Category Archives: Barware

Review: Ravi, the Instant Wine Chiller

Let’s say you grab a bottle of wine and it’s too warm. What do you do?

If you’re like most people, you probably just open it and drink it anyway. Secondary options typically run to sticking it in the freezer for a few minutes, or using a wine-chilling gadget (like one of these) to bring the temperature down before your patience runs out.

Ravi is a new solution. It’s a gadget that you keep in the freezer, then break out and attach to the top of the bottle you just opened. The video below explains how it works better than words do (the instruction manual is particularly hard to follow), but it’s really quite simple in the end. Put the three pieces together (only one is frozen), and stick it on top of the wine bottle. Tip it over and the wine goes through the frozen sleeve and into your glass. It’s cellar temperature, or close enough, when it hits your goblet.

If it’s too warm (as with a white), just hold your thumb over the air intake valve and the wine comes out more slowly (and thus colder). It’s more art than science, but it beats filling ice buckets and, more importantly, sitting around and waiting all night.

That said, Ravi isn’t without some complications. It’s bulky and makes handling your wine bottle awkward at best; I kept worrying I would drop it and break my glass, spilling the wine everywhere. It’s a little messy, and cleanup takes quite some time, requiring you use a special device to shoot air through the Ravi to dry it out before you put it back in the freezer.

Still, it’s a great way to quickly bring wine down to the proper temperature (most red wine is served far too warm), and while I may not break it out every time I want a glass of Burgundy, it’ll definitely become another handy tool in my oenophile arsenal.

B+ / $50 /

Winebloggin': The Final Chapter

At long last, the final piece of the Winebloggin’ puzzle is in place. My Winepod is drained, my barrel emptied, and my 2007 Cabernet is in bottles… and to my great surprise, getting rave reviews.

Read the final chapter of the epic saga here!

Or catch up on the complete tale from the beginning: Parts 123456.


Review: Vinturi Wine Aerator

Every wine enthusiast ends up with drawers full of gadgets designed to enhance the flavor of wine, but a good old decanter is perhaps the best way to take both a tannic young wine or a musty old one and bring out the most pleasant characters of each without a lot of sitting around and waiting.

Vinturi attempts to go one better: This small, kazoo-sized/shaped device is designed to decant without the decanter. Just hold the Vinturi over your glass and pour the wine into the top. Holes on the side suck in air as it goes through, aerating the wine with a loud sucking sound and spitting your aerated wine out the bottom.

Nifty idea, and in my tests it worked fairly well: While fruity, young wines experienced no changes through the Vinturi (as you’d expect), some ancient cabs saw improvement by merely pouring them through the Vinturi, bringing out more fruit and floral notes and suppressing some older wines’ off flavors caused by spending too long in the bottle. In a nutshell, it’s just like a decanter and works about the same.

There are a few advantages with Vinturi over a decanter: Cleanup is far easier, and you can decant as you go. With most decanters, once you pour it in, you’re sunk. Pouring unfinished wine back into the bottle is tough if you don’t finish it off in one night, and simply stoppering up the decanter won’t save them to survive until the morrow.

On the downside, the Vinturi is loud, messy, and plastic. This isn’t something you’ll want on your elegant, white linen dining table, and even Vinturi notes that wine can shoot out the holes designed to bring air in. In fact, I never managed to pour wine into the Vinturi without some spilling out those holes. The sucking sound is also the slightest bit obscene, so warn your company in advance.

Overall, this is a great little gadget that’s perfect for when you don’t want to bother with the hassle and mess of getting out the crystal decanter.

B+ / $40 / [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Parasia Digital Wine Thermometer with LED Light

Many wine bottles and reference guides helpfully offer an “optimum” temperature at which a wine should be served. Sticking the wine in an ice bucket is easy. Actually measuring the temperature it’s at is the hard part.

Parasia’s Digital Wine Thermometer looks a lot like an oversized pen. Uncap it and dip the probe in your wine. A digital display quickly indicates the temperature, to the nearest tenth of a degree. On the other end, you get a bright LED flashlight, good for all manner of drinking concerns, including aid in decanting your bottle of vino.

The thermometer works well, but it’s flawed in that it can’t easily be used with wine that’s still in the bottle. The size and shape make it better for wine that’s already in the glass… but by then it’s already too late to be chilled further. I’ve long since used an Aube thermometer that’s got a rubber stopper on it that lets it fit right into the wine bottle itself (it also has settings for a variety of wine styles, and an alarm that chimes when the wine has hit the correct temperature), and I still prefer the Aube to the Parasia. On the other hand, the Parasia is more portable and elegantly designed, and the flashlight is a nifty touch.

Official pricing isn’t available, but I’d expect it to run $20 or less (about the same as the Aube).

B+ /

Winebloggin’ Episode 2

The winemaking process continues over at Wired

Winebloggin’ at Wired

In the world of wine gadgets, there are fancy thermometers, cool glasses, and high-end corkscrews. And then there is WinePod, which lets you make your own wine, 48 bottles at a time, from frozen grapes, year-round.

I installed a WinePod in my house last week, and my first 150 pounds of grapes go into it tomorrow afternoon.

This is too much for Drinkhacker alone, so Wired is letting me write about the experience on their hallowed website. Blog #1 is now live. Follow the adventure by clicking on over!

Wired: Winebloggin’ Episode 1

Q: What Do You Do With 900 Tons of Broken Booze Bottles?

A: Landscape.

Broken glass, 900 tons of broken bottles, is the key ingredient for the project alongside the interstate.

“On the surface it may seem like a kooky idea,” said Caltrans spokesman Mark Dinger. “We’re putting it in an elevated area where pedestrians are not allowed.”

The new landscaping is carrying on the new color scheme through the I-5 corridor through downtown Sacramento. Over a clear glass base, backhoes are scooping a green and amber combination, topped off by a special layer of broken blue from Skyy Vodka bottles.

Intriguing… but broken glass makes me nervous no matter where it is.

Full story here.

Review: Spiegelau Beer Classics Glassware

Obviously most consumers don’t really give much thought toward presentation. I mean, if people cared how their drinks looked, the Solo Cup Company would be out of business.

Crystal maker Spiegelau bucks the trend with a collection of “Beer Classics” crystal glassware. Three new glasses are available, a lager glass, a stemmed pilsner glass, and a giant-sized wheat beer glass. The glasses are all authentic crystal, quite light, and easy to hold without slippage. It’s a big surprise when you’re used to thick, industrial-strength pint glasses. Design-wise, the glasses are all top notch and very eye-catching, especiall the pilsner glass (pictured below), with its elegant tulip shape and short but sturdy stem.

All the glasses are dishwasher safe, but fitting the 9 1/3-inch wheat beer glass into my dishwasher was a real challenge.

At about the cost of a good 12-pack, these glasses aren’t going to be on everyone’s shelf, but you should definitely pick up at least one tube (they’re sold in pairs in cylindrical cardboard tubes) for those times when you bring home something special and sipping it straight from the bottle just won’t do.

A / $30 (set of two) /

Cool Tool: Bass Black & Tan Brolly

brollyThe good folks at Bass have designed one of the neatest pieces of barware I’ve seen since the muddler became a hit: Called the brolly (British slang for an umbrella), it’s a little gizmo designed specifically for making Black & Tans. (Black & Tan is pint glass half full of pale ale (typically Bass), with stout (typically Guinness) filling up the rest. The trick is keeping the two separate in the glass.)

Making a B&T at home usually means trying to dribble Guinness down onto a spoon so it slowly floats on the Bass, something which is nearly impossible to do unless you make these every day for a living.

Enter the brolly, a triangular wedge that attaches to the top of your pint glass. Just pour in the Bass, building up a nice head, then put the brolly on and pour the stout into it. Tiny holes on the sides ensure the stout is delivered to the top of the ale slowly enough to make it float perfectly. Even though my Guinness can was extra foamy, my results were dead-on perfect the first time out. (It’s tough to see in the photo below, which I realize looks like there’s far too much black and not enough tan, but the layer separation was exceptional in real life.)

Want one? If you live in California, send Bass a check for one dollar to the address on this page. Offer runs until April 30. If you ever plan to make even one Black & Tan in your life, this is a tool you definitely need in your bar. (Sorry folks, the box you see above is just a promo. You only get the brolly tool, which is pictured on top of it.)

black and tan

Introducing the Silhouette Wine Glass

I don’t anticipate I’ll be evaluating a whole lot of stemware on this blog, but I thought the Silhouette was just too interesting to pass up and I had to write about it.

Check out the picture below and you’ll immediately see what I mean: The Silhouette is a standard, large-sized wine glass (like a big Cabernet glass) with a scoop taken out of one side of the top. It looks strange, but listen: The idea is that it makes for a better “seal” around your nose when you inhale the fragrance of a wine. You place the scoop part around your mouth (the site shows it going under your nose but it worked better for me under the mouth entirely, but over the chin), forming a more complete enclosure so the wine’s vapors can’t escape. You thus get a fuller, more complete sense of the wine than you do with a regular glass, in theory at least.

I tried the Silhouette vs. a standard wine glass and the experience was interesting and unexpected. I hadn’t really thought of it before, but smelling wine in the regular glass was awkward, while the Silhouette felt quite natural. Side by side, I got a sense of the wine more quickly with the Silhouette than with the regular glass, though eventually I found they both provided the same aroma and bouquet. The Silhouette’s was just a bit stronger and faster to materialize. You can also read all about the company’s opinion of how it can best be used here.

The Silhouette has its challenges: It’s difficult to clean because you can’t set it upside down to dry, and it takes some explaining to people who see it and assume it’s a broken glass. (I worry the maid might try to throw it out someday…) Though it’s 24% leaded crystal, the glass is quite thick, too. That probably aids with sturdiness: At $54 each, you aren’t going to want to replace your Silhouette often. (That’s about on par with the most expensive Riedel glassware.)

This glass could make for a great gift for the wine enthusiast in your life, and it’s certainly a conversation piece. You may only want to invest in one or two for now… and be prepared to start explaining when he opens it as a Christmas gift.

$54 /

silhouette wine glass