If you’re doing last minute Christmas shopping for a wine lover, here are some affordable ideas that will make their lives a little easier when it comes to wine. In case you’re not convinced, I’ve included my own personal anecdotes as to why these things are not only great, but necessary for any serious(ly clumsy) wine drinker.
1. Pulltap’s Professional Waiter’s Corkscrew, World Market, $9.99; or Pulltex Waiter’s Corkscrew, Crate and Barrel, $9.95.
If you watch any waiter in any restaurant, they’re probably using the same corkscrew. And not just the generic type; they’re using one of these two models. It’s got a foil cutter, a double-hinged lever for those difficult corks, and it’s so durable that it will last your wino friend through the next 80 years. But make sure to get the real thing — a cheap knockoff will fall apart at an inopportune moment and cause grief, like so:
Once upon a time, I had a really, really crappy corkscrew. One night, while trying to open a particularly difficult bottle of wine, the corkscrew completely fell apart. In my desperation to get this bottle of wine open, I started cutting at the cork with a pair of scissors, hoping to wear enough of the cork away to pull it out. After five minutes of careful snipping and wedging to no avail, my frustration took over, and I stabbed the scissors into the cork. The cork flew into the wine bottle with such force that wine splashed up onto my ceiling. I spent the rest of the night picking cork out of my wine and wondering how I was going to take care of the red splotch staring down at me. This wouldn’t have happened if I’d had a good corkscrew.
Side note: If you ever have a crappy cork that falls apart in your wine, strain your wine through a pair of pantyhose.
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2. Foil Cutter, Vacu Vin at Crate and Barrel, $5.95; EDGY at Amazon, $9.97; Rabbit at World Market, $4.19.
Yes, yes, I know. I just told you to get the corkscrew with the foil cutter. Except some of us are really bad with those swing-out knife things, and this makes quick work of an otherwise laborious and stressful task. Up until I had one of these, I’d just take a corkscrew, plunge it straight into the cork through the foil, and deal with the foil shedding everywhere, once again picking out things that don’t belong in my wine.
3. Wine Safeguard Reusable Bottle Protector, Amazon.com, 2-pack, $16.50, ships free.
These sealable, reusable, bubble wrap-lined bags will keep your friend’s wine safe as he or she hauls it from exotic locales in checked luggage. If the bottle does break, the wine stays contained and nobody’s expensive lingerie gets ruined. Before I had these things, I was wrapping my wine in every pair of dirty underwear and socks I could scrounge up. While nothing bad ever happened to my wine, Observer writer Brian Reinhart’s parents were on a plane where a couple’s wine broke in their luggage. The flight was delayed while the couple was questioned; the baggage handler thought the wine was blood. Friends don’t let friends get interrogated on an airplane because someone thinks there’s a dead body in their luggage. Give some bottle protectors.
4. Vacu Vin Wine Saver,
Bed Bath and Beyond, $9.99.
This cool contraption allows you to stop up your wine and suck the air out of the bottle, keeping your half-drunk bottle of wine palatable. When air hits wine, it oxidizes it, and the longer wine is exposed to air, the more the wine degrades. With a fancy stopper like this, wine will last a week or more. Without one, you run the risk of your wine going bad fast, like that time I thought a bottle of Beaujolais would keep for two days. Nope. I poured it into a glass, took a healthy swig, and promptly spat it out like a Roman fountain.
5. Gonzo WineOut Stain Remover, 14 oz., Bed Bath and Beyond, $6.99.
This stuff is magical. It lifts freshly spilled wine out of just about everything. Do I even need to explain why this is necessary?