Wine & Beer Gadget Roundup

Lately we’ve received a whole bunch of “stocking stuffer” sized gadgets suitable for wine and beer fanatics. Rather than review them individually, we’re rounding them up here in a mega-gizmo post. Thoughts follow.

bottleopener01Hermetus Bottle Opener & Resealer – Sometimes you don’t want to drink that entire half-liter of beer, but if you’ve pried off the crown cap, what do you do next? The Hermetus is several gadgets in one, but the most noteworthy is that it reseals beer bottles. Just slide the lip of the bottle through the aluminum groove as far as you can: The groove pushes it against a rubber pad and seals it tight. Turn it upside down, shake it up, no worries — the beer won’t come out. It works on both U.S. and Euro bottles, and it includes a standard opener as well as a claw-like opener designed to help with stubborn twist-offs, too. Instructions engraved on the reverse remind you of all of this in case you’ve had too much. A / $9 kaufmann-mercantile.com

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Etch Your Own Flask… And Win One!

drinkhacker collapsible cupHip flasks are a dime a dozen these days — but one you get to engrave yourself, with your favorite logo, initials, a picture of your kids, or whatnot, now that’s worth checking out.

PersonalizedFlask.net may be a rather obvious name, but it’s a website that makes, well, personalized flasks. They are stainless steel items, engraved by laser with the design of your choice. Pick off the rack initials or go crazy and upload your own images. The company sent me some credits to try it out, and I did.

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Experiment: Ice vs. Whiskey Stones vs. Tilt Chilling Sphere

ice stones and spheres oh myThe drinking industry’s war on ice is in full force. Fearful that ice will water down their precious booze, entrepreneurs are suggesting alternative chilling systems to bring the temperature of their hooch down.

But do they work? Ice is effective at chilling a drink because it melts, releasing near-frozen water into your dram. Can alternative technologies do the job, too? There are whiskey stones (soapstone cubes), or the new Tilt Chilling Sphere, a metal spheroid that you fish out of your drink with an included hook, which doubles as a cocktail pick. How effective can these non-melting chilling systems be?

We did the science, folks!

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Review: Soiree Bottle-top Wine Decanter & Aerator

soireeWe’ve covered wine aerators in the past and are generally bullish on their utility. The problem, of course, is bulk. Where do you keep this thing? And what do you do about all the wine dripping off of it when it’s not hovering over a glass.

Enter Soiree: A wine aerator that attaches to the top of a wine bottle and aerates as you pour.

Great idea, but the execution doesn’t quite work. The main problem is that, to get your aeration going, you have to turn the bottle of wine virtually upside down. This takes a massive leap of faith that the Soiree is not going to fall out of the bottle’s neck… and even more confidence that you can successfully turn a full bottle of wine over 180 degrees and manage to get that wine to land on target in the glass. This is tough. Turning the bottle back over when you’re done, without spilling, is even tougher. Continue reading

New Glassware: Bormioli Rocco Tre Sensi Wine Tasting Glass

Does the world need a new wine glass? In the world of tastings — where glasses are typically too small — maybe they do.

Italian design firm Bormioli Rocco just launched the Tre Sensi, a wine glass designed to enhance the tasting experience. At first glance it looks like any other smallish glass. Further analysis reveals a deep whirlpool-like indentation in the center. This helps with swirling and aerating the wine.

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Review and Giveaway: SKIL iXO Vivo Wine Bottle Opener

skil ixo vivo kitI’m not one to swoon over the romance of drinking wine, but even I find that de-corking your bottles with a power drill is a little nutty.

SKIL, unhappy to dominate the world of DIY construction and IKEA desk-building projects, is entering the wine world in the only way it knows how, by offering a tiny power drill with a corkscrew attachment.

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Wine Gadget Review: Air Cork

Drinking newly opened wine: Fun. Drinking three-day-old wine: Less fun.

Myriad tricks to preserve opened bottles of wine exist, ranging from vacuum pumps to nitrogen gas sprays to using smaller bottles to store leftovers. All are designed with a single goal: To get oxygen out and keep it out.

In my (exhaustive) experience, the best I’ve found so far is the pump system. It’s easy, reusable, quick, and it works fairly well. The pump may have to move aside now. In my testing, Air Cork seems to work somewhat better.

The gadget is a little strange-looking, to be sure. A hand pump (shaped like a cluster of grapes) is attached to a rubber balloon via a hose. You put the (deflated) balloon into your half-empty bottle of wine, just touching the surface of the liquid, then pump it up. A seal is formed with the glass as the balloon fills, so no air can get in or out.

Some nice advantages with this approach: Unlike witth a hand-pump vacuum, there really is no air left in the bottle once the balloon is in place. Pumps leave air behind, there’s just no way to get it all out. Another nice benefit: the hose hangs out of the bottle and doesn’t add any height it. Vacuum pump systems require a stopper which adds another inch to the bottle — which usually means it won’t fit in your refrigerator standing up.

Some problems with the Air Cork: It has to be given another pump every couple of days, as the balloon will slowly deflate over time. It also has to be cleaned (just with water) after each use, unlike the pump system. And of course the contraption does look a little silly. (And like all preservation systems, it is not suitable for sparkling wines.)

But it works, and it works well. I tasted opened wines that had been sealed with the Air Cork for one, two, and three days and could barely detect any oxidation in any of the samples.

I’m sold, and I’ll keep using Air Cork (probably continuing to test it in conjunction with pump systems, with an eye toward even longer-term storage) in the future.

UPDATE: Additional testing with the product has been less effective. Further reporting to come in Wired.

A- / $24 / aircork.com

Review: Vinturi Spirit Aerator

Recently I wrote in The Daily about how air is the friend of wine, but that aeration can help your spirits, too. I’ve noted in many reviews myself that spirits — especially tequila — can improve if you let them sit in the glass for an hour or two. There are plenty of gadgets out there that can give you a shortcut to decanting or otherwise aerating a wine, but spirits haven’t received the same focus.

Until now, thanks to Vinturi, whose wine aerators are well regarded (even by me). Vinturi recently released a Spirit Aerator, and the operation is pretty much what you expect: Booze goes in the top, air gets sucked in through the sides, and the whiskey or whatnot is deposited into your glass. The only difference with this iteration of the aerator idea is a magnetic locking system that lets you pour the spirit, have it held in the upper basin, then release it into the glass only when you push the button. There are also measurement lines in the upper basin so you can use the Vinturi Spirit as a makeshift jigger.

Vinturi sent me one of these and I tried it out for myself. I used a pretty tough and burly whiskey — Woodford Reserve Double Oaked — that I figured would benefit from a little air in it. I compared it to the same whiskey poured straight from the bottle, using the same pour amount and an identical glass.

Sampling them blind, there were clear differences between the two whiskeys, starting right with the nose: One had a heavy alcoholic burn — lots of vapor in the glass — and the other had more of what you’re looking for in a Bourbon: wood, fruit, vanilla. The effect was slightly less pronounced on the body, though the latter whiskey tasted milder, with more fruit (cherry and apple) components to it. Clear victory to Vinturi — unless you really like boozy alcohol characteristics.

Two things worth noting by way of caveat, though. First: If you have a Vinturi wine aerator, you can get the same effect by using it without buying a separate gadget (you just miss out on the release button). Second: The effect fades over time as non-aerated spirits open up naturally. Still, this device offers a very handy and effective shortcut at bringing out the best in any spirit.

A- / $34 / [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Parlage Perlini Carbonated Cocktail System

I have to confess, this device has been sitting in Drinkhacker HQ for close to a year now. It is, simply, a system for carbonating cocktails, sans seltzer. Now I love cocktails, and I love gadgets, so why have I feared this thing? For one reason, really: I’m reluctant to drink anything if I have to watch a video to figure out how to use it.

In the end, the Perlini Carbonated Cocktail System is not as complicated as it looks. Packaged in a metal attache case, there are dozens of components inside, and the presentation is decidedly off-putting. But that video (and this one, though it’s in French) does clear everything up nicely.

At its heart, the Perlini is a cocktail shaker. You load it with ice and ingredients, then seal it shut. There’s a valve at the top to which you attach a CO2 dispenser — those little metal canisters — and pressurize the contents of the shaker. Shake it up, then let it rest for 15 seconds. Release the valve, and you’re ready to pour — the top has a built-in strainer. A CO2 cartridge seems to last for quite a while, though I’m not sure exactly how long since I’ve yet to empty the first one. 10 cartridges come with the kit.

There are numerous ways to add sparkle to a cocktail — from simply adding club soda to using an iSi canister. At $199, the Perlini system is pretty much the most expensive way I know, but it also lends itself to cocktails better than most thanks to its design. I tried it with numerous recipes and was impressed by the results. It was also easy to use once I got the hang of it. The only catch: It’s not dishwasher-safe.

Ultimately I’m not sure I’d spend this kind of cash on a carbonator when I could have a couple of bottles of my favorite whiskeys for the same price, but as wild barware novelties go, Perlini is pretty much untouchable.

B+ / $199 / perlini.biz

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LG’s “Blast Chiller” Refrigerator Ices Down Your Beer in 5 Minutes

Waiting for a drink to get cold enough in the fridge or freezer is one of life’s biggest frustrations. The scientists at LG have turned to science to solve the problem. I saw this in operation today at CES. It’s so crazy… it just might work.

Enter the Blast Chiller – a new feature in LG Electronics Inc.’s premium refrigerators available later this year – which promises to turn that room-temperature 12-ounce can brew (or soda) frosty in five minutes. Want to chill a bottle of wine? Eight minutes. It’s the same amount of time to cool two cans at the same time.

LG said the new technology blasts the cans with icy-cold air gusts with the power of a jet engine. (This is not a joke.) In order to ensure that ice crystals don’t form, the system gently swirls the cans while the cold air blows.