I suggest a group resolution: Let’s declare 2015 the year of great drinking. We want our reds to be more elegant, our whites more nuanced, our sparkling that much more alive. But a good wine life doesn’t just come down to the wet stuff. It also means upping the game on the accouterments: the glassware, the corkscrew, the wine sack. And, so, here are three items for a banner year around the bottle.
VIGO Wine Carrier
I have a favorite new party trick: I bag a bottle of goodly priced wine—my current victim is a Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, tagged at about $300—and hurl it across the room, where it lands with a thud on the floor. Shocking? Yes. But not for the gesture; for the result. Notice I wrote “thud,” not “glass-shattering, carpet-staining crash.” Because the bag isn’t just any bag; it’s VIGO.
A handled sack with a top snap and a shock-absorbing raised-grid pattern on its sides, VIGO is made from a unique material called PoronXRD. A rate-dependent urethane foam that goes from pliable to rigid instantaneously on impact, PoronXRD is the same stuff that some of the best sporting equipment is made of. In other words, it’s tough. It protects your $3,500 bottle of Domaine Dugat-Py Gevrey-Chambertin from a fall in the same way it does a quarterback during a nasty sack.
VIGO’s manufacturers also claim that it helps wine retain its serving temperature better than the standard Neoprene bag. And unlike other wine carriers, VIGO floats, so you can scoop your precious bottle from the bay if one of your yacht mates goes all butter fingers on it.
I’m not crazy about the colors it comes in: black, neon yellow, hot pink. But I’ll give it a pass on the aesthetics. VIGO might be ugly, but it’s truly death-defying. It’s every other wine carrier’s stunt double.
Not that you’d want to just chuck a sediment-laden old Burgundy down your marble stairs in a VIGO bag, but if, per chance, it slipped, just give the wine time to settle, and it should be just fine.
Let’s consider that old Burgundy again. After 40 years in the cellar, the cork on it has grown friable. A regular corkscrew will probably break it, leaving crumbs in the wine. That two-pronged Ah-So job, or the needle-nosed Rabbit, risk pushing the whole darned thing back into the bottle. So how to remove the cork gracefully?
Enter The Durand. The brainchild of Atlanta wine collector Mark Taylor, who named the handsome thing after his mentor, the retired sommelier Yves Durand, this cork remover is a two-fer. Made of steel with a matte gold finish, it combines the sturdy helix of a traditional corkscrew with the girdling prongs of a puller, so that the fragile, tired cork comes clear of the bottle all at once, even if it’s cracked.
In its sexy cork-and-magnet case, the prongs of The Durand’s puller half fit snuggly around its partner corkscrew. To use it, you pull the two halves apart, and screw the helix part into the cork until the t-bar at its top touches. Then you take the puller and rock its prongs back and forth, nestling them down into the bottle on either side of the cork. With the puller’s handle perpendicular to the top of the corkscrew, you twist and pull the two pieces at once, holding the bottle securely and coaxing the aged cork—easy does it!—from its neck.
Voilà! The cork might be a broken, battered thing, but that old Burgundy? With no bits and pieces of its former enclosure to mar the decanting and sipping of it, it’s just wonderful.
Zalto Denk’Art Universal Wine Glass
Right now, as I type this, I am enjoying a glass of Phifer Pavitt “Date Night” Cabernet Sauvignon 2011. This latest release is dark and brambly, with a nose of black plums and savory herbs and flavors of cocoa, blackberry and a persistent and glamorous tobacco—like Marlene Dietrich’s cigarette holder. It’s delicious—all the more so because I am sipping it from the Zalto Denk’Art Universal glass.
Hand-blown in Wachau in northeastern Austria, where the fine glass tradition dates back 700 years, Zalto Denk’Art wine glasses are both razor-thin and immensely resilient. They’re lead-free and dishwasher-friendly; they won’t cloud after washings, and as light as they are, they’re not prone to breakage, even in my bull-in-a-china-shop hands.
But the best thing about them is their angularity. More trapezoid than parabola, the bowls of the Zalto Denk’Art glasses are pitched to 24, 48 or 72 degrees, the same tilt angles of the Earth on its axis. Apparently, the ancient Romans took their cues, too, from Mother Earth when building their amphorae, finding that fruits and vegetables stayed fresher and more flavorful longer when kept in vessels shaped with these same angles.
Though Zalto makes the Denk’Art in nine different styles, from a slender digestif flute to the Bordeaux goblet that a stickler might have insisted I use for my cabernet, I prefer the shape called “Universal.” Made for full-flavored wines like Austrian Riesling, this 9 ¼-inch stretch of glass works just fine for every grape. The shape of the bowl allows for a whirlpool swirling of wine at its bottom, without fear of splashes or spills. The high, close walls concentrate aromas and keep them snug to your nose. You can stick your schnoz right in there and breathe in the bouquet. And the feather-light glass shows off the contrasting weight and viscosity of the wine.
Plus, with its long, reed-like stem and wide base, the glass is so balanced, it’s just darned pretty to look at. Here’s hoping it can survive my clutzy ways for awhile.
$354 for a set of 6; winemonger.com.