The glass is wine’s main fruition tool. First, for what its purpose is, it has to accomplish a basic technical duty: it has to enhance all sensorial virtues of the wine inside it while at the meantime adding aesthetic beauty to the table where it stays on. Concerning a glass’s technical functionality, its dimension and the material it is made of represent its determining parameters. It is very significant how the same wine could offer different sensorial perceptions according to the shape and the size of the glasses. This is the reason why producers develop and sell many differently priced and valued lines of glasses whose characteristics are studied and realized for such a specific purpose, as it is to magnify the sensations the sensations that each kind of wine can offer. The difference is not only in how the liquid settles and moves inside the glass, what more importantly changes is how close our nose will be allowed to get to such liquid and to the embracing crystal. There are certain glasses that are optimized for sparkling wines, they are called flute and they are slender, thin and long exactly for the purpose of exalting the visualization of their pearly bubbling updraft. Other glasses instead are meant to amplify all the fragrances that white wines propose, as certain others will magnify body and texture in reds or sweetness in meditation wines. Among the latest creations you’ll be able to find glasses that are specifically designed for the enhancement of the fine analytic-sensorial feature of certain particular wines (for example Chiantis, Brunellos, Sagrantinos, etc) or certain particular vine varieties.
No matter the type, all wines can only be enhanced if poured in glasses whose bowls are wider than their openings: otherwise aromas and flavours will not be eased to inhalation, dissolving away in the air. Ideal glasses for great wines are those whose crystal is completely transparent, uncoloured and unworked, with no writing on it in order to grant total and straight visibility to their content’s chromatic virtues. The stem’s length, thus its good hold, it is another matter of great significance; a stem shall offer optimal balance in order to avoid contact’s warming effect and any eventual hand’s disturbing perfume.
There are also glasses especially projected to functionally contain every kind of wine, glasses that are able to enhance all wines’ aromas and tastes. Then there is a certain glass, realized in 1971 for a certain specific purpose, it is the ISO glass for wine’s professional tasting. This is the only glass that I systematically use for all my tastings. Specific international committees of experts have individuated and fixed the precise shape and the measure of the very perfect tasting glass: its morphology makes it apt for any wine’s methodical tasting. It must be colourless, absolutely smooth and unworked, thin and 155 mm high; tulip shaped, it must have a bowl (65mm) larger than its opening (46mm). These standard shape and measures are the best in keeping perfumes from vanishing, galvanizing their way to the nose, also facilitating at the meantime the oxygenation of the right amount of liquid; its height is 100mm, its stem (55 mm tall and 99 mm thick) allows to handle it without becoming the cause for any temperature mutation or for any aromatic influence; such ISO glass has a total capacity of 215 ml circa.
No matter how its shape is like, a glass must be filled up to 1/3 of its capacity (2/3 for sparkling wine’s glasses only) in order to facilitate the best aeration and volatilization possible to all wine’s aromatic compounds through some repeated rotations of the liquid inside the crystal. For the reasons that I started this paragraph with, thus that the very same wine can differ depending on the glass used to drink it, whenever one intend to set up a certain compared technical tasting it shall be considered fundamental to use identical glasses, possibly ISO glasses, for all different wines.
The possible materials glasses can be made of are crystal, crystalline and glass, ordered as they are for their lead content, thus for their value, thus for their price (crystal contains 24% of lead, glass instead reaches the 9%). Such material has consequences on the technical quality of the glass for it is what determines the width’s finesse of what our lips touch while we drink (the thinner, the better), the weight, thus the manoeuvrability of the glass and its transparency (crystal is the most transparent).
Then, regarding the aesthetic value of the glass, it depends on parameters such as its shape, the proportion of its design, the quality of the material it is made of, the production methods. Some glasses are realized on such harmonious and sumptuous designs that they appear magnificent to our eyes, crystal cathedrals whose purpose is the enhance and contain in their vitreous tulips the distillate of the very best and most corroborating grape’s berries worldwide produced. The quality of the raw material defines brightness, brilliance, glow and transparency of the glasses, virtues that can be summarized in such a single word as crystallinity. The production methods can vary depending on whether glasses are hand or machine made. Glass, crystalline or crystal, they can all be hand blown or automatically obtained using specific moulds. A mouth blown, hand worked glass is by far the most precious as the best one; it does not require any welding among its parts, usually it is ranked from first to third choice depending on its perfection and on the complete absence of any executive fault. Moulded glasses undoubtedly are less perfect in their execution, their dimension is standardized and they are way less expensive. Among today’s brands of technical glasses some certainly are worth a mention: the Austrian Riedel (initiator, innovator producer of magnificently beautiful glasses whose technical functionality is excellent), the German Spiegelau and Schott Schott Zwiesel, the Slovenian Rogaska. As for Italy, our excellence is represented by Rocco Bormioli’s Linea Premium and Zafferano’s glasses.
In order to take the cork out of the bottle it is first required to remove the plastic (once also leaded) foil that protects the bottle’s closure. Thanks to such foil, the closure is shielded from any mould infiltration on the upper side of the cork; besides the bottle turns out to be elegantly, chromatically dressed. Foil is both a functional feature and a communicative and aesthetic mark since the name of the wine producer and/or of the very wine is impressed on its surface. Precisely and rapidly removing the foil is possible in one of the following two ways: you can either use the little cutter that all classic corkscrews have or you can use a modern specifically designed foil cutter. These tools are made of plastic and their shape is designed to facilitate the grip and to allow the foil’s cut and removal in one only hand movement, with a neat, precise and quick result.
For no other wine optional as for corkscrews, the progress of knowledge and skills, as the spreading of wine’s consumption and its related enthusiasm meant such a significant abundance of new version created. Today’s availability of differently shaped and functioning corkscrews is almost infinitely varied: from pocketsize to mini, form plastic tools to carbon-fibre, silver or metal openers. The corkscrew is primarily a tool whose purpose is to grant a cork’s extraction with the lower effort possible, the higher functional practicality and the most complete respect of its physical integrity. The first requirement’s satisfaction comes with the optimization of single lever openers that allow the extraction with a unique continuous simple pressure to both right-handed and left-handed people. A second type of lever corkscrew is the pulling type: it works by being introduced inside the cork twisting its spiral, then its lever must be positioned parallel to the spiral over the neck of the bottle and finally it will be easy to pull out the cork.
The most modern openers have two levers, the second much longer one avoids any cracking of the glass eventually due to an over-pressured opening movement and it allows extracting the cork keeping your hands far from the bottle’s neck, so with no need to touch the glass surface through which wine will flow. In order to exalt the practicality of their functioning certain new openers have been developed taking advantage of the principle of the endless screw: turning the lever always toward the same side will make the screw get inside, then, automatically inverting the sense of its rotation, it will autonomously pull the cork out. Size, weight and encumbrance of such corkscrews are usually contained; they are easy to use and well manoeuvrable, capable of auto-centring the cork, they exist in a wide variety of shapes and colours. The cork’s physical integrity is assured by two factors: on one side, the screw’s Teflon coating eases the spiral’s penetration avoiding it from producing rubbing-due residuals, on the other side the penetration depth of each model’s spiral is calibrated so as not to pierce the bottom of the cap in contact with the wine.
Secondarily, the corkscrew is a tool entitled of a significant aesthetic and scenic value, it can add a lot to the table’s mise en place and to the global enjoyment given by such sensorial experience as, for example, a certain dinner. The process of choosing a specific corkscrew, once you have identified a certain typology, if its functionality is proven, besides the necessary economic considerations, it can be driven by purely aesthetic-scenic criteria.
Once the cork is removed, it shall be necessary to smell it in order to evaluate its integrity: wine’s perfume shall be perceived, fruit and cork sweetly drenched in fruit and wine. When such perceived smell is instead definitely corked, when it recalls mould or resin or varnish, when it results acute, falsified and tediously piercing, then it means that the wine you are about to drink will be corked. Once such operation is accomplished, you shall pour in your cup just a little amount of wine whose cork contamination you shall investigate with your nose. Among the best corkscrews available on the market you can find complete, innovative and excellent lines produced by both the French Screwpull and the Spanish Pulltex.
Pitchers and Decanters
Pitchers (or decanters) are containment tools that allow the practice of decanting. Wine, back in time, was usually bottled when still unstably composed. For this reason, during wine’s following ageing several compounds would precipitate to the bottom of the bottle. Pouring such a decomposed wine straight from its bottle to the glass would mix the precipitated substances together with the transparent liquid: chromatic and visual turbidity, among the other consequence, that would affect our wine’s total drinkability. So, here is the reason why decanting wine from bottle to pitcher might be useful, it is because such practice will facilitate the separations of all precipitated solids from the still crystalline and bright solution. Hence a mechanical utility and necessity, rather than a real enhancing benefit for our wine’s organoleptic features.
Now that bottled wine is substantially stable, decanting has little utility left, only facilitating some eventual micro-precipitations. As for wine’s aeration, other consequence of its decanting, it has been already noted how oxygen in reality has only a mild effect of enhancement on the product’s analytical and sensorial qualities; let me also underline once again how aeration, if excessively protracted, can do nothing better than provoking a certain oxidation-driven deterioration of wine’s aromas and flavours. The act of decanting wine nowadays does play a scenic-aesthetic role, while functionality is not as significant anymore.
The variety of existing decanters is infinite for shape, material and design. Some of them are definitely marvellous, they bright of a deep blakish-purple shade when great wines fill them up for all eyes’ delight. White wines instead are almost never decanted, whether it is because their being consumed young makes it very rare to find them turbid or because their milder colour will not be improved by putting them in any larger container. One thing is certain, few other accessories can decorate the table as decanters do, as they do illuminate, dress and embellish it in their lively, noble and mighty way. As we have seen it is for glasses, pitchers can be made of glass, crystalline or crystal, they can be mouth-blown and hand-worked or moulded. The best ones are made from the very same producers that also produce glasses.
The pursuit of better and more functional service techniques is having an increasing effect on the concept of decanting. All manufacturers of wine’s accessories are indeed offering alternative systems to the mere passive use of the decanter as a static aerator. These tools, still called decanters, they are realized with the intent of making the decanting process able to accentuate its opening and optimizing effect on wine’s aromatic profile. Here, among them, we can find those aerators through which wine will flow when poured from pitcher to glass; here there are certain pen-aerators meant to be left inside either glass or bottle for few minutes in order to do its job; here as well we can count those dispensing, oxygenating devices that are provided with a little hand-pump that has to be put on the bottle’s neck. The point of vulnerability that these devices all have is that they must not result in wine’s oxidation, but only its right, rapid and effective aromatic opening. Winners of this battle will be those who will invent and produce a decanting machine whose action will be more than only oxygen-related, devices that at the meantime will be able to precipitate wine-disrupting hydrogen-sulphide microparticles. These particles indeed define wine’s redox potential. Winner will be that decanting system able to analytically prove its efficacy in reaching the optimal modulation of wine’s redox potential, before and after its service.
Service temperature is certainly very significant in the act of tasting any wine: the very sensorial performance of each kind of wine indeed has its own best thermal value. It is not only important to have your wine at its optimal temperature when starting to pour it, what does matter as well is to keep that temperature stable during all the time needed. Here it comes the necessity for wine coolers, as these tools, varying for shape and material, are able to maintain wine’s temperature low once they are taken out of the refrigerator. It is possible to choose among several different coolers: hard ones made of steel, or made of plastic or acrylic as well, with or without extractable and changeable refrigerating elements. Some very functional coolers are also those so called ‘’Cool Bags’’ that are made of soft plastic or cloth and that are meant to be wrapped around the bottle. One other possibility is represented by the ice bucket that is actually even more efficient in lowering the temperature but whose downfall are the dripping and the eventual damaging of wine’s label.
When a meal is not enough to finish a whole bottle of wine, it is essential to protect the remaining wine from oxygen’s altering and degrading action. For this purpose, there is a multitude of stoppers either made of stainless steel or other materials, all of them able to ensure the bottle’s perfect closing, at the meantime dressing and embellishing such container. Certain stoppers have been created specifically for sparkling wines with the purpose of avoiding the dispersion of their gas from the bottle, thus able to maintain stable the bottle’s internal pressure. Some even more effective stopper in protecting wine from oxygen are those ones that function creating vacuum inside the bottle. These accessories are composed of an air-sucking pump and some small plastic stoppers specifically made to keep the vacuum created with such pump. All the air will be taken out of the bottle by placing the pump inside its neck and by pulling the lever up until the point of resistance; the specific stopper will then ensure such resulting absence of air, ensuring so a better and longer residual integrity to that wine’s aromas. There is as well an edition of such preserver that is specifically meant for sparkling wines: through the same kind of pump described before, but with different stoppers, it allows to insert air inside the bottle. In this way pressure can be kept high, preserving lively and flowing the perlage of such wines. Besides these pump-based wine preservers, there are others that function making wines inert: the vacuum left inside the open bottle is filled with nitrogen. While in the United States privates in their homes own these devices, here in Europe their use is mainly restricted to public places such as wineries or restaurants. In conclusion, when it is shielded with any kind of preserver from air’s oxidizing action, any sample’s aromatic-gustatory profile will be able to maintain high integrity until up to 3/5 days form the opening. When instead wine is unprotected, its fragrance will progressively vanish within the first 24 hours
Any wife or partner, any mother of a wine enthusiast she knows how valuable it can be an accessory whose ability is that to prevent any wine drop, especially if red, from staining her tablecloth. Well, several manufacturers have created certain discs made of odourless and colourless plastic, which, once rolled and inserted into the bottle’s neck, will work as pouring spouts proving to be able to systematically avoid any dripping (they can do it for the cutting effect that they produce on the fluid preventing any drop from forming). These drop savers are not only surprisingly functional, as they are also very practical and superiorly hygienic for they can be totally cleaned and renewed with just some water. One other solution is that of those stainless steel rings (or silver, or plastic ones) that you can put around your bottle’s neck. Some spongy cloth or other material lines their inner side absorbing all drops that pour out of the bottle. Such savers do dress and do embellish the bottles but surely they do not prevent the drop form forming making their cleaning harder and less hygienic.
Tools that are absolutely fundamental in the public exercises, just as they are useful also in case of wine's domestic enjoyment, they are those dispensers meant to be applied on the neck of the bottle so as to precisely determine the quantity of wine served with each individual pouring. Such amount of wine can vary among 2 and 10 decilitres. The lower quantity is recommended for spirits, while wine’s ideal portion should be comprehended between 7 and 10 decilitres.
Portable wine thermometers, both mercury and infrared ones, are other functional devices that can be used to verify wine’s temperature directly from the glass, while alcoholmeters can analogically read wine’s alcoholic content.
The producers of wine accessories also offer useful agendas specifically meant to track down your cellar’s content or to keep notes of your tastings.
Lastly, you might be able to find on the market certain samples of wine’s most recurring olfactory essences. To examine them could be useful for the purpose of practicing the sensorial individualization of those references and analogies to fruits, flowers or fragrances that wine can offer.
Among the most complete and finest brands that produce similar wine optionals, Schonhber’s Vinobar is definitely worth a mention.