Wine Gimmicks – The good, the bad, and the downright useless

Wine is a bit like golf.  On the surface they both appear to be quite simple, they both have many gimmicks designed to enhance your experience, and at the high end they are enjoyed only by those very skilled or those with a lot of money.  For the purposes of today’s post I am going to focus on the second point of comparison.  Wine gimmicks and paraphernalia.  What’s good? What’s bad? And what is just downright useless?

I am a big golfer.  I am passionate about the game and though my interest has wavered slightly in recent years (a direct correlation to the time I can commit to the sport) I still love the game.  But I am not as into it as some people. These folks will head to golf town every weekend to browse and window shop.  The are eager to see the technology behind the latest driver or putter, and what golf ball Tiger Woods is using.  These are the golf obsessed.  The same people who will get sucked into buying golf gimmicks like those shown below.

Glove Keeper – $3.49







Cigar Minder – $13.99







Mesh Beverage Holder – $14.99







Alignment Sticks – $34.99







Now golf is probably the worst example for gimmicks that I can think of, but wine isn’t without it’s share too. Sure the right decanter can enhance the right bottle of wine.  Sure everyone is going to have there preference of one corkscrew versus another.  And yes the right glass, perfectly paired with the right wine will enhance the aromatics and the appreciation among the most knowledgeable drinker.  But within the framework of wine there are definitely gimmicks to watch out for.

Not all decanters are created equal.  In fact this is one area where the wine industry has banked with fancy designs and beautifully crafted pieces in recent years.  A decanter has but one purpose, to allow the right wine to breath.  This means exposing the wine to oxygen for a period of time to bring out more subtle flavours, soften tannins, and enhance the drinking experience.  To properly expose a wine to oxygen requires the maximum surface area of the wine to receive oxygen contact. Therefore a true decanter allows air to come in, then exposes a large surface area of wine to that air.
Like this: 

Unlike these examples: 

Now if you’re buying a decanter as a vase, a piece of art, or to impress your friends the above might make a ton of sense. Don’t get me wrong they are beautiful. But from a true functionality standpoint they border on useless.

Oh you know those things that look like miniature versions of a certain piece of smoking paraphernalia.   So apparently science has proven that all you need to do is put this little contraption in the top of a wine bottle, then as the wine comes through it oxidizes itself enough to effectively eliminate the decanter.  Call me a purist but I’m not sold. I have tried it of course, and I admit that taste wise it may work.  But drinking wine is an experience, so what’s the rush? If you open a bottle of wine worthy enough of proper decanting, then leave yourself enough time and use a proper decanter.  Plus the decanter itself makes it appear like you really know what you’re doing.

This is a tough one because you can now technically buy glasses for just about every major type of wine out there.  They have different glasses for Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, sparkling wine, dessert wine, and just about everything in between.  I get it, every wine has its own unique characteristics and this glassware is specially designed to promote those characteristics in both aroma and flavour.  Plus it looks cool to serve a Riesling in a Riesling glass because how many people do that? But here is my issue.  How many people would you normally host for? At least 6? Maybe 8? There is no way you need to buy (8X7) 56 different glasses nor should you have enough space to store them all. Verdict? Buy a really nice set of red wine glasses (big wide glass, big bowl) and a really nice set of white wine glasses (smaller and narrower through the top) and that should be sufficient.  Then I would add a special set of glasses should you have a wine that you love and drink constantly.  This could be sparkling, dessert wine, or any of the other choices.  This we you still have the luxury of serving your “go to” wine in its own special glass.

This one is simple. Use whatever you prefer and allows you to open a bottle of wine seamlessly and without butchering the cork.  It could be any of the many versions available, whatever you want and you’re comfortable with.

Just for clarification, if you are the wine obsessed then go ahead and buy any of the above.  One thing is for sure, just like golf, if it is going to enhance your experience and your appreciation for wine, then I am all for it. Just don’t assume you always need the latest and greatest, because your old decanter and corkscrew may be the best ones out there.  I have a friend who is using golf irons from the 1980’s, and despite constant lobbying from his group of friends he refuses to upgrade them.  However when we set out on the links he can’t be beat. Good for him.

– Mark
Follow me on Twitter: @towineman


5 thoughts on “Wine Gimmicks – The good, the bad, and the downright useless

  1. Thought this was an interesting blog post because a whole retail industry has developed around selling all the trimmings to show off around wine from aprons to quippy little cocktail napkins. I would like to make a comment though with regard to the section on glasses. You are so right about how many glasses can we own to serve wine in. I don’t have the storage space for all these glasses and I pretty much do what you suggested. I have big, round, swirl it about glasses for red and more streamline, narrower glasses for white wines. I will say though that not all glass itself (not the glass style but rather the glass) are create equal. Glass to a certain extent is slightly porous so the quality can vary. This can affect how wine tastes.

    • Thanks for the comment Christine, glad you enjoyed the post. I chose to stick to the main topics here but you are right I could have launched into anything from cocktail napkins, to aprons, to travel bags. Perhaps I will touch on some of that in “Wine Gimmicks – Volume 2.” I agree with you on the “glass” comment however as you can buy terrible wine glasses and really good ones. But my point stands and is potentially more validated if you’re spending a lot of money on glasses. You likely only want good red, good white, and perhaps one other in your collection. But sure spend the money on quality glassware within that framework, it makes a huge difference.


  2. I absolutely agree with you about decanter and aerators. Glasses too. I know, there is a difference to taste. But when you entertaining, you can’t do it all. And first of all we have to enjoy wine.And it could be just set of nice glasses. Glass that it’s nice to hold, nice to drink from. It could be old fashioned, vintage glasses, which I like to use sometimes. Still, it’s more about wine, than the glass in the end.

    • Thanks for the comment I am very glad your enjoyed the post. I can’t stress enough how much I agree with your comment. It’s the wine that matters. That’s exactly what I was driving at in my comment about aerators. Why not take the time to properly decant a good quality wine? What’s the rush? Wine is an experience and meant to be enjoyed.

      Appreciate the feedback.


  3. Nice article Mark and I agree with you: pertaining to the decanter section, I love glass items – especially ones that have multiple functions. Decanter #1 – we all have those -> stylish, useful, etc., Decanter #2 – would love to have one, but can imagine that it would probably last just the one night.

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