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

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.

Two Crazy Drinking-Oriented Stocking Stuffers

We can’t really “review” these things, but both are cheap enough to make great stocking stuffers for the younger drinker (by which we mean the college kids) in the family. Grown-ups need not apply.

The ShaKoozie combines a beer koozie with the shower. Velcro lets you attach the koozie directly to the shower wall, so you never have to be without your Silver Bullet. It’s so crazy it just might work! $10

Power Hour Shot Glass USBAli Spagnola’s Power Hour Drinking Game Album is a shot glass and USB thumbdrive in one. The thumbdrive contains 60 drinking songs, all a minute long. The idea is you consume one shot — of beer — each minute, letting the music be your guide. After an hour you’ve downed five full beers and, presumably, you’ll have quite a story to tell. I’ve normally heard this done with 100 minutes and 100 oz. of beer — which sounds far, far crazier. $30

Review: Vinturi Travel Wine Aerator

Whoa. Someone just took a standard Vinturi Aerator and ran it over with a truck. This pint-sized version is just like the original… just slimmer.

The original Vinturi Wine Aerator is controversial enough: The idea is that you pour wine through this plastic tube, air gets sucked in, and the wine spits and dribbles out the bottom. It’s loud and a bit messy but it basically works: Tannic wines (or anything needing decanting for reasons other than heavy sediment) do benefit from a spin through the Vinturi. It’s a marginal improvement, but it’s an improvement nonetheless — and enough to merit giving a Vinturi as a gift to the wine nerd who has everything.

Now Vinturi has another idea up its sleeve. After a silly detour into white wine decanting (come on, people), the company has designed a Vinturi for travel use. That’s right, just slip it in your purse and boom, you can aerate away at The Olive Garden.

While the Vinturi Travel is basically just a shrunken version of the same product (though it looks like a resizing mistake, the photo below is accurate), it suffers from a few flaws that make it less purchase-worthy than the original. First, the size change leaves it with a tiny opening at the top. It’s tough to get a perfect pour into that opening without making a mess — though the Vinturi Travel is still plenty messy as it is.

It is also still quite loud, loud enough to turn heads from a table away as people wonder what the hell that slurping noise is. And yeah, that really is the rub: Is anyone really going to use this thing away from the comfort of their own home? Let me put it this way: The kind of wine you’d drink at an establishment where this would be acceptable wouldn’t be the kind of wine that needed aeration.

B / $36 / vinturi.com [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Sliz Cups

This is the first and likely the last review of a plastic cup to appear on Drinkhacker, for reasons that should already be obvious.

The idea behind the vessel is, in the company’s words: “Sliz cups are a new drinking product designed to eliminate the cringe between taking the shot and reaching for the chaser.”

In practice, the Sliz cup is a plastic martini glass with a straw attached via the stem. Here is how it is meant to be used: Booze goes in first, and a chaser goes in second. When you drink the concoction, you get all the booze first, via the straw, then the chaser immediately follows. The idea is that you get no delay between the two, making it easier to suck down that shot — as long as you don’t stop in the middle of your sip.

This is, as promised, an “easy” way to do shots, but it suffers from a couple of obvious flaws: The most obvious one is that there is simply no dignity in drinking this way. If you are over the age of 21 and are not in a sorority, there’s really no excuse for using a Sliz. It is, in essence, a beer bong for hard alcohol. Not exactly “discriminating,” no. (Plus I have no idea how you wash the thing.)

That said, it does seem to work as advertised: If you can’t handle the two-second delay between, say, downing a tequila shot and sucking on a lime, well, this is one way to put them together in one incredibly goofy package. Or, I guess you could just have a margarita.

$20 for three glasses / sliz.com

Review: Wine Wipes

Red wine stains teeth, there’s no way around it.

Wine Wipes are not a new idea, but they are a new implementation of that idea: Using many of the same ingredients in tooth-whitening formulas, Wine Wipes are little, circular, fabric pads infused with stain-scrubbing ingredients designed to get rid of those purple stains on your choppers.

The advantage of course is immediacy: A tiny pack of Wine Wipes in your pocket, purse, or glove compartment means the stain has less time to set, contrasted with the hours you may have to wait before you can get to a toothbrush. The tiny packet of 20 wipes even includes a built-in mirror so you can check your work.

Wine Wipes contain a whole bunch of active ingredients, including baking soda, salt, hydrogen peroxide, calcium, glycerin, and orange blossom. In use, you’ll taste the salt and the soda, though Wine Wipes are not unpleasant and can come across as quite refreshing — if a bit awkward should you attempt to use one in public.

And the results? Well, my teeth are prone to staining — whitening toothpastes don’t help — and Wine Wipes didn’t do much for me, either. I tried using one within minutes of sipping a number of wines at a tasting and noticed only the slightest improvement in tooth stainage. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I expect if whitening toothpastes work for you, Wine Wipes will too.

Great stocking stuffer for the wine drinker in the family.

$9 for a pack of 20 / winewipes.com [BUY THEM HERE]