyone else. The more gadgets and gizmos there are in wine shops and wine catalogs, the more ways there are for hard-core fans to separate themselves from fringe fans.

So we all have corkscrews now. I bet there was a time when you didn’t. Some of us have a plain old headwaiter’s corkscrew, a “Rabbit” knock-off, and an “Ah-So” for good measure.

I admit I have a corkscrew on my pocket knife, but it’s not because I drink at the drop of a hat. It’s because the Victorinox “Climber” model has a really a tight screw, much narrower than conventional corkscrews. This has saved my butt on some incredible old bottles, whose corks were crumbling while eager crowds awaited their sip of some majestic old elixir.

The only other wine gadget that ranks with my pocket knife, at least so far (remember I haven’t tried the magic magnets yet), is the simple vacuum pump that pulls air out through a one-way plastic plug that you put into the wine bottle you haven’t finished. No air left in the bottle, no oxidization. Only one moving part, lightweight, and cheap. No kitchen is complete without it.

So if you want to know where you stand relative to the rest of the population, count your wine gadgets. If you have more than five, you’re serious. If you have more than ten, you’re out there. If you’re in the low single digits, don’t feel bad: the entire wine business loves you and depends on you.

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