Over 50 Gifts for Wine Lovers: The Ultimate gift guide

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September is coming to a close, and that means that we’re on the fast track to fall and winter festivity. So, in preparation for the 2019 holiday season, we’ve rounded up the best wine gifts for the wine connoisseurs, wine enthusiasts, and sommeliers on your gift list.

You won’t find trendy trinkets, wine t-shirts, or silly slogans on this list. Instead, you’ll find timeless items that wine lovers will truly love (and that we have personally used - and loved! - ourselves).

Use the links below to search by category:

Wine Preservation Gifts

Coravin Model Eleven Fully Automatic Wine Preservation System 

This is the ultimate gift for the wine collector who has been coveting the Coravin, has a passion for all things wireless, and is a total gadget fanatic.  Enjoy wine by the glass without removing the cork! This bundle also has accessories for screw-cap wines.  

Coravin Model 2 Premium Wine Preservation System

Know a wine lover who has everything, but still want to be able to pay you rent after you buy their present? Here’s the Model Eleven’s little sister, the Model 2.  Enjoy wine by the glass without removing the cork, and without all the frills of the Model Eleven.  

Eurocave WineArt Preservation System

This attractive wine preservation system is ideal for the wine connoisseur who opens one or two bottles a week and intends to consume the wine in under seven days. This system is designed to sit on countertops and fits under most cabinetry, helping to eliminate the risk of partially consumed wine bottles being hidden in the refrigerator and forgotten.  

Wine Saver Vacuum Pump Preserver

Great for the wine enthusiast on a limited budget, with limited space for bulky wine preservation systems. This system stores nicely in a kitchen drawer and is also good for holidays when many bottles may be partially consumed.

Wine Folly Champagne Stopper Made in Italy

Can’t finish that bottle of bubbly in one evening?  No worries, use this heavy made-in-Italy Champagne stopper, refrigerate it, and you’ll still have fizz two days later (or more)! Works for other sparkling wines as well and is a thoughtful gift for Mimosa lovers.

Repour Wine Saver - Wine Saver, Stopper

Don’t care for all the gadgets, and simply want a good stopper? This Repour Wine Saver, used by a growing number of wine bars, is good if you want to minimize oxidation and plan to finish that bottle in three or more days.  

In-Home Wine Dispenser - Just Like Wine Bars

Now you can have the look and ease of a fine wine bar in the comfort of your home. For that partner that sees an Enomatic at the wine bar and wants to take it home, here’s the solution!

Wine Storage Gifts

Best Large Wine Cabinet

Check out our review on living with a Eurocave wine cabinet for over five years (coming soon!).  We personally own a Eurocave 283, but also love the Artevino, which is a little smaller, storing approximately 200 bottles.

Best Small Wine Refrigerator

Check out our review on the best small wine refrigerators , and see our top pick here:

Made in America Wine Racks

Already have a cool, dark place to store wine?  Here’s our favorite wood wine rack by Wine Racks America. Store 72 wines in your closet, basement or wine cave.

Metal Wall Wine Rack

No cellar? No problem. Display a few wines you will consume in the coming weeks right on your wall.  Good gift for wine lovers in townhomes and apartments.

Wine Glassware Gifts

Gabriel Gold Glas Universal Wine Glass

Check out our Gabriel Glas Gold article for a full review.  This is our favorite feather-light go-to glass.

Zalto Universal Glass

Ideal for those who love the thought of fine rimmed bows and delicate stemware, but want a more robust feel in their hands without sacrificing a great bowl.  

Gabriel Glas Decanter

We just love the look and feel of this mouth-blown, Austrian crystal, lead-free decanter. It is easier to clean than some other artistic decanters on the market.

Everyday Decanter - Le Chateau Wine Decanter

This lead-free crystal decanter is a good step up from big-box store decanters. Price point is good for home parties where one mis-step could lead to broken glassware on your floor or in your sink. 

Wine Service Gifts

Waterford Crystal Wine Bottle Coaster

This is a nice gift for anyone wanting to own one piece of Waterford. It adds a splash of elegance, and is a good paperweight when not holding a bottle of wine.

Stainless Steel Wine Bottle Coaster 4-pack

We use these frequently in North Carolina when cool white wines start to sweat after being removed from the refrigerator. Keep your table looking nice with this coaster 4-pack.

Champagne Wine Bucket with Stand

Regardless of your wine preference, this bucket and stand pair is great for keeping sparkling and white wines (as well as craft beer bombers) cool on hot summer evenings. With a combined weight of 6 pounds, it can prop open patio doors, and with its stainless steel construction, if you accidentally leave it outside overnight it will not rust. Instead, it becomes the Best. Birdbath. Ever.

Vacu-Vin Wine and Champagne Cooler  

No space for a Champagne wine bucket? No problem. These re-usable and foldable wine sleeves cool down warm wines quickly. Simply store them in the freezer between uses.

American Metalcraft Wine Service Tray

These stainless serving trays can be used to transport wine bottles and glassware, as well as food between tables or food stations.  

Serviette (aka White Cloth Restaurant Napkin)

Sommeliers use these simple white cloths to cover the service tray (to prevent bottle and glassware slippage while walking) as well as to wipe bottles and stop drips during pouring.  

Wine Tasting Gifts

KnowWines Wine Tasting Class

Get a group together and organize a wine tasting to explore new tastes as well as build community. Contact us for an in-person class.  We can customize classes to fit your needs.

Not in North Carolina? No problem. Contact your local wine bottle shop or wine bar to see if they offer classes on site or can send someone (and some wines!) to your home.

Wine Tasting Grid Mat

Setting up your own wine tasting?  These wine tasting grids double as placemats.  Also check out our blog on how to do a wine tasting in your home.

Blind Tasting Wines

This wine subscription aims to present to you wines to explore with their identities covered.  Taste with friends or family and see who guesses the best. Once you unveil the wine, you can learn more about it in enclosed envelope.

Wine Glass Cleaning Supply Gifts

So your wine loving friend already has a kitchen or dining room full of wine accessories.  For the neat-nik in your life, a thoughtful collection of cleaning supplies in a gift basket might do the trick.

Riedel Microfiber Polishing Cloth

After five years of home glass-polishing use, ours are still going strong. 

Crystal Glass Cleaning Sponge with Handle

There are so many different types of glass cleaning sponges on the market. What makes this one stand out is the scratch/free brush and the bamboo handle that allows you to stand it up to dry. 

Polident

Can’t get that red wine stain out of glassware? Let it soak overnight with Polident.

Decanter Cleaning Brush and Beads

Decanter brushes and beads get in all the nooks and crannies where typical brushes cannot go.  

Decanter Stand

Once your decanter is washed, it can be dried and stored on this decanter stand with rubberized ring that prevents scratching of the decanter neck and body.

Wine Travel Gifts

North Carolina Wine Trails

Plan a weekend getaway exploring North Carolina’s gorgeous wine trails.

Napa and Sonoma

Plan the ultimate West Coast wine adventure using our detailed guide to Napa and Sonoma.

Bordeaux

Treat yourself to a beautiful trip in Bordeaux with our guide for women traveling solo in that region.

Rhone

Become a Rhone Ranger and gift your partner a journey to this beautiful, rustic region.

Virginia

Virginia is for lovers! So what could be more romantic than a Virginia wine trip for two?

Wine Gift Bags

Two Wine Carrying Bag

Read our blog reusable wine bags for more ideas in this category. (But, spoiler alert: this is our top pick!):

Wine suitcase

Traveling to wine country and need to bring back bottles in checked luggage? Check out our blog to learn more about traveling with and packing wine. And for your gifting needs, here’s our favorite wine luggage:

Wine Bag for Wine Sales Person

Have a friend or family member in the wine business who could use a high quality bag for carrying samples?  This is the wine bag we personally use when teaching wine classes.  

Wine Stocking Stuffers

Wine Stain Remover

If you happen to spill some wine on your clothes, the carpet, or your friend’s jacket, this Made-in-Texas product really does work on fresh wine spills!  It is available in a 4.8-ounce bottle for home use and single-use packages for dining out and travel.

Wine Opener

Check out our review of wine openers.  Here’s our top pick for gift giving, for quick reference:

Wine Charms

In 2019 we reviewed wine charms. One of our favorites, Simply Charmed, also makes holiday-themed magnetic wine charms:

Yeti wine tumbler

Whether you need to keep wine cool in the summer or your gluhwine warm during the holidays, we found this excellent Yeti tumbler can meet both needs.  

Free and Low Cost Wine Gifts

Subscription to a Wine Podcast

Have a friend who doesn’t know how to download wine podcasts?  Spend an hour at a wine bar with them and get them set up! Some of our favorite wine podcasts are Wine for Normal People, Vinepair, and Guild of Sommeliers.

Wine Games

Download some FREE wine word search games to alleviate cabin fever or to pass time in the car or airport!

Wine Tasting

Learn about local wine tasting events, both free and with fees, through this great site.

Wine Magazine Subscriptions

Decanter

This leading wine magazine from the UK offers a European perspective on wines and is often regarded as the world’s leading magazine on wines. The magazine covers many areas, including vintages, winemakers, destinations, farming practices, and industry news, as well as wine ratings.  

Decanter UK
Ti Media Limited

Wine Spectator

The leading wine lifestyle magazine in the United States with a US consumer focus. Short stories and features on winemakers, wine regions, and wine collectors. Also includes wine reviews.  

Wine Spectator
Shanken Communications

Wine Gift Books

Snob-Free Wine Book 

By podcaster and Raleigh, NC resident Elisabeth Schneider, this book is great for GenXers and your favorite sceptic.

New Wine Book

The perfect wine book for a visual learner.

Becoming a Sommelier

Go behind the scenes with Somm Rosie Schaap, author of Drinking With Men: A Memior.

World Atlas of Wine 8th Edition

Just in time for the holidays, an update to the beloved Wine Atlas. 230 maps!

And that’s a (gift) wrap!

We look forward to adding to the 50+ items on this list as new, high-quality products become available. What will you be gifting to that special wine lover in your life this season? Let us know in the comment section below!

And yes, several of these links are affiliate links.  What that means is that we get a small commission from some sellers at no additional cost to you.  These commissions allow us to buy and try products and give you some insight on these products from the perspective of a fellow wine lover.  

Happy shopping!

















































































The KnowWines Guide to Wine Clubs, Wine Subscriptions, and Wine Delivery

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The internet, investors, and changing interstate commerce laws have come together to bring innovation to the areas of wine clubs, wine delivery, and wine subscriptions. While we love to frequent local wine shops, we also appreciate that consumers are no longer limited by the wine selection in their immediate market.  

Here, we use our experience with wine clubs to outline the pros and cons of the wine clubs available today, as well as the positives and negatives of wine delivery.  Join us as we dig deeper into wine clubs, wine subscriptions, and wine delivery services.

What is a wine club or wine subscription?

There are many different types of wine club aiming to secure wine lovers as monthly customers. Typically, there is some incentive for signing up - a free wine tasting, a shipping discount, or some other enticing benefit. Before delivery, an agreement is signed detailing the number of bottles per month or year, the corresponding monthly fee, and the length of time one must remain in the club (or how many bottles to receive before canceling).

When you join a wine club, an expert is curating your wine collection, eliminating the burden of decision making.  However, the ease of delivery may not be quite as easy as it sounds because delivered wine can’t be left on your doorstep - you have to be at home it. (More on that later!).

There are plenty of reviews claiming that this or that wine club is the best, but the truth is that wine clubs are not one size fits all. While wine clubs attract a good deal of consumers, many of them opt out of wine clubs within two years. Why? Because the consumer may not have taken the time to find out whether a particular wine club will be a good fit.  So, if you’re considering a wine subscription, take some time to identify your wine profile.

What is my wine profile?

Wine consumers fall into six general categories (or genome segments) as identified by Bauerhaus.com. These are Image Seekers, Everyday Loyals, Enthusiasts, Engaged Newcomers, Price Driven, and the Overwhelmed. We have taken the liberty of adding another category: Wine Obsessives.  

Image Seekers like to look over wine lists and wine scores. Perhaps we want to impress friends or clients with wines. Image Seekers also like the look of labels and feel of bottles. They may be up on wine trends but aren’t overly concerned with the details. Image Seekers might spend a little more per bottle than other wine types. However, if there’s a new trend in craft beer or artisan spirits, they are likely to leave wine behind momentarily to chase after the next great thing.

Everyday Loyals are consistent lovers of particular wines. We all know someone like this - the mom who loves Rombauer Chardonnay, the uncle who loves Chablis or the brother who brings Apothec Red home by the case. These loyalists know what they like - and this can be a wine brand, a grape variety, wines from a region. While sommeliers might be frustrated that Everyday Loyals always want to drink the same thing, research shows that this group makes up the largest group of wine consumers by sales.  

Enthusiasts are the folks thirsty for wine knowledge. They love to get multiple inputs before purchasing wine, either from critic scores, shelf talkers (shelf tags), wine merchants, books, or magazines.  Enthusiasts like to check out what is new in the wine section of stores or visit bottle shops while traveling for work or vacation. Enthusiasts may stay enthusiasts for life, or they may become wine obsessives (like us!). They may also someday switch their enthusiasm to spirits like bourbon.

Engaged Consumers are consumers with an interest in learning more about wine, and are typically new wine consumers. They know they like wine. These consumers may become enthusiasts or they may just enjoy wine occasionally with friends.

Price Driven consumers are fairly straight forward. We all know someone who loves a sale, has all the discount codes, and likes to choose the least expensive wine from the list. Nothing wrong with a great value!

Last is the Overwhelmed Consumer. If you like wine but feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of choices in store aisles, online, or on a wine list, you can count yourself among the Overwhelmed!

Wine Obsessives!  We’re not included in the Bauerhaus assessment, so I add us in as a seventh type of consumer.  We may have started as an Enthusiast or even an Everyday Loyal, but somewhere along the line we jumped to being an Obsessive. We love reading about wine, visiting wine regions on holidays, purchasing wine storage or wine refrigerators, and collecting a broad or specific wine type. We might also subscribe to multiple wine magazines and follow one or more wine bloggers on social media.  

What type of consumer are you?  Let us know in the comments below.

There are wine clubs or wine subscription services that cater to each of these consumer types.  

What type of wine club is good for me?

The best type of wine club for you is the one that matches your wine consumer profile. You may remain a specific type of wine consumer for a short or long time, or you may shift across different consumption types as you pass through various life stages.

Now that you know your current wine profile, you can start to sift through the many wine clubs out there and find one that fits your needs for the next 12 - 24 months. Why 12 - 24 months? This is the time frame within which one can typically get the best bang for the buck. If your wine profile changes, one can typically opt in and out of wine clubs. Just remember to read the fine print before signing us, as there may be a minimum number of months before you can opt out.

What types of wine clubs are there?

Wine Clubs for Cheap Wine

We get it.  You want a grape-flavored beverage containing alcohol without all the fuss and at a low price, with free or low-cost shipping.  And bonus points for not needing to leave your house! You are likely a Price Driven consumer and are interested in wine clubs with a focus on value. 

These wine clubs scan the wine market and look for something different than what is available in your average big-box store. They focus on wine in the bulk market or value wines available for private label wine branding. Alternatively, the wine might be purchased on the bulk market and vinified by a well-known winemaker. 

If you’ve ever purchased (or been gifted wine) and could not find any information about an actual winery, chances are the wine is from one of these types of wine clubs. The online description will instead focus on key flavors, region, and perhaps farming practices. And importantly, value!

Some examples of these types of wine clubs are Winc and Naked Wines.

Famous Store Brand Wine Clubs 

You may be Overwhelmed by all the wine choices and are thus interested in wines that come from trusted brands. Famous store and media brands you have grown to trust look for ways to strengthen their fan base by offering products and services to help consumers stay with a brand. One of these services is wine clubs.  

Without subscribing, it is hard to tell if you will get private label wines or wines from independent winemakers. Based on an extensive online review, it looks like a lot of these wines are private label bulk wines with a few independent winery offerings included.  

Some examples of these types of famous brand wine clubs are The New York Times Wine Club, WSJ Wine Club, and the Williams-Sonoma Wine Club.

Wine Clubs for Wine Discovery

Engaged consumers looking to build upon their wine knowledge might be interested in wine clubs that are a blend of independent producers and private label wines with a focus on education.

Wine clubs for discovery have an emphasis on learning basic wine concepts through sampling many different types of wines grouped by wine color, style, and agriculture practice. Trendier versions use quizzes or algorithms to direct you to a package you might be interested in.  You can expect to learn the basics around wine varieties, regions, and flavor profiles. In addition to targeting Engaged consumers, these clubs also target the Overwhelmed consumer because the level of detail provided is not overwhelming. If winemakers are mentioned, it is because they are well known.

Examples of discovery wine clubs include Vine Box (for wine drinkers wanting to have a taste before committing to a bottle!), Plonk, and First Leaf Wine Club.

Curation Clubs for Enthusiasts

A number of wine clubs aimed at Enthusiasts curate wines from select wineries. These curation clubs may aim to do any of the following:

  • Introduce wine lovers to new wines based on old favorites (e.g. lower alcohol wines from Bordeaux)

  • Introduce wine lovers of a specific wine style (e.g. Northern Rhone red wine blends) to new wineries that make that style

  • Target specific demographics of wine growers or wine makers (e.g. Women owned wineries or Small Independent producers)


These clubs differ from previous wine clubs mentioned as they are typically grower and winery focused. The information on the website, email, and subscription sign-up is very specific to the wineries highlighted. There will be comparisons between the offered wines and how they differ from other producers in the region or growing the same variety. Specific winemakers and importers may be highlighted, and the club curators may explain why they chose a specific wine over another.  

Some characteristics of these types of curation clubs are engaging emails describing the wines in detail, highlights of winemakers, storytelling about the wine, and dedication to customer service. Local versions of these wine clubs may offer local pick-up to save money on shipping. They may even provide delivery (though delivery options may be limited if it is a smaller wine club).

Take a look at these curation wine clubs: Acme Fine Wines Club, Kermit Lynch Wine Clubs, Women Owned Wineries Sonoma Wine Club, and the SIP Wine Club.

Winery Wine Clubs

If you enjoy the same wines year after year, winery wine clubs are a good way to support your favorite winery as well as getting access to wines similar to your favorite(s). Many of these clubs offer special pricing or shipping discounts around the major holidays. Wine clubs also offer benefits to members which may include free tasting, exclusive events, and travel with fellow wine club members.  Accompanying many winery wine club memberships are details not easily found online, such as in-depth stories about the estate, profiles on the winemaker, vintage challenges, even updates on the cats and dogs at the winery!

Many wineries have online wine club information on their website, and you don’t even need to go to the winery to sign up.  One potential drawback is that your favorite winery may not ship to the state you live in - simply check the fine print! 

Some examples of popular winery wine clubs are the Hall Wines Wine Club, the Ridge Vineyards Wine Club (be sure to also check out our detailed review of Ridge Vineyards!), Biltmore’s Vanderbilt Wine Club, and the Schramsberg Wine Club.

Wine Clubs for Wine Obsessives

Wine obsessives tend to purchase bottles independently and may participate in specific winery wine clubs or subscribe to email lists that offer sales on recognized wine.

Wine Obsessives interested in blind tasting will probably like the Somm Select.

Wine Obsessives interested in sales on known wine brands may like Last Bottle Wines.

What should I know about wine delivery?

Here are some key things to know when it comes to receiving your wine shipments.

Minimum Age 21

In the United States, someone age 21 or older will need to sign for the wine.  

Home Delivery of Wine

Wine won’t be left on your porch or stoop in the United States. You will need to be at home when the wine arrives or you will need to travel to a location indicated on your door tag (e.g. FedEx, UPS). One way to reduce this hassle is to have the wine shipped to your workplace. Some businesses may restrict alcohol on-premise, though, so check your workplace policy. Delivery to work might be a convenient option if you travel for your job and want to prevent the shipping company from returning wine to distribution center because you did not pick it up in time. 

Wine Shipping Laws Vary By State

Wine laws are constantly changing. The amount of wine that can be shipped and whether or not your state even allows wine to be shipped are variables. Also, be aware that the wine retailer needs to do paperwork for each state to which their business ships wine. While it might be perfectly legal for the wine club to send you wine, the business may opt out of shipping to your state if there aren’t enough customers to justify the work required to ship.

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Weather and Wine Delivery

Wine clubs may not deliver year round due to extreme temperatures. It is more expensive to ship during the summer as special care is needed to prevent wines from getting “cooked.” Additionally weather disturbances like snow storms or hurricanes can disrupt delivery and delay your shipment.  

How do I store my wine?

Regardless of which wine club you choose, you might find that it is hard to keep up with consumption. This is a common reason why people stop subscribing to wine clubs.  Check out our article on wine storage to learn more about how to store your wines.  

How do I cancel a wine club?

It is important to keep documentation regarding wine club signups. Some wine clubs allow you to cancel at any time. Others require a minimum number of shipments or wine bottles purchased before cancelling.  

Our Wine Club Wrap Up

Wine clubs are a great way to explore the world of wine. It’s important for customers to find a club that’s a good fit (fitting their wine profile). (Also, it is critical to read the fine print before signing up!) If you have a poor wine club experience, it is likely because the wine club does not meet one of your needs. Either it doesn’t fit with your consumption style, the shipments are too frequent and pile up, or you find it inconvenient to coordinate shipment pickup.  

Wine clubs are probably the best fit for Loyal and Engaged wine types. For the Loyalists, getting your favorite wine over the course of the year might be a great way to support your favorite brand or winery, and ensure that you don’t miss a vintage in case your local bottle shop stops carrying your favorite wine. Wine clubs are generally great for Explorers, though Image Seekers may get bored before the year is up. Value wine seekers might find better values at places like Trader Joes and Costco. Enthusiasts might find that some of the detail is lacking, and may wish to seek out wines from sommelier selection services or regional wine clubs highlighting specific wineries.  Obsessives are more likely to purchase from a variety of sources.  We might like to purchase directly from the winery or from traditional bottle shops or online wine sellers by the bottle versus as part of a wine club.  

We’d love to hear about your wine club experiences in the comments below!

Cheers!

The Top Seven Single Wine Bottle Holders

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Many wine enthusiasts like single wine bottle holders because they provide an attractive conversation piece on the countertop or table while their guests are enjoying wine.  There are many types of single wine bottle holders available from artisans and from online retailers. 

We’ve scoured the internet and found the very best, up-to-date wine holders, any one of which may be a good addition to your dining space or a nice gift for a wine-loving friend.

Why would I want a single wine bottle holder?

A single wine bottle holder is a decorative way to show off a prized bottle of wine.  The wine bottle holder might be minimalistic - intended to display the fine wine. Or, you may prefer a bolder wine holder - a conversation piece beside the cheese tray.

Wine bottle holders, which can be constructed from wood, wire, plastic, or all of the above, have become very popular home decor items.  Also, a wine bottle holder can be an easy, quick gift for the wine lover who “has it all.”

How do I choose a wine bottle holder?

Whether you are purchasing the wine bottle holder as a gift or for your own home, there are a few things to consider.

Construction

Wine bottle displays can be constructed from wood, wire, plastic, wire, resin or a combination all of the above.  

Aesthetic

Since wine bottle holders are home decor, the design aesthetic is a big focus.  Consider who will be using the wine bottle holder. Do they intend to use the product seasonally or throughout the year? Do they like funny/quirky things or are they more traditional?

Space

If the apartment dweller or homeowner has limited space, then a large single wine bottle holder might take up too much space.  They may prefer a wall-mounted item.  

Quality

Since these items fall into the kitchen home decor category, they are typically low to moderately priced.  One-of-a-kind wine bottle holders can be premium priced. However, since those items are very specific we limit our reviews to items that are mass-produced but not low quality.   

Do I need a wine bottle holder?

No, a wine bottle holder is not a necessity for a wine collector.  Its purpose is to show off a bottle of wine or to serve as a conversation piece in its own right.  Most often, single wine bottle holders serve as a unique piece of art reflecting the style and aesthetic of the wine owner. There’s not a single, go-to brand of wine bottle holder.  

Precautions to consider

The wine bottle holder exposes the wine bottle to light, heat, and vibration, all of which can affect the wine. For more on long-term storage of wine, check out our wine storage article.  

If you are gifting a single wine bottle holder, acknowledge that minimalists may find them cluttering.
Best wine bottle holders

And the best single wine bottle holders are ….

Best Wooden Wine Bottle Holder

This hardwood wine bottle holder would be a good bet for anyone whose design style you’re not sure of. It does not look or feel cheap and would make a good gift for someone who would like to show off a single Napa Cabernet Sauvignon to guests. This is our pick for that conservative or traditional wine enthusiast in your life.
Pros:

  • Unique gravity-defying shape - does not look like every other wine bottle holder on the market

  • Dark finish and minimalist design complement many home decor styles

  • Comes in a nice box for easy wrapping - no need to wrap an awkward shape

Cons:

  • Free accompanying bottle stopper seems like an odd freebie (but hey, it’s free!)

Best Metal Wine Bottle Holder

We love this simple, stainless steel wine bottle holder as our favorite metal wine bottle holder.  If you (or the gift recipient) want to showcase the wine instead of the bottle holder itself, this might be a good selection.  

Pros:

  • No design elements near the neck of the wine bottle - so it can acomodate 750 mL bottles of various sizes and lengths

  • Matches most stainless steel kitchen appliances

  • Rust resistant - if you entertain outside and accidentally leave it outdoors a few times, it won’t rust

Cons:

  • Might look a little too simple or industrial for those who would prefer a little more character in their wine bottle holder

Best Floating Wine Bottle Holder (in Cowboy Up! Or Ships Ahoy!)

Yes, you can have the best of both worlds - minimalist design that won’t detract from a great bottle of wine AND a topic of discussion at your next party.  

Pro:

  • Makes guests look twice

  • Design is not obtrusive

Con:

  • Only available in white

  • Might get tipped over in a crowded or busy space

Best Wall Mounted Wine Bottle Holder

Many wall mounted wine bottle holders detract from the wine bottle.  Our top pick lets the label do all the talking.   

Pros:

  • Minimalist design - you see the wine bottle not the holder

  • Can be used at room temperature (in a kitchen) or in a wine cellar 

  • Easy to install

Cons:

  • The holder does stick out of the wall a little bit - you will not want to mount one right next to a doorway

Best Animal Wine Bottle Holder

There are so many animal wine bottle holders available online, it was so hard to pick one!  If you don’t know what type of animal a gift recipient likes, an octopus is a good compromise (they’re quite intelligent, and fun to look at, too!).  This wine holder is also a great gift for nautical themed condos or beach homes - or Kraken lovers.  This guy’s tentacles don’t get in the way of the top of the bottle, so it can acomodates a variety of bottle lengths and sizes.  

Pros:

  • Some of the animal wine bottle holders have the bottle aimed at the animal’s mouth.  While this may elicit a chuckle, some people consider it a little on the silly side. Also, those designs might not fit all bottle types.  This one allows for more flexibility in bottle size.

Cons:

  • Don’t store the wine for long in an upright position as the cork will dry out!

Best Unique Wine Bottle Holder (Perfect for Halloween!)

Worried about having a lifeless party?  Why not liven it up with this Undead single bottle wine holder? This is a perfect gift for fans of The Walking Dead or Santa Clarita Diet (or for anyone who loves Halloween).

Pros:

  • Weighing in at a little over three pounds, this resin wine holder is a sturdy piece

  • Very detailed gore on the zombie neck, face and arms

Cons:

  • Does not hold odd wine bottle sizes or odd liquor bottle sizes

Best Wine Holder for Boxed Wine

Who says boxed wine doesn’t deserve a spotlight. We say, “No wine left behind!”

Entertaining a crowd?  Need to take wine to the beach or pool where glass is a no-no? Discard that carboard box and place that bag of wine inside this stylish wood box!  The way this wood box is designed, you can actually get all the wine out of the bag (in some cardboard boxes it is tricky to get all the wine out).

The best part about wine in a bag is that if you don’t finish it all, it will keep for many days.  While much of boxed wine here in the US is nameless plonk in a box, there is an increasing number of good value wine being placed in these containers.  

Pro Tip: Purchase more than one for a party and then use one for wine and the other for any other spirited cocktail under 80 proof.  

Pros:  

  • Good for weddings or big parties when you want to avoid unsightly cardboard boxes

  • Home winemaker?  Fill the bag with your own creation and label with the free accompanying chalk

  • Accompanying bags can be filled with bottled wine as well

Cons:

  • A little bulky - you’ll need to find a place to store it when not in use

And the winner is…

The floating lasso bottle holder!

We like that this wine holder showcased the wine, yet was intriguing enough to be a topic of discussion at an indoor or outdoor party.  Also, the white color complements or contrasts a lot of trendy decor and surfaces.  It would fit right at home in a range of decor styles - beach, cowboy chic, or rustic modern.  

Good luck choosing the wine bottle holder that’s just right for your entertaining or gifting needs!

Cheers!

How to Tell if Your Wine is Bad

Corked?

Corked?

Have you ever wondered if a wine has gone bad after tasting or smelling it? Ever heard someone say, “This wine is corked!” without really knowing what they were talking about? Have you ever worried you might get sick because you drank wine that tasted “off”?

Some people may define a “bad wine” as one they simply do not like. Disliking a wine due to a preference for a particular style, variety, or characteristic should not be confused with wines that have faults. 

In this article we will focus on wine faults, typical causes, and what to do if you run across the rare bottle that is truly bad.  

Why all this worry about wine flaws?

Bad wines (or wines with faults) are not as common as they once were. Still, there are many wine consumers who may be afraid to order wines at restaurants or purchase wines from a bottle shop with the concern that the wine may be bad.

Wines with faults were more common in decades and centuries past. Before reliable transport (refrigerated rail cars, refrigerated semi-trailers, air travel) wines risked the possibility of being “cooked,” frozen, or mishandled during transit either across the country or across the oceans (we discuss specific faults and causes of faults later in the blog!).

Technology in wineries has also improved the quality of wine. Minimal intervention wines still take steps to ensure that wines are stable, whether through natural or chemical means, so that they taste great and look delicious sitting on the shelf or in the display at a fine dining establishment.

Competition in the world of wine is also increasing, which drives poorer wines out of the market. Additionally, emerging wine regions get help from flying winemakers. If you have had a bad wine from a region or rural area in the United States even 10 or 20 years ago, consider going back and trying the wines from that area again to see if they have improved.

Some consumers consider a wine to be bad if it is one-dimensional (having only one flavor) or if they simply did not like it. There is some ownership required by consumers in discerning the types of wine they might like. That’s why a sommelier may confirm your order more than once, because he/she may know that the wine you’ve chosen is outside the ‘normal’ consumer pattern and does not want to open a bottle of wine that you may not like.  

Last, if you do buy or get a bad wine, let the merchant know as soon as possible.  When purchasing wines from retail shops or the winery, keep the receipt. If the wine is bad, most wineries or retail shops will gladly refund your money or give you a replacement bottle. They realize that an occasional bottle will go bad and have factored that into their bottom line.

Still, it’s important to remember that there’s a 97% - 99% chance that your wine is just fine!  However, in your drinking life, you may come across a few bad wines. Here, we discuss a few common symptoms of bad wine and how you might detect that they are bad.

Does unopened wine go bad?

Yes, unopened and even properly stored wines can go bad. 

There are some ways to tell if the unopened wine might be bad just by using your eyes!  Here are some visual clues to tell if a wine might be bad before opening.

  • Take a look at the top of the bottle of wine. Is the top of the cork flush with the bottle opening?  Or, is it raised up (coming out of the bottle) or sunken (going into the bottle)? Raised or sunken corks could indicate that the wine was exposed to high temperatures or pressure changes during shipment or storage.  

  • Just like some beers in clear bottles (like Corona), wine in a clear bottle can suffer from light strike and become “skunky” if it is exposed to light for an extended period of time.  So if you are shopping for wine and that bottle of Sauvignon Blanc is a little dusty (and its vintage is more than three years old), consider passing that bottle up for a newer vintage. Wines in clear bottles are designed to be enjoyed within 1-2 years of release. However, there are always exceptions in the world of wine, as some ageable wines like Sauternes do come in clear bottles.   

  • Ullage is just a fancy term for the ‘headspace’ in a bottle of wine.  If the wine is fairly young, there should be no ullage and the level of wine in the bottle should be the same as similar wines on the shelf. 

  • If you find that the cork is dry and brittle when you are opening a bottle of wine, there is an increased likelihood that the bottle might be bad. However, you’re going have to engage the nose and taste buds to determine this. There’s a good chance that oxygen was able to get past the cork and into the wine if the cork shrank. We’ve worriedly opened some older bottles with brittle corks and found that the portion of the cork near the wine was just fine and the wine tasted wonderful.  

What if my wine smells bad?

When you (or the sommelier) pour the wine into the glass, take 2-3 seconds to look at the wine for anything strange, like cloudiness, or color that looks a little off. If you aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to ask the server if the wine looks the way it’s supposed to. If you’re at home, there are great online tools for color of wine by style.

If you’ve visually inspected the wine bottle and have successfully freed the cork from the bottle at home (or have been presented with the wine at a restaurant), your next step is to engage the sense of smell.

In movies or on television, we often see people smelling a cork.  Unfortunately, smelling the cork is not actually going to help you determine if the wine is bad or not.  Instead, raise the glass to your nose and take a few discreet sniffs (short sniffs, like a when a dog meets another dog at the park and they check each other out) and see if there is anything strange or revolting. If you notice an unpleasant smell but have no idea if that smell is normal, just hand the glass back to the server and ask him/her to check it out. What you smell may simply be a characteristic unique to a wine you are unfamiliar with. Or, it could be a wine fault.  Remember, there is a 97 to 99% chance that your wine is just fine!

Last is the taste test.  I never trust the first taste because a lot of that first taste depends upon what you put in your mouth most recently.  I always take a tiny amount and discreetly swish it around my mouth and quickly swallow. Then, I get to the second sip. Almost always the wine tastes just as it should.

But if the wine really does taste off, you have a couple of options.  At the restaurant, ask the waiter or sommelier to pour themselves a sample to confirm the off-flavor and then ask for a replacement bottle.  If you are at home, replace the screw-top or cork in the bottle, place it in the fridge, and locate your receipt. Then take the bottle back to the wine store in the next couple of days and ask the wine seller to take a sniff or taste test. Most of the time the merchant will replace the wine or offer a refund.  If you purchased the wine from a winery, call or email the winery and ask about their wine replacement or refund policy.

What are some aromas or flavors I will encounter in a bad wine?

There are a number of descriptive words to describe wine faults (typically undesirable bad aromas).  These common words are actually associated with molecules or groups of molecules. Here are a few of the most common wine fault descriptors and the associated molecules. Some of these tastes and aromas are universally agreed-upon faults, while others are more ambiguous.

0387.  Wine Faults.jpeg

Oxidation (addition of oxygen during winemaking) and the flavors and aromas of a Brettanomyces infected wine are two types of ‘flaws’ that some would argue are pleasant and desirable depending upon the wine and wine style.  This debate is becoming more prevalent with the increase in the number of natural wines on the market. But, this is a topic for another article!

Where do wine faults come from?

Wine faults can be introduced at any time during the winemaking process and can be influenced by vineyard practices as well.  Their presence can be influenced by vineyard management (rootstock, trellising systems, watering timing, grape cultivation, harvesting, sorting, pressing, fermentation, winemaking, aging, bottling, storage, and transportation). 

At just about any time in the wine making process, something might go wrong. Depending upon the phase in the process, the vineyard manager, winemaker, or transporter may be able to remedy an issue or not. At times, the fault may be so severe that the production of certain lots of wine is a total loss for the year.  

In summary, many of the wine faults are introduced during fermentation and aging, resulting in undesirable molecule formation that may or may not be perceptible to human noses and taste buds. 

What if my non-sparkling wine is fizzy?

So you’ve opened a bottle of wine and heard a pop, even though you didn’t purchase a sparkling wine. Or, you feel the texture of tiny bubbles on your tongue and did not expect them.

In aromatic white wines like Riesling that are bottled young, you may run across such a phenomenon. This occurrence is typically not considered a fault. The bubbles are remaining from the primary fermentation or a little bit of CO2 was added at the time of bottling for a little lift of freshness.

In less aromatic white wines (like Chardonnay aged in oak) and in most red wines, the presence of fizz is most likely a flaw.  The effervescence, in this case, is likely from a secondary fermentation in the bottle after bottling. If the wine is a little cloudy, that often confirms that a secondary fermentation took place as the cloudiness is yeast or bacteria bodies in suspension.  

Why does my wine have no flavor?

Sometimes the wine's fault is that it has little to no flavor. This fault is a little more tricky to figure out, especially if you are at a restaurant and the server or sommelier is hovering over you asking if the wine is “okay.”

In this case, the first thing to check is the temperature.  If there is no aroma and flavor and the wine feels almost ice-cold, then you’ll have to wait until the wine warms up a little bit to see if aromas emerge.  For the same reason that most American lager is served at ice-cold temperatures, some low-end wines are also served at a very low temperature. This is because these wines simply don’t have a lot of flavor and many quality issues can be masked by serving wines at a too-low temperature.

If the temperature of the wine is good, then it could be that the wine needs some air or decanting in order to open up its aromas.  If you are unsure if the wine needs decanting, ask your server or sommelier if this is the type of wine that needs air, especially if you’ve never had that particular type of wine before.  If you are at home, you might want to investigate your wine on an App like Vivino or CellarTracker to see if others have had the same experience.

Why does my wine taste like vinegar or fingernail polish remover?

If you detect a sharp, acidic smell, that is the aroma of acetic acid (vinegar smell) and ethyl acetate (nail polish remover).  These compounds are created naturally by yeast and bacteria native to the vineyard.  

Winemakers try to control this by controlling the amount of oxygen exposure during winemaking.  While this can be fairly easy to control in commercial winemaking, once one starts to introduce aging in oak barrels, this type of acidity can become more prevalent.  The problem becomes a noticeable flaw when there is too much acetic acid produced and the acid reaches a flavor threshold or detectable level.  

Some wine drinkers are more sensitive to - and prefer to varying degrees - the amount of these acids present in wine. There’s nothing we can do to fix this fault in wine once it is present. 

What do I do with bad wine?

If you come across a bad wine, the best remedy is to speak to the merchant at the shop where you purchased the wine.  Most people who sell and serve wine know that an occasional bad wine is just a part of doing business.

If you purchased the wine from a winery, send them an email or give them a call, explaining what you experienced. In your message, describe the fault to the best of your ability. Most will take measures to refund your money or send you a new wine of the same or similar vintage.

If your wine is bad (or you have some old wine that you suspect is bad) you might want to consider ordering a vinegar mother and making your own vinegar.

What happens if I drink bad wine?

You won’t get sick from tasting bad wine, only if you drink too much of any wine!  Alcohol acts as a preservative, so even if there is a secondary fermentation after bottling, once the alcohol level gets to a certain point, yeast and bacteria die out.  As wine ages, it becomes vinegar. This happens for some wines faster than for others.  

How to Prevent Wine from Going Bad

Proper storage away from heat and light will help keep your wines in good shape if you store wine at home.  Check out our article on wine refrigerators and storing wine if you’d like to learn more.  

Want to geek out on wine faults?

Want to know more about the color of wine as it ages and about wine faults without all the chemistry?  Check out the James Beard Award-winning Wine Folly Master Guide.

Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide
By Madeline Puckette, Justin Hammack

More reading on wine faults for the citizen scientist:

Reading not enough?  Try a wine fault kit and spike some wines with fault aromas!

In conclusion

Now you know the most common ways your wine can go bad.  Wine faults continue to decline as vineyard managers, winemakers, and the distribution channels use more technology to reduce the chances of wine going bad. This blog offered some tips on how to use your sense (and your wits and resources!) to determine if wine is actually bad or just unpleasing to your palate.

We’ve also confirmed that nothing bad will happen to you if you happen to taste some bad wine.  Every human has a different level of sensitivity to all these aromas and flavors, so there is no need to fear that you do or do not smell the same things as your drinking partner if you do come across a bottle with a fault and you disagree on the fault.

If you do happen to purchase a bad bottle of wine, let the retailer know.  This feedback is very useful to retailers, distributors, and winemakers. Don’t think that you are bothering the person or being a difficult consumer - your feedback is helping the world of wine!  Bring the wine to the retailer so that he/she can help you in identifying the defect, if possible. If you have a bad experience with the retailer, contact the manager or the distributor. Don’t let your hard-earned cash go to waste.

And here’s to the 97-99% of wine that’s fault-free!

Cheers!

Gabriel Glas Gold Crystal Wine Glass: The KnowWines Review

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There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to crystal wine glasses, and it can be overwhelming for wine enthusiasts who are concerned with having “the right” glassware. A common problem is having no specific strategy for purchasing glassware and thus ending up with a mismatched, motley collection.

The Gabriel Glas Gold crystal wine glass did not exist when we started purchasing crystal glassware at KnowWines, but we wish it had.! The Gabriel Glas Gold is our go-to wine glass when enjoying fine wine. If you are looking for one universal wine glass, the Gabriel Glas Gold universal wine glass may be the one for you.  

Things to consider before buying Gabriel Glas Gold

Here’s something to consider: purchasing many different sets of fine glassware to fill perceived niches, like “varietal specific glassware,” for example, is generally a waste of money.  At the other end of the spectrum, cheap glassware can be disappointing when trying to enjoy a fine wine.

The ideal customer for the Gabriel Glas Gold is someone interested in a universal fine wine crystal glassware with the primary purpose of enjoying a fine wine as a solo enthusiast, as a couple, or with a few key fellow wine lovers. Before buying fine crystal glassware, consider how much you want to spend, aesthetics of the glass, the balance of the glass in your hand, and finally, its construction.

The Gabriel Glas Gold

The Gabriel Glas Gold is mouth-blown crystal stemware.  Unlike other fine wine glassware on the market, the Gabriel Glas Gold is constructed of a single piece of mouth-blown glass and is not molded.

The promise of Gabriel Glas is that it is the only wine glass you will need for unbelievable wine enjoyment and for use with any grape varietal. Compared to the market leaders, Gabriel Glas Gold is more decadent and lighter weight.  

The product is for

  • People looking for a universal crystal wine glass for fine wine drinking

  • People looking for a fine wine glass that is hand blown and not molded - eliminating stress points found on much other glassware

  • People looking for a fine wine glass that feels like the extension of one’s own hand

The product is not for

  • People (or their guests) who break glassware easily

  • People looking for variety-specific glassware

  • People looking for cheap glassware for entertaining

Gabriel Glas Gold Features & Benefits

This wine glass is also good for people who want one of the lightest, most delicate feeling wine glasses.

When considering fine crystal glassware, consider pleasurability, construction, cost, shape, universality, durability, and ease of cleaning (and make sure it is lead free!).

What’s the pleasure quotient for Gabriel Glas Gold?

We remember the exact moment when we first experienced the Gabriel Glas Gold. It was in a wine shop cellar in St. Emilion, France.  We were part of a wine tour, and we stayed behind to continue tasting at ETS Wine Shop.

The shape of the glass caught our eye.  We’ve seen a lot of wine glasses, but this one looked particularly sexy and appealing.  When we asked to hold the glass, we could not believe how light it was. Then, the wine shop employee had us taste a white Burgundy wine (at the 20 Euro price point) from two well-known and widely-distributed brands of wine glasses, as well as the Gabriel Glas Gold.  The Gabriel Glas Gold greatly enhanced the aromas of the wine and the delicate feel of the glass enhanced the overall experience. We felt that the wine, in a Gabriel Glas Gold glass, tasted much finer than a 20 Euro white Burgundy. The glasses were so lightweight, in fact, that they seemed to have a little flex to them. Needless to say, everyone who participated in that little tasting went home with boxes of Gabriel Glas Gold wine glasses.  

Why does the shape of the Gabriel Glas Gold matter?

The shape of this wine glass is optimized for inserting your nose into the glass (unlike some glassware, which causes you to contort your neck for this purpose). Getting your nose in the glass is important to appreciate the aromas collecting in the bowl.

In addition to the opening of the bowl, the next thing to pay attention to is the lip.  Wine tasting is often a more pleasant experience with a thin lip because there is less interference between the wine and your mouth.

0384.  Gabriel Glas Gold and Box.jpeg

Crystal glassware is also preferred when it comes to wine tasting as it has the clearest transparency with which to admire the wine in the glass.  With some molded glassware, you can see where the glassware was sitting in the mold.  

The balance of the glassware in your hand also matters. Heavier glassware can feel tired in your hand.  It is also sexy to hold a glass of wine and feel like you are just holding the wine in your hands, not a heavy container.  This decadent feeling in the hand makes it easier to swirl wines in the glass.  The bowl of the Gabriel Glas Gold glass is a generous 95 mm wide at the widest point.   

Is the Gabriel Glas Gold a Good Value?

For full disclosure, we have to admit that, in the crystal wine glass world, this is a premium glass, especially since it is handmade and imported from Austria.  Like any other luxury purchase, you should consider how often you will be using the item. If this will be your go-to wine glass for years, it’s a great investment when looking at per use cost. That cheap glass sitting in the back of the cabinet is not a good value if it is not getting used!

What are the benefits of mouth-blown glassware?

Handblown glassware differs from molded glassware in that it is almost always constructed of one piece of glass. 

Much commercial glassware is comprised of three parts - the bowl, the stem, and the base.  Three-part construction can be problematic in that stress points are created at the connection between the glass bowl and stem, and again where the stem meets the base.  If you have ever had a wine glass break off at the junction of the bowl and the stem - or at the junction of the stem and the base - then it was likely a molded construction. The Gabriel Glas Gold glass is also lead-free.  

How does one clean Gariel Glas Gold glassware?

The maker says that Gabriel Glas can be washed in the dishwasher.  While we’ve never washed this glassware in the dishwasher we would not be afraid to.

Typically, though, we wash the glassware in the sink using hot water, a thin washcloth, and fragrance-free dish detergent.  Upon removing the glass from the sink, we quickly rinse the glass and then dry it off with a microfiber cloth and polish it.

We store our Gabriel Glas in our closed cabinet (alongside the other lonely glassware that doesn’t get as much use as it once did!).  

If we forget to clean the glass and need to remove any difficult to remove wine deposit, we first use dental appliance cleaner and then clean normally.

How Durable is the Gabriel Glas?

We’ve used this glassware for two years at least weekly, and we’ve yet to have a single glass break or chip.  We’ve even placed the Gabriel Glas wine glass inside its original box and taken the box to the beach to enjoy the glassware and special wines with friends.   

Gabriel Glas Social Proof

We did a fair amount of online research after two years of pain-free glassware enjoyment. We found that many users shared the same sentiments.  

Other users mention that the glassware is pricy but also one of the best wine drinking experiences.  An increasing number of sommeliers at fine restaurants are spokespeople for the Gabriel Glas.

Some users report breaking a glass shortly after use.  We’ve seen no complaints online regarding quality, only user clumsiness.  For those who are afraid to handwash, dishwashing is recommended.  

Gabriel Glas Gold Alternatives

Not ready to splurge on the Gabriel Glas Gold?  There are a few other glasses available that provide similar experiences with a little difference.  

StandArt by Gabriel Glas

So, you’ve read this review and checked out other online reviews that rave about the Gabriel Glas Gold. However, the price is a little steep.  Gabriel does offer a molded glass called the StandArt with the same shape but a slightly heavier feel (145 grams per glass compared to 95 grams per glass).

Zalto DenkArt

Several other online reviewers mention the Zalto glassware as a close second to the Gabriel Glas Gold, with a lower price point. We also own this glassware and enjoy it with heavier red wines if the Gabriel Glas Gold is dirty or occupied with another wine. Also, some might feel less less likely to break this glass when washing. If you like your glassware lead-free, dishwasher safe, but want a more widely distributed glass, the Zalto may be for you.  

 
 

Bella Vino

Still want a lead-free, mouth-blown wine glass that’s made in Europe (this time Switzerland)? Another alternative is the Bella Vino crystal wine glass. In addition to a lower price point, this glass also comes with a limited warranty.  We recommend this one in case you are very clumsy with glassware, or have particularly clumsy guests (hey, accidents happen!).

Gabriel Glas Gold Conclusions

Clearly, we are quite partial to our Gabriel Glas Gold glassware.  It is the sexiest universal crystal wineglass on the market, in our opinion.  

This wine glass is a good option for those enjoying fine wines, as many other crystal glasses on the market are heavier and their weight distracts from the wine drinking experience.  

These wine glasses are good for gift giving as any style of wine can be enjoyed.  There are different set sizes available (1, 2, 6). We also like the story behind the brand and the fact that they are made in Austria by artisans.  

The Gabriel Glas has been durable in the past two years of use.  It is easy to clean by hand or in the dishwasher. We’re surprised that we haven’t broken one! We’ve received many positive comments on the Gabriel Glas when tasting with friends. It’s not going to look like every other piece of glassware on the market.

Check out this wineglass if you are seeking to upgrade your glassware, replace a collection of mismatched glassware, or are seeking a fine wine glass for that special wedding, anniversary, or promotion present. (And for other great wine gifts, check out our ultimate guide to gifts for wine lovers!).

Cheers!   

How to Create a Personalized Wine Journal - For Yourself or Your Favorite Wine Enthusiast

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While there are a variety of wine tasting journals available on the market, most don’t allow for much personalization. We have a couple of favorite wine apps on our iPhone, however taking written notes on wines using a fine journal and a nice pen is relaxing and mindful (or should we say wineful?) Keeping a personalized wine journal is a great hobby for wine enthusiasts. And wine journals (and accessories!) are a great gift for the wine lover who has it all!

Why a Wine Tasting Journal?

A wine tasting journal is simply a place for recording observations and key aspects of the tasting experience to reflect upon later.  They can be used and enjoyed by wine journals can be used and enjoyed by wine novices, serious enthusiasts, and wine professionals alike. 

Students preparing for an exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers or Wine and Spirit Education trust take detailed notes on wines both to practice tasting notes and to commit to memory key points that will help them in theory or tasting exams. Studies show that writing things down is much more impactful than typing into a smartphone or laptop. 

Why not use a Wine Tasting App?

If you’re just getting started in taking wine tasting notes or want to take some quick tasting notes on the go, then yes, the apps available at vivino.com and cellartracker.com are great.  

But there’s just something to be said for pen and paper. If you’re like the rest of us, when you take out the iPhone to take tasting notes, it won’t take much for you to wander from your intent, either reading other users notes or going off the App and checking the weather forecast. Many people who prefer to take notes in a journal are looking for a chance to unplug and to discreetly take notes without the glow of a smartphone.

About Traditional Wine Tasting Journals

Traditional wine tasting journals are made by a variety of publishing houses and wine bloggers.  Many wine lovers find that these “out of the box” wine journals have both positive and negative aspects.  Below are some examples of traditional wine tasting journals.

The Moleskine Passion Journal:

The Write it Down Wine Journal:

Wine Journal Write It Down
Journals Unlimited

Positive points about traditional wine tasting journals:

  • Great templates for enthusiasts to enter in wine names, vintage, price, aromas and flavors, and general topics like where it was consumed, with whom and with what food

  • Wine tasting terms for beginners 

  • Wine references, like vintage ratings, maps and classic producers.  

Downsides to traditional wine tasting journals:

  • Unattractive cover design (e.g. dated, poor photo, corny phrase)

  • Heavy (e.g. leather, can’t take it with you on wine travels)

  • Looks too much like a wine journal (not discreet - you’ll be ‘that person’ in the tasting room)

  • Wine pairing basics or other ‘notes’ that are not of interest, adding bulk/waste to the journal 

  • Ink bleeding through on ‘cheap’ paper

  • Not enough space to affix wine labels

In case traditional wine tasting journals leave you feeling like you are “painting by the numbers,” this blog outlines a DIY wine journal package and methodology you may find useful. 

The Customizable Wine Tasting Journal Package

Let’s look at the components of a personalized wine tasting journal. 

The Leuchtturn Journal

We have been big fans of Leuchtturn 1917 journals since our first trip to Germany over 20 years ago.  

Here’s what we love about this journal:

  • There are bullets instead of lines.  These bullets allow writers to draw, write, or paste in their content without the visual deterrent of lines or the emptiness of a blank page

  • It has an index, and you can customize it!  We’re amazed that many wine journals don’t come with the option to create an index before jumping right into the note-taking.  

  • The journal lays flat - many leather wine journals don’t.  This creates a nice looking spine after year(s) of use. We like how ours looks on a bookshelf!

  • There’s a classy label one can affix to the front of the journal when you’re done using it.

  • There’s a sturdy envelope in the back of the journal to hold winery brochures, menus, wine label remover sheets, and maps until one gets the chance to affix the info into the journal.  

  • The journals are robust.  We’ve used one journal for a year during regional and global travel, on a boat, and bouncing around in a bag.  

  • The jornal is thin and slips in neatly next to one’s laptop or large tablet (8.85 x 12.4 inches).

  • These journals cost less than typical leather journals.

The Staedtler Pen

No one likes writing with a cheap pen, especially when taking tasting notes.  You want a pen with a fine tip that writes smoothly and is a pleasure to hold.  

The Staedtler Pen

These pens are ergonomic with a triangular shape and are very light in the hand.  The ink dries more quickly than gel pens. They don’t smear, bleed or feather.

The only downside we’ve noticed is that sometimes the lighter colors are not as ‘bright’ on paper as some would like.  We’ve noticed over the years that we use the black pen and the darker colors the most.

The Wine Label Lift 

Some wine enthusiasts love to keep wine labels for future reference (as sometimes it can be hard to remember the details of wine(s) the next day!). As you’ll see in our blog on wine label removal, this can can be done by removing the wine label from the bottle or simply taking a good photo of the label.  We do this either through taking photos of the wine labels or actually going through the motions of removing the wine label from the bottle.   

Our preferred method for removing wine labels is utilizing a wine label lift. These are simply adhesive films that one adheres to the bottle then removes - extracting the label from the bottle.  The label can then be inserted into the journal easily. While they don’t work 100% of the time, there are some tips/tricks online for increasing the likelihood of success when removing a label from the wine bottle. 

We really like that these wine label removers slip easily into the envelope in the back of the journal for storage until needed. Once the label is removed from the bottle, the journaler has the option of adhering it to the wine journal as a memento.

Document Edges for Maps, Menus, and Winery Information

In addition to the wine labels themselves, some wine enthusiasts love to collect momentos from the meal, tasting, trip, or bar where the wine was consumed.  For those purposes we love these document edges in classic colors for adhering such momentos to the journal.

Like the wine label removers, these adhesive corner pieces can also slip into the back of the journal for future use.

If You’re Gifting the Wine Journal Package

If you’re gifting the wine journal package, traditional gift wrap will work just fine. However, if you know a wine lover with a milestone birthday, anniversary or promotion, you may want to consider gifting the journal and accessories with a wine book or simply a bottle of wine. To make the gift extra special,  place the journal and accessories in this covetable premium leather wine bag.

Additional Resources for the Personalized Wine Journal

If you or your wine tasting journal recipient is fairly new to making entries in a wine journal, here are a few resources for different approaches to recording tasting notes:

Court of Master Sommeliers: For those who watched the SOMM movies and want to learn the deductive tasting grid demonstrated in the movies, this is the place to go to find the free grid pdf.  

Wine and Spirit Educational Trust: For those who prefer a more analytical approach to wine tasting, the WSET has courses available to wine enthusiasts and wine professionals, where one can learn the WSET systematic approach to tasting.

Also check out our article on the Wine Tasting Grid and how to set up a wine tasting in your home.

Finally, if you join a wine club or wine subscription, these services will often send attractive, informational cards that detail the qualities of your favorite wines. These make great wine journal entries!

You can be as simple or as elaborate as you like in your wine taking notes, including as many or as few details as you wish.  

Additional Accessories for the Personalized Wine Journal

Here are a few more items that wine enthusiasts might enjoy with their personalized journal:

Wine Aroma Wheel

With over 800 aromatic compounds to explore, Dr. Ann Noble, winemaker and professor emeretis of U.C. Davis, came up with this wine aroma wheel that’s been used for decades.   

Bullet Journal 

The popular bullet journal methodology helped us escape from the rigidity of templated journals.

Maximizing the Personalized Wine Tasting Journal Experience

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For wine lovers, journaling about the experience of each bottle is an invaluable resource for study and exam prep. It does not all need to be serious though!  Sometimes one simply wants to keep their unique tasting experiences separate from other journals.  Benefits of enthusiast documentation include watching your tastes and preferences grow and change.  

There are disadvantages to pre-printed wine journals - format, design and flexibility are limited.  The simplicity of a Personalized Wine Tasting Journal means that the journal will never go out of style.  At the core it is about the content and what you want to document for yourself or to share with fellow wine lovers.  

Happy journaling!

Cheers!






















How to Remove Labels from Wine Bottles

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If you’re a wine and craft beer enthusiast, a winemaker, or a crafter (or are just curious!), you may find yourself needing to remove wine labels from bottles. Here, we offer an overview and specific details on how to get a label off of a wine bottle for a variety of purposes. As you’ll see, there is no one-size-fits-all methodology for removing wine labels.  

Why remove the label from a wine bottle?

Wine enthusiasts and scrapbookers may want to remove a wine label to save it in a wine journal or scrapbook. Winemakers remove labels for the purpose of re-use - they remove commercial labels from the bottle before adhering their own.  Last, artisans and crafters often use wine bottles or wine labels for crafts such as wine bottle glassware, wine tile coasters, or framed wine labels as wall art. 

What should I consider before removing a wine bottle label?

First, remember to keep the bottle you want to remove the label from! Far too often, a wine bottle disappears from the table or from the party before one thinks to save the label.  Once the bottle disappears, the only option remaining is to send a self-addressed stamped envelope (via snail-mail) to the winery and ask if they have an extra label from that vintage. Explain that you did not keep your bottle and that you want the label for your wine journal.  

Next, determine if you are able to take the bottle home with you or if you must remove the label there at the event.  Not being able to take the wine bottle home will significantly reduce your options for removing a wine label. Your only options then are the Lift-Off Method and the “kindly ask your server or sommelier if they can remove the label for you” approach!  

Once you have the bottle home, you’ll need to assess the label and the associated adhesive.  Determining which item you wish to keep - the label or the bottle - will dictate the method of removal you use.  

How do I decide the method of label removal for a particular bottle?

What is the label constructed of?  If the label is plastic (more like a sticker) it will be less permeable to water.   If it is plastic, then removal will often require heat or physical means (such as a razor) regardless if you are trying to save the label or just the bottle.

If the label is paper, then it is more permeable to liquids and a different removal method may be needed depending on if you are trying to save the label or the bottle.

Labels adhere to wine and beer bottles through a variety of adhesive polymers. These include pressure-sensitive adhesives (sticker-like) and water-based glues.  Since many of us are not adhesive experts, we will be assessing the label using visual assessment to guess the composition of the glue and to select the label removal method with the highest likelihood of success.

To assess the adhesive construction, take a razor or knife and lift a corner about ¼ inch.  If the adhesive looks like traditional glue, the use of a detergent and water-based method can be considered.  If the adhesive looks more sticker-like in consistency, then heat or physical means (razor, peeling) will be your best bet.     

Wet Label Removal Methods

So, the label you want to remove from the wine bottle looks to be a more conventional glue composition - these label types are typically more water-soluble.  

The OxiClean Method

Based on our personal experience, as well as those in most wine and craft beer forums, we find that the most successful method is the OxiClean approach. We’ve used the OxiClean method on both paper/glue bottles as well as plastic labels with adhesive. If you don’t have Oxiclean in the house, try a comprable household cleaning product.  

Here’s an effective OxiClean label removal method we found in a craft beer forum:

  1. Fill sink (or bucket) with one gallon of water and ¼ cup Oxiclean.

  2. Submerge the wine bottle in the liquid.

  3. Wait thirty minutes (during which time you may as well enjoy a glass of wine!).  Depending upon the adhesive, you may return to find your wine label floating in the sink intact.  

  4. Take a utility knife and slowly lift up on the edge of the label.  If the label is not easy to peel off after thirty minutes of soaking, it’s not going to come off using this method without significant elbow grease. You might as well resign yourself to drying the bottle and trying a dry method. 

  5. Work the utility knife under the label at a diagonal angle. Resist the urge to use your fingers to help speed along the process, as using fingers may result in adding wrinkles to the finished product.

  6. Place the wet label on a piece of waxed paper so that the wet adhesive does not stick to your counter

  7. Once your label is dry, use an acid-free glue stick to adhere your label to your wine journal, your prepared coaster, or photo frame.  Check out this article for making your own wine label coasters.



    Other Household Cleaners to Use for Wine Label Removal

    Ammonia

    No OxiClean?  No problem. Household ammonia is another product, in combination with water, which can aid in dissolving adhesives. Instead of using ¼ cup OxiClean replace it with ¼ ammonia. The ammonia method, in our experience, is a little less effective than the OxyClean method.  

    Baking Soda

    Only have baking soda on hand?  Add 5 to 10 tablespoons to one gallon of warm water and follow the same steps as the OxiClean method.  

    Hot Water

    No OxiClean, no ammonia, no baking soda?  Try placing the bottle in boiling water, or filling a sink with hot water and dish soap and letting the bottle sit overnight.  Regardless, there is going to be some elbow grease involved to remove the adhesive residue.  

Accessories for Wet Method Wine Label Removal

Regardless of your method - OxyClean, ammonia, simply hot water - if your aim is to discard the wine label and use the bottle for crafting or home winemaking, two products are indispensable.

First, you can scrape the residue with a straight razor or this slightly safer razor with a handle. If you scrape too hard, you can scratch the bottle.

You can also try a non-abrasive scrubber that is gentle and won’t scratch the wine bottle unless you apply superpower strength.  

Still a little bit of adhesive?  Goo Gone is our go-to product for adhesive removal.  After using the Goo Gone, we recommend thoroughly washing the bottle soapy water before re-using to adequately remove the Goo Gone (Goo Gone residue may interfere with your crafting products).

Dry Label Removal Method

Label Lift Method

This method is for the crowd who wants to keep the label in a wine journal or affix it to cardstock for a souvenir.

Our favorite Label Lift is the Onephile Label Lift. We’ve found that this label lift works well when following instructions - we’ve yet to come across a label that gets ripped or torn by the process.  

To apply the Label Lift, simply place it over the label, rub for 1-2 minutes with the backside of a spoon or other hard object, then peel the label. 

Before placing the label in the wine journal or book, you can trim the edges.

These label lifts come in packages of 10 or 50.  To get the hang of it, we recommend getting your technique down with a label from a wine or beer you don’t intend to keep, or practice by first removing first the back label (which most people don’t collect).

This lift label package also fits nicely inside a notebook or wine journal for easy transport.  

The one downside is that the wine label now appears laminated.  If that is not a look you are going for, then try the Oven Method.  

Heat (Oven) Method

So, you don’t like the idea that your wine label appears laminated after removal. Perhaps you would like to make a wine label trivet or mount the wine label onto cardstock for framing.  Or maybe you collect them for eventually making a collage for your wine cellar (lucky you!). Try the heat method! You’ll need some oven mitts for this one.  

First, make sure there is no wine inside the bottle.  Also, make sure that the foil cap or wax bottle cover is removed so there are no foul odors when heating the bottle.  

Place the wine bottle on a cookie sheet (or in a baking dish so it is not rolling around in a dry oven) at 350 degrees F for 5 minutes.  Remove the bottle from the oven and check the readiness of the label for removal by testing the back label. Slip a razor or knife under the label and start to peel slowly from one corner. Don’t force the label or push with your fingers as this is how labels get crinkled during removal. If the label does not give, give it another 5 minutes in the oven. If after 15 minutes the label will not come off, you will have to use another method (like the OxiClean method) as the adhesive needs to be dissolved to come off cleanly.

That’s a wrap … and a few bonus tips!

We’ve provided you with several options for removing wine labels from the bottle, whether you are wanting to keep the label or the bottle!

Removing a label from a bottle of wine is never a perfect endeavor.  A little trial and error is involved in the process as well as some elbow grease.

If you don’t want to go through all this effort, here are two options:

  • You can ask the waiter to remove the wine label for you if you are enjoying a special bottle of wine in a restaurant.

  • You can send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the winery and ask for a pristine label.  They may have one available to send to you (however, it won’t, of course, be from the specific bottle you drank).

Let us know which methods you’ve used in the comments!

Cheers!

Wine Glass Charms: Our Five Favorite (and Most Fun) Wine Accessories

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When hosting a party with more than just a few guests, accidental co-mingling of glasses often occurs.  Gross! Metal remedies for this unsanitary problem have existed for a while, but are distracting, boring and dated.  Here, we review our five favorite (and more modern) wine charm sets for differentiating wine glasses at your next party.

What are wine charms?

Since many wine lovers own enough matching glassware to host a party and party-goers often forget where they set their glasses, clever entrepreneurs have come up with ways to tell wine glasses apart without detracting from the drinking experience.

A wine charm is simply any type of plastic, metal, or material to discern one wine glass from another.  Wine charms may also serve a secondary objective - decorating glasses in alignment with a party theme.

Early wine charms were often constructed out of metal - wire hoops that slip around the wine stem. While these allow for some creativity, it can be annoying to have a metal earring-like objects flopping around on the wine stem during each sip.

Do I really need wine charms?

From diligent research, we’ve found that the increased likelihood of wines becoming separated from their owners and being accidentally consumed by others is positively correlated with increased time at the party and the volume of wine consumed by the participant.  

While wine charms add a dose of whimsy and serve a practical objective (keeping drinks associated with guests!), not every wine party needs wine charms.  In fact, wine charms are viewed by many as just fun wine glass accessories.

If your wine party is focused on blind tasting where each person has multiple matching glasses in front of them, discreet wine charms may help to organize the wines being tasted.  However, simply marking the wine glass base with a washable or ethanol removable marker or Sharpie might be the best route, as wine charms may be too distracting for the purpose of serious wine tasting.

If your wine consuming guests will sit in primarily the same spot throughout the event or evening, then you might not need wine charms.  Wine charms become more useful when the party includes various attendees carrying their glasses from food station to food station or throughout a home or backyard over the course of a few hours. 

Where can I buy wine charms?

One can find a limited selection of wine charms at wine bottle shops or party supply stores.  However if you live some distance from such stores or fear they might not have a good selection, consider purchasing wine charms from online retailers.  

How do I personalize wine charms?

With the variety of pens on the market, it has become fairly easy to customize or personalize silicone-based wine charms for your parties.  Some wine charms come with instructions and their own pens for personalization. Other are personalized by color, shape, or individualized text.

How do I select and use a wine charm?

Does your party have a particular theme?  Will your party be co-ed or be only men or women?  Keeping the wine charms in line with your selected party theme is a consideration.  Alternatively, you might be looking for multi-purpose wine charms that you can have on hand for any impromptu wine party.  

Here are a few more considerations:

  • Will your party participants like to see something fun or risqué or are they more socially conservative? 

  • Will you use wine charms on stemless glassware or on fine wine glassware with stems? Some wine charms “hug” a wine glass stem and logically won’t work for a stemless glass.  

  • Do you want to re-use the wine charms many times or are you looking for a wine charm form limited use?  Note that re-usability was the desired outcome in this review.  

  • How thick are your wine glass stems? If your glassware has a thin or thick stem, and you choose a wine charm that encircles the wine stem, pay attention to how snug the wine charm is on the wine glass stem.  Wine charms that are too loose on a thin wine glass stem can fall off during the party, presenting a tripping hazard or choking hazard. Pets or small children might accidentally eat them off the ground.  

  • Do you want the wine charm to be adhesive or magnetic?  When using an adhesive, keep in mind that cheap ones may not be easy to remove from the glass.  While researching adhesive wine charms, we made sure to select a ‘clingy’ version with many positive reviews regarding any residue being left behind.  If adhesives concern you, magnetic wine charms might be a better fit. Also, magnetic charms are often reusable. Cling wine charms are another option with limited reusability (especially if they accidentally end up in the dishwasher!).

  • Does the wine charm need to be large enough to facilitate customization or personalization with a marker?  If you wish to personalize your wine charms, you will want to consider if the wine charm has enough surface area for printing the name or initials of the guest. Otherwise, personalization will be limited to the array of color choices available from the manufacturer, and guests will just need to pick a color.

Five wine charms for your party needs - without the wires and noise

Many wine charms available in box stores and some wine bottle shops are simple wire rings with a dangling trinket.  While these may appeal to the Pandora bracelet crowd, we wanted to investigate options that were less dangly, more universal, and more fun!

Best Pool Party Wine Charms

NPW Drinking Buddies Cocktail/Wine Glass Markers

Also available are the Bosom Buddies, of course:

These two-inch scantily clad action figures hang off your glass, gazing into the pool of liquid in your wine glass.  They are available in banana-hammock wearing men, bikini-wearing well-endowed women. We’ve seen a diverse array of skin tones in this product line. However, online options seem limited at the moment.  There’s even a water-into-wine Jesus action figure for parties of biblical proportion!  

Pros:

  • Fun conversation starters

  • Great office prank or white elephant gift

  • Works well on thin-rimmed glasses

  • As they attach to the glass rim, thickness of wine glass stem doesn’t matter

  • You can personalize the swimming trunks with a fine-tip Sharpie or Magic Marker

Cons:

  • The action figures might not be able to grasp thicker rimmed wine or martini glasses

  • We wish more skin and hair color tones were available online (perhaps they were out of stock?)

  • Keep away from pets and small children (choking hazard)

Best Wine Charms for Stemless Glasses

Simply Charmed Swarovski Crystal Magnetic Wine Glass Charms Set of 12 Glass Markers 

These magnetic wine charms are the most elegant of the wine charms we reviewed. They don’t require a glass stem, so are ideal for stemless glasses.

We were a little skeptical… magnets?  The magnetic wine glass charms arrived in a classy white box with a clear lid.  Twelve wine charms were attached to cardstock inside the box. When we removed a wine charm from the cardstock, we were pleasantly surprised at how strong the magnetics were.

To install, simply place one magnet on the outside of a stemless or traditional wineglass near the rim.  Place the second magnet on the inside of the glass behind the crystal.  

The magnetic wine charm worked like a charm across glassware of different thicknesses as well as on plastic cups.  

Pros:

  • Classic, elegant, timeless, attractive, innovative

  • Good for gift-giving, especially for hostess gifts

  • Take up little space in your kitchen drawer

  • Strong magnet - stronger than expected, heck they even survived a dishwasher run

Cons

  • Some users report the “stones” separating from the magnets after many uses

  • Might be difficult to apply for people with limited manual dexterity (or long fingernails!) due to small size

Best Wine charms for Fine Wine Glasses with Stems

Looking for something a little more casual?  These silicon wine glass charms slip around the stem of your favorite champagne or wine glass.

With the magnetic wine charms, we were a little nervous testing it on my thinnest-rimmed wine glasses, so these would be good for people who are careful with their glassware! The non-adhesive construction is perfect for entertaining with fine wine glassware.  

We liked that there were 12 different colors, and also that there was enough space to personalize with a fine tip Sharpie.

Pros:

  • Easy to slip on and off

  • Reusable, food-safe silicon

  • Classic colors

Cons:

  • With ultra-thin stemmed wine glasses, they might slip off.  Good with thicker-stemmed wine glasses.

  • Keep away from pets

Best Static Cling Wine Glass Tags (with the Best Sense of Humor)

These static cling wine glass tags come in a variety of themes suitable for cat lovers, dog fans, and several party themes.  Guests can choose from a variety of sayings (“You’ve got to be kitten me!”). We liked their ‘cling’ nature - no adhesive!

Pros:

  • Works on plastic and glass

  • Reusable as long as they stay clean

Cons:

  • A few online reviewers mention accidentally receiving the wrong static clings (e.g. ordered “cat” and received “Christmas”)

And Our Top Wine Charm Prize Is…

The Simply Charmed Swarovski Crystal Magnetic Wine Glass Charms, Set of 12 Glass Markers 

The wine charms did not move around during use, so we were not nervous about having them around children or pets.  We liked that this wine charm set had 12 different colors, allowing some personalization for guests. Also, we liked the simple touch of ‘bling’ from an aesthetic viewpoint. Another bonus was the small size and ability to work with all glass types. (This brand also carries holiday-themed charms, which we review in our ultimate gift guide for wine lovers!).

Of all the wine charms reviewed, we concluded that it was the one we would re-use the most.  The wine charms are easy to store in a small box no larger than a necklace box. 

Eager to know your top wine charm choice! Let us know in the comments below!

Cheers!

Opus One Winery: The KnowWines Review

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We’re fortunate to have been visiting the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country for about ten years. In those years, we have visited  Opus One multiple times. As fellow wine enthusiasts and seasoned travelers, we understand that anonymous reviews in public travel forums often give little insight into the wine experience (and you often can’t gauge the experience of the person writing the review!). As the price of wine tours and wine tastings increases, we aim to help our fellow experience seekers know what to expect! In this blog, we’ve put together our insights on the renowned Opus One winery.

Things to Consider Before Purchasing an Opus One Tasting

The Opus One tour is ideal for anyone interested in a luxury wine tasting experience. It’s perfect for the following types of travelers: 

  • Wine enthusiasts who want to see and taste the fruits of the historical collaboration between Napa’s Robert Mondavi and Bordeaux’s Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild

  • Wine collectors who want to taste the current vintage of Opus One, one older vintage of Opus One, and/or the winery’s second label Overture

  • Fans of architect Scott Johnson of Johnson, Fain & Pereira

  • Fans of Bordeaux-style wines 

  • Fans of cult Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine

This experience is not ideal for wine enthusiasts looking for a fast, boisterous, casual tasting.  This experience is not for wine lovers seeking out white wines, sweet wines, or a range of different wines. Finally, this wine tasting experience is not for travelers seeking out small, independently owned wineries specializing in bespoke grape varieties. 

Before purchasing the Opus One wine tasting or tour experience, you will need to consider the following: 

  • How much do you want to spend on the experience? 

  • How long do you want to visit and what do you want to see? 

  • Do you want to taste the current release or three different wines?

What is Opus One?

Opus One started as a partnership between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. The aim was to craft a wine combining winemaking approaches from both Napa, California and Bordeaux, France.  They aspired to craft a wine that would become their “Opus.”

While the two met first in 1970, it was not until 1984 that the first vintages (1979 and 1980) were released. Opus One was not crafted in the present facility in Oakville until 1991. Prior to 1991, the wine was made at the nearby Robert Mondavi winery.  

To learn more about this partnership and its significance in American Wine History, check out the House of Mondavi. It’s quite amazing (from both from an enology and from a marketing perspective) that a First Growth Bordeaux - Château Mouton Rothschild - would partner with a newer winery from ‘upstarts’ in Napa Valley.  

Opus One wine (and the second label wine Overture) are Bordeaux-style blends comprised of  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The grapes in Opus One originate from the estate’s approximately 100 acres of vineyards.

Here are the pros and cons of an Opus One tasting experience at the winery.

Pros

  • A serene and elegant tasting experience

  • No one under 21 allowed

  • Great views of Napa Valley

  • Unhurried tasting experience

  • Arrive early and avoid crowds

Cons

  • Tasting fee not waived with purchase

  • No picnics, no pets

  • Plan several days ahead for reservation during the peak travel season 

Choosing Your Experience

Booking

Opus One makes it very easy to book your visit. The website outlines several types of winery visits depending on your budget, interest, and desired experience. When you purchase your ticket online, you quickly receive an email confirmation.

There are a few tasting and tour options available. However, Guided Tours and Library Tastings are not available until the end of 2019 as the winery is undergoing renovations.  Opus One Tasting Appointment at the Pavilion is the only tasting currently available during the renovation.  

We purchased our tickets three days in advance for a 10:00 am tasting on a Sunday.  The weekends can be very busy, as well as weekdays during summer and harvest. To avoid crowds and get more 1:1 attention, we recommend choosing tasting times earlier in the day.  

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Arriving

The Opus One winery is located near Oakville, California at 7900 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562.  It is located 70 miles north of SFO airport in San Francisco and 13 miles north of Napa, California. Drive time from downtown Napa is about 20 minutes in the off season, but can be an hour or more during peak season as the road narrows from four lanes to two lanes north of Napa.

If you are approaching the winery from the south on Highway 29, look for Oakville Grocery on your right. The entrance to Opus One is the next driveway on the right. If you approach the winery from Oakville Cross Road from the east, there is a service entrance that is sometimes open if you want to avoid Highway 29.  If you approach the winery from the north on Highway 29, you will need to take a left turn across northbound traffic (which is not a pleasant experience on the busy weekend or on a rainy day!).

The gates to Opus One are closed outside business hours. However, there is enough room off of Highway 29 to pull off onto the driveway to get out of the flow of traffic.  

As you approach the winery from the main driveway, you will see its distinct architecture, which say is reminiscent of a spaceship.  There is ample parking on the north and south sides of the winery.  

As you walk to the main entrance, you are greeted by creme colored limestone columns, olive trees, grassy lawn and the large wooden doors.  

It is behind these doors where you find the concierge who will direct you to your tasting.   During renovations, a temporary tasting pavilion will be set up near the winery.  

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Our Tasting Experience

On our most recent visit, we chose the Opus One Tasting Appointment as this was the only tasting currently available during the renovation. This tasting consists of one 2 oz. pour of 2013 Opus One, 2015 Opus One, and Overture for $75. Wines by the glass were also available for purchase.

The concierge checked us in and walked with us to the tasting salon called the Partners’ Room. The check-in process was much like a visit to a high-end department store like Saks or Bergdorf’s.  

In the Partners’ Room (or Pavillion, during renovation) you can select wine by the glass or by the tasting flight. 

Seating is available in the Partners’ Room as well as outside the tasting room. Alternatively, you can climb the stairs and take in the views of the Vaca and Mayacamas Mountains as well as a good portion of the Napa Valley.

We planned for 90 minutes to enjoy the wines and walk the grounds.  Water and crackers are available upon request at no additional cost.  Feel free to ask the host questions about the wine and winery - if the room is not crowded, most are happy to visit with you for several minutes to answer any questions.  The staff has always been helpful in recommending additional tasting rooms, dining options, and lodging recommendations in the area.  

When you return your glasses to the tasting salon, you have the option to purchase bottles of the wines you tasted.  Opus One is distributed throughout the United States and the world, so check with the hostess in the Partners’ Room or Pavilion to find out if the wines are available in your state or hometown.

If you do purchase one or more bottles at Opus One, check out our article on getting your wines home safely.

Social Proof

Throughout the years, we’ve been sending friends and colleagues to this winery.  Most enjoy the experience, as do many online reviewers. Like us, the positive reviews highlight a serene tasting environment, knowledgeable staff, a relaxed pace, great views, and attentive but not pushy service.  

Most negative reviews of Opus One are on the topic of price and the winery not accommodating children and pets.  Also, some visitors prefer ‘warm’ country-cozy ambiance or the rustic elegance they experience at some other wineries. This winery’s ambiance is much more ‘cool’ and Neo Classical, true to the intention of combining European traditions with California wine.  There is only one style of wine to taste here, and some are disappointed in that as well.

Alternatives

We’ve visited 100 wineries in Napa Valley in the past 10 years, and as such, we’re able to provide recommendations for other wineries in the area should you find the price too high or you are simply not able to get in for a tasting.   

Wineries that allow children

Wineries that specialize in Bordeaux-style blends:

Other Cult Cabs:

Conclusions on Opus One Winery

If you like serene tastings and savoring one wine for 30 minutes or more, go here - you won’t regret it.  Also go if you just want to see what all the fuss is about. We do recommend going during the off-season or in the morning hours before the crowds descend.  We’ve never felt pressured to purchase wines after the tastings.  

If you are looking for a boisterous experience that never gets too serious about wine, don’t go here.  Don’t go here if you are looking for a glass of "cheap" wine or a bar-like experience.

If you are wanting to partake in a library tasting or a cellar tour, contact the winery and check when these tastings will be available again following construction.  

Cheers!

How To Throw a Shark Week Themed Wine Party

Shark Week Shenanigans

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July of each year means…. Shark Week!  You’ve had enough time to recover from the 4th of July and school will be back in session soon. We know you’re looking for the perfect excuse to host a party in that summer stretch between 4th of July and Labor Day.

So, why not host a Shark Week party and combine your love of wine and all things sharks? The wines covered in this shark party blog have Maritime or Mediterranean influences, with wine styles ranging from fine sparkling to refreshing whites to intense reds. We’ve also thrown in a few fun discoveries like Tasmanian sparkling wines and popular favorites like New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. 

Last, we’ll cover wine accessories - from shark wine glasses to shark cheese platters to nautical - to make your Shark Week celebration fun and with a hint of beachy elegance, perfect for summer parties! 

When is Shark Week 2019?

Shark Week 2019 runs from July 28 to August 4 on the Discovery Channel. Now in its 31st year, the Discovery Channel annual tradition of week-long programming featuring at least 20 hours of new shark-themed programming each year.

Coastal Wines Perfect for Sharky Celebrations

Wines in coastal regions typically have Maritime or Mediterranean climates.

Maritime climates don’t experience a lot of change in temperatures.  They also don’t have rainfall in just one season - the rainfall is spread throughout the growing season.  As a result, the growing season can go for quite some time into the autumn, with grape harvests well into October for Northern Hemisphere grapes.  Cooler temps often mean that wines from these regions are lower in alcohol, higher in acidity, and more restrained in fruit aromas and tastes, as these grapes often struggle to reach physiological maturity before harvest.

Mediterranean climates also don’t have a lot of temperature fluctuations, except in summer months. These months can be warm and dry - quite often hot. With long, hot growing seasons, wines from these regions can be higher in alcohol and lower in acidity with fruit forward aromas and tastes as the grapes have an increased likelihood of reaching physiological maturity before harvest. 

Why not celebrate Shark Week by selecting party wines from lands close to famous shark-infested waters? Read on for our favorite selections.

Shark Week Wines

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Sonoma Coast AVA

This American Viticulture Area is home to some of California’s best cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  One will also find some Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. With around 2000 acres of vineyards, there are actually few wineries in the Sonoma Coast AVA.  The fruit is typically purchased and then conveyed to wineries in Sonoma Valley or elsewhere for vinification and bottling.

Sonoma Coast has a Mediterranean climate with Maritime influences.  Also, there’s quite a lot of diversity in soil types and the topography of the region lends itself to many microclimates.  As a result, there’s not a “typical” Sonoma Coast style. When exploring the Sonoma Coast wines, we rely on up-to-date information from local wine bottle shop owners in selecting these cool climate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.  

In addition to vineyards, Sonoma Coast is also home to dairy herds and over 30 artisan cheese producers.  Check out this guide for selecting some Sonoma cheeses for your Shark Week cheese plate!

Just off the Sonoma Coast, in the cool salty waters, find the Red Triangle.  This region is where about 40% of great white shark attacks occur in the United States (yikes!). One could imagine that these sharks are on the prowl for a crisp Chardonnay to pair with some Bodega Bay oysters, however these magnificent creatures are more likely the search for tasty marine animals that frequent the area (as well as the occasional unaware San Francisco day-tripping surfer).

Tasmania

Tasmania, with its Maritime climate, is a recognized producer of sparkling wines as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Tasmania is home to over 200 wineries, many of them small and independently owned. Tasmania produces less than 1% of wines coming from Australia, however it has a very good reputation as a producer of fine sparkling wines.  These sparkling wines are exported in small quantities and are available at various on-line wine retailers and by special order at many independent wine bottle shops.  

While there are over 140 shark species in Australia waters, most don’t pose a danger to swimmers with the exception of great whites, bronze whalers, and the rare tiger and bull shark.  For those wanting to learn more about the history of sharks in Tasmania, the book White Pointer South is regarded as one of the best illustrated books on sharks. It has detailed information about sharks and a history of shark and man together in the Southern Hemisphere. 

New Zealand

Sauvignon Blanc is quite popular these days.  In fact, its popularity has led to the doubling of vineyard production between 2003 and 2010, with Sauvignon Blanc making up more than 50% of new plantings.

The Marlborough region of New Zealand is home base to the style of Sauvignon Blanc that put New Zealand on the map.  This style of Sauvingnon Blanc is known for its strong grassy, herbal aromas, as well as those of gooseberry and lemongrass.  

Since winemaking is fairly new in New Zealand, this region was able to implement many of the most modern viticulture and winemaking techniques.  One of these innovations is the use of screwcaps. The use of screwcaps for these wines enables the pure flavors and aromas of these wines to be transported thousands of miles to their raving fans (plus, they’re convenient for wine consumers!).

Most of New Zealand’s wine regions are within 80 miles of the ocean and the climate is Maritime.  These oceans are home to over 70 shark species including Shark Week favorite, the Mako Shark.

Albarino Alvarinho grapes in Rias Baixas Spain.jpg

Spain

Wine has been produced in Spain since at least Roman times.  Spanish wines are increasing in popularity here in the United States due to their lower price point (value) and a growing interest in younger generations of Americans wanting to try grape varieties indigenous to Spain.  Since the mid-1980s, a lot of money has been invested in Spain to bring modern viticulture and winemaking practices to the region.

Two regions of Spain for American wine lovers to explore are the Rias Baixas in Northwest Spain and the Priorato in Northeast Spain.  These regions have Maritime and Mediterranean climates, respectively.

 “Green” Rias Baixas is home to Albarino, which is growing in popularity  in the USA as a wine to drink with mild fish and shellfish.

At the other end of the spectrum are the wines from Priorat.  The Priorat is a rugged hilly region of Northeast Spain where significant investment has been made in the past 30 years.  These dark colored wines, made typically from Grenache, Carinena, and Cabernet Sauvignon possess high levels of alcohol and tanin and have raisin-like aromas and flavors.  

In the Mediterranean, there are almost 50 species of sharks.  The species dangerous to humans inlcude the tiger shark, the bull shark, and the great white shark.  While there are a large number of species, the shark population in the Mediterranean Sea around Spain is quite small due to over-fishing.  

Shark Week Party Accessories

If you’re going to have a Shark Week party, you may as well go all out! Check out these shark themed entertaining accessories.

Shark Wine Glasses

At KnowWines, we prefer a thin-rimmed crystal universal wineglass.  However, we’re not above tasteful nautical decor for Shark Week! Note that you may want to avoid stemless glasses, as Shark Week is in the hottest part of summer - stemless wine glasses held in the hand typically raise the temperature of a wine quickly, which can make many wines taste flabby. 

We like these Made in USA shark bait wine glasses as they have discreet etching and the bowl is a nice shape.  Alternatively, one could use these glasses for serving sangrias or water. 

Shark Wine Glass Markers

Already have glassware and looking for just a little something for your shark-themed event?  Consider these Shark Wine Glass Markers so that guests can tell their wine glasses apart as the afternoon or evening progresses. 

Shark Attack Snack Bowl

This fun and festive snack bowl holds 20 ounces of your favorite shark week snacks.

Shark Glass Bottle Stopper

This handmade glass shark bottle stopper makes a nice hostess gift for Shark Week parties.

Shark Wine Bottle Holder

The perfect hostess gift for Shark Week Fin-atics and fun for displaying at your own party, too!

Shark Salt and Pepper Shakers

Looking to add a little bite to a shark-themed party? Here you go:

Shark Week Cheese and Fruit Platter

This beachy-elegant cheese platter can be used time and again. 

Have a Jaw-some Shark Party

We love the idea of a Shark Week-Themed wine party. After all, why not learn more about wines from coastal regions while also learning about sharks?  

So, if you are looking for a mid-summer excuse to throw a shark themed party, we hope you enjoyed our shark-themed accessory recommendations. 

And just so you’re extra prepared, here’s more from KnowWines on how to throw an amazing wine party.

We hope you have a great Shark Week!

Cheers!

Top Nine Wine Books by Women

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There are so many books that can aid you in learning about wine!  

Spend any time around wine lovers and experts and you will quickly find that most are avid readers. In studying for any of the wine certifications through entities such as WSET (Wine and Spirit Educational Trust), CMS (Court of Master Sommeliers), Wine Guild, and Certified Specialist of Wine, one will find that a lot of reading is involved.

It is no surprise, moreover, that many of these books are written by women - 8 out of 10 bottles of wine consumed in home are purchased by women! 

Each book on an aspect of wine has different ideas and different goals for the reader. When picking out wine books, there are many things to consider. 

This blog will help you differentiate typical types of wine books and help you decide which is best - and most interesting - for you.

Wine 101 Books

All wine novices, wine enthusiasts, connoisseurs, and sommeliers all started at the same place … the beginning!  But not all beginning wine books are the same. Some encourage us to memorize specific regions, while others focus on discerning aromas and flavors and demystifying “wine speak.” Some encourage us to explore the world of wine with abandon, while others suggest we focus on the classics. Some are text-heavy while others appeal with images and tables. 

Wine Folly: Magnum Edition: The Master Guide
By Madeline Puckette, Justin Hammack

Best Wine 101 Book for the Visual Learner

Wine Folly:  Magnum Edition

If you learn best through maps, eye-pleasing graphics, and smaller snippets of text, then Wine Folly:  Magnum Edition is the best wine book for you. This book was awarded the 2019 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Beverage. Wine Folly co-founders are Madeline Puckette (sommelier) and Juston Hammack (digital strategist). If you are a fan of the Somm movie series, you may have seen Madeline in Somm: Into the Bottle.

The book begins with a short overview of wine basics presented with graphics and images.  Basics covered include wine labels, types of wine, how to taste wine, how to choose wine, how wine is made, and how to pair wines. It then shifts into an overview of the major grape varieties and wines of the world, with charts and diagrams outlining their geographic distribution, acreage and what smells and tastes to expect. The book recommends wines to explore from each region.  

 
The 24-Hour Wine Expert
By Jancis Robinson

Best Wine 101 Book When You are Crunched For Time

The 24-Hour Wine Expert

Jancis Robinson, the most respected wine critic in the world and well known for authoring and co-authoring some of the heftiest wine books, distills over four decades of wine knowledge into this petite book. 

We love this easy-to-read overview written, with humor, in plain English. The book introduces key concepts then gets right down to the business of choosing the right bottle, matching wine and food to the occasion, and seeking out wine values. After explaining how to handle wine, the book covers the most common grapes and wine regions.

Fun and concise, this book answers many beginner wine questions and may leave you wanting to learn more about wine after following the suggested exercises. You can also check out Jancis in The Somm Series.

 

Wine Consumer Review Books

Not everyone who shops for good wine values is interested in learning a lot about wine. I get it. I love grilled veggies, but I’m not that into outdoor grills. If I need to buy a new grill, I’d consult a consumer review publication or do some online research to find the best grill at a certain price.

General wine review books focus on getting you the best value for your dollar on wines you see year-in year-out in large wine retailers like Total Wine, Target, and Wal-Mart.

For the more wine savvy, other annual publications focused on getting you the best value in a given vintage or vintage + growing region. These books are aimed at emerging or serious collectors placing orders online or through a local wine shop, or at those purchasing wines at restaurants.  

Best Wine Consumer Review Book

Good, Better, Best Wines

If you are looking for a good, cheap wine under $15 that’s available almost anywhere you shop, then this book is great to have on your e-reader App as you browse the aisles.  

Canadian wine judge and wine columnist Carolyn Evans Hammond covers the best $5 to $15 wines distributed throughout the United States and Canada. She covers Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Red Blends, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Rosé, sparkling wines, and other great inexpensive red and white wines.     

Harried shoppers will enjoy this book’s simplicity - Carolyn lists “Good, Better, Best” with an image of each bottle to make shopping a breeze. She also makes recommendations for those looking for a super low-priced Tuesday night wine as well as dessert wines and party wines.  The book ends with best hidden gems.

In addition to checking out Carolyn’s book, see our recommendations for wine shopping at the grocery store.

 

Wine Books About the Pleasures of Wine

Let’s face it, we consume wine for pleasure.

People who enjoy wine derive different pleasures from its consumption, which can include

  • The rituals surrounding wine service in fine dining

  • Relaxing with a complex glass of wine in your favorite chair

  • Exploring the pairing of wine with different food flavors and cuisines

  • Gifting or sharing a coveted bottle with family, clients, or friends 

  • Seeking out and finding underdog wines

  • ...and much more

These books encompass several aspects of the world of wine. The best combine culture, travel, gastronomy, and poetry.  

Best Pleasures of Wine Book for Short Story Lovers

Wine in Words

Wall Street Journal Wine Columnist Lettie Teague shares mini-essays on many wine topics including wine myths, wine culture, and wine exploration. We’re a big fan of Lettie’s wine advice, including “Drink what you don’t know.”

Lettie has been writing about wine for years and the stories in these essays dispense knowledge while gently poking fun at wine insiders.  





 
The Art of Eating
By Joan Reardon, M.F.K. Fisher

Best Pleasures of Wine Book for Foodies

Art of Eating

This book is a compilation of some of the most sensuous books on food and wine. Sixty years have passed since these works were written and they continue to delight readers.

If you want to go back to a time before busyness, microwaves, fast food, and food blogs, then get a taste of M.F.K Fisher’s food and wine writing. His dark humor is a reprieve from today’s “look at me” wine and food social media gastronomy content.

 

Wine Reference Books

Sommeliers and wine lovers collect books in much the same way we collect wine. Book collecting is a pleasure, as well as a necessity, for those in the business. Most wine certification programs require prospective sommeliers to read literature produced or recommended by the certifying body.  Wine reference books can be heavy tomes (some weigh in at more than six pounds!) which makes e-reader versions better on the back.  

Some of the books in this genre focus on breadth of coverage for wine servers, while others go in depth on topics like soils, production practices, wine chemistry, or wine region. 

Best, Most Comprehensive Wine Reference Book

Oxford Companion Wine

From “amphora” to “Zinfandel,” this is the wine reference book for serious enthusiasts and those studying for various wine certifications. Comprised primarily of definitions, maps, and images, it also includes topics such as the following: wine regions, history, viticulture, winemaking, grape varieties, famous wine people, and labeling and tasting terms. The book won the James Beard Award and many others.

 
The Wine Bible
By Karen MacNeil

Best Wine Reference Book for Tasting a World of Wine

The Wine Bible

Hey, it’s not called The Wine Bible nothing. 

Karen MacNeil’s wine tome checks in at over 1000 pages, so we find Kindle the easiest way to carry around all this wine knowledge. This book is the accumulation of years of tasting and wine education since she got her start in the male-dominated wine world of the 1980s. Where many wine books either skim the surface or go very in depth, Karen’s Wine Bible touches on a breadth of topics for both beginners and intermediate-stage wine lovers.

Its many maps, photos, travel stops, wine flavor profiles, and wine pairing suggestions make this the best wine book for travel to wine regions when you know just a little about wine. This book is good for analytical types who prefer text, tables, and diagrams that are clear and efficient. If you are looking for more infographics and less text, some of the other wine books we recommend here might be a better fit.   

 

Wine Essays and Wine Trends

Essays on trends in wine have emerged as a popular kind of wine writing over the past 10 years. These books often cover hot topics like sommelier and restaurant culture as well as vineyard and cellar practices.  

Best Unpretentious Wine Book of Wine Essays

Wine All the Time

Marissa writes about drinking in the real world, four-letter words and all.

Her journey started with drinking all the “two buck Chuck” wines of the world. Then she made a video series called Wine Time. After working as Mindy Kaling’s assistant for four years, Marissa landed a book deal and a role as Bon Appetit contributor.  

Between all the jokes and LOL moments, Marissa dispenses with some good beginner wine information.

 

Best Journalist-Infiltrates-Wine-Connoisseurship-Culture Book of Wine Essays

Cork Dork

Those wanting a front row seat to “rock-star” sommelier culture will enjoy this book. It reveals the lengths that somms and serious students of wine will go in pursuit of certifications. 

Journalist Bianca Bosker takes an investigative reporter approach to learning the world of wine in New York City. Fans of Kitchen Confidential and other “foodie” books may really enjoy this look into the world of the wine-obsessed.  

 

In Conclusion

As you can see, there are many different types of wine books meeting different needs. And we’ve only taken a closer look at wine books written or co-written by women!

Regardless of your wine reading intention, we hope you have enjoyed our recommendations of some of our favorites!

Cheers!








































The Best Corkscrews and Wine Openers for Wine Lovers

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When it comes to opening a bottle of wine, there are a lot of products out there that can do the job.  Clever kitchen stores and gift shops market all types of wine openers to wine enthusiasts, either for our own use or as gifts.  Don’t fall prey to all those wine keys marketed to the home wine consumer.  

When selecting a wine opener, consider the intended application to select the best wine opener:

  • Will you be traveling with the corkscrew?

  • Do you want to give the best wine key to a sommelier friend achieving her latest certification? 

  • Are you simply looking for a perfect wine opener, one that won’t fail three months from now

  • Are you wanting a double hinged wine key that will fit in your sister’s small hand? 

  • Have you fallen for older wines (with their troublesome older corks!) and so need a traditional Ah So style cork puller?

Start with these questions before selecting a wine opener or corkscrew.

Opening a bottle of wine

Since the invention of the wine bottle and cork in the late 17th century, mankind has been designing and patenting tools for getting corks out of bottles.  

Fast forward to today, where in the United States, about 80% of wine is purchased for home consumption.  That means a lot of wine openers in American homes and a proliferation of different types of wine openers and names for these wine-freeing devices.

Corkscrew innovations are a lot like other kitchen innovations, over-engineered with cheap parts to appeal to the gadget junkie. They often end up collecting dust in the kitchen drawer.  Alternatively, many corkscrews in the grocery store or hotel room are cheap knock-offs meant to be disposable.

Here, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite wine corkscrews for all wine consumers. These wine openers will appeal to casual users as well as serious enthusiasts and sommeliers.  

And in case you need an opener for older bottles with fragile corks, we share with you our recommendation for a cork puller. 

Last, we review one electronic wine opener for those with limited hand mobility or weak hands and or wrists.  

Wine Opener Terminology

Hugger Waiter Corkscrew

Hugger Waiter Corkscrew

What is a Waiter’s friend?  Wine Key? Sommelier’s Knife?  Butler’s Friend? Waiter’s Corkscrew?

Don’t be intimidated.  These are all the same thing!

Based upon a German innovation dating back to the late 1880s, this device of many names has been a true friend to sommeliers, waiters, butlers, serious enthusiasts, and casual wine consumers alike.  The design of a sommelier’s knife has not diversified too much since its inception.

We continue to return to this kitchen multi-tool as it is reliable, takes up limited space, and fees robust enough to stand up to the task of liberating that great liquid from the bottle. 

The components of the wine key are the worm (metal helix), the handle, the boot-lever, the foil cutter, and optional bottle cap remover to remove the caps off of sodas or beer.

How To Use a Wine Key

Many wine opening devices on the market aim at simplifying the wine opening process.  In practice, however, it is quite simple to use a wine key to open a bottle of wine. Most of us simply have not been trained on how to open a bottle of wine.  

For an introduction (or refresher!) on wine service, including use of the wine key to open the bottle, check out this video.  

Not too bad, huh?  

How To Open a Bottle of Wine with a Fragile Cork

Perhaps you have an older bottle and the cork just doesn’t look like it will hold together if you apply the force of the wine key worm to it. Or, perhaps you’ve used the waiter’s friend and $#*@!, the cork broke in half and now you are wondering how you are going to get the rest of the remaining cork out.

This is where the cork extractor or cork puller (also colloquially referred to as the Ah So cork puller) comes in handy.

Check out this video on removing fragile corks from older wine bottles or retrieving the lodged piece of a broken cork.

When To Use An Electric Wine Opener

While we recommend the waiter’s friend for most wine opening experiences, we understand that they might not be easy to use for all wine enthusiasts.  

We are all differently abled when it comes to manual dexterity.  If you find removing the foil on the bottle, opening or closing the corkscrew, manipulating the worm and/or levering the cork out of the bottle painful or impossible, you may want to consider using an electric wine opener.

For our recommendation on the best electric opener, keep reading!

Our Wine Opener Recommendations

Best Waiter’s Friends

Hugger Waiter ABS Handle Corkscrew with Serrated Blade

Our favorite classic black corkscrew is this Franmara Hugger from Italy.  The worm is nickel-plated with an etched line running down the spiral. The stainless steel serrated knife cuts through foil easily. The ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) handle is solid.  ABS plastic is quite similar to the strong and smooth three-polymer plastic used in LEGO building blocks and computer keyboards.  

 The corkscrew also features a two-step boot lever. The wine opener is built like a tank, and fits in the hand like a comfortable knife.  

This type of wine key is common in restaurants, wineries, and at catered events so home wine enthusiasts can rest assured that it will last a long time and can be replaced easily if lost. The black matte finish of the handle gives it a classic look.  

Pros: 

  • The wine key’s larger size fits well in large hands

  • The serrated knife is large and can double for opening boxes

Cons:

  • Plastic handle might feel industrial to home users

  • The wine key’s larger size might feel too big in smaller hands


Pulltap's Genuine Classic 500 Double-Hinged Lever Waiters Wine Corkscrew Bottle Opener

Next up is Pulltap’s wine corkscrew from Barcelona, Spain.  This one’s strong reputation for durability makes it one of the most replicated corkscrews, so beware of imitations with names similar to Pulltap!

The Pulltap has a solid body and a strong nickel-plated double-hinged lever. This body/handle has a smooth, ergonomic feel to it. The worm is teflon coated, which makes it great for both natural and synthetic corks.  

Pros:

  • Ergonomic handle great for opening a lot of wines at a time

  • Retractable teflon coated worm good for natural and synthetic corks

  • This corkscrew is available in multiple colors including classic and trending colors

Cons:

  • Smaller sized handle not ideal for large or extra-large hands

  • The stainless steel foil cutter blade is a little on the small side


Laguiole en Aubrac Wine Opener with Juniper Handle

If you (or a lucky recipient) wants a handmade corkscrew from France, Laguiole wine openers come with a wide array of handles including bone, stone, and specialty woods. The metal components are forged in France in mills near Thiels.  The craftsmen making these knives typically apprentice between one and three years. 

Each individual knife is handmade by artisans from southern France and each is truly a piece of art.  Laguiole is not a brand name, rather it is a generic name for a knife originating from Laguiole village. There are several markings on these knives that are of interest: a fly (la mouche) engraved on the springhead; a cross (Shepherd's cross) used by shepherds for prayer; and signature engraving on the spine of the knife - unique to the knife-maker.  

Pros:

  • Hand crafted in France by skilled artisans

  • Corkscrew and foil cutter forged from Sandvik brushed stainless steel

Con:

  • Can be a little “stiff” to use when new, making it difficult to use at first if you are opening a lot of bottles in an evening

  • Single pull corkscrew (some people prefer double-stage corkscrew)


Best Key Chain Bottle Opener

Munkees 3-in-1 Mini Keychain Corkscrew & Bottle Opener Tool with Knife

If you are looking for a well made corkscrew to keep on your keychain (ideal for outdoor pursuits), the Munkees Mini Corkscrew might be the best wine key for camping.  With this easy to carry 3-inch mini corkscrew, you will never have to research again “How to open a bottle of wine without a corkscrew.”

In addition to being a corkscrew on a chain, the device has a bottle cap opener and a sharp knife.  The tip of the corkscrew is secured and covered by the bottle cap opener.   

Pros:

  • Small size 

  • Can carry on keychain

  • 30-day free return

Cons:

  • Does not have double-action or single-action lever - will need to use brute force to pull the cork out with the T-handle.


Best Cork Puller

Monopol Westmark Germany Steel Two-Prong Cork Puller with Cover

This cork puller is great when you need to uncork old vintage wine.  These two-prong cork pullers go by many names, including Ah-So cork puller, Butler’s Thief, Butler’s Friend, or Ah-So style Waiter’s Friend.  

To use one of these cork extractors, simply use a knife or foil cutter to remove the foil from the top of the wine bottle.  Hold the neck of the bottle firmly and insert the longest prong onto one side of the cork between the cork and the inside neck of the bottle, followed by the shortest prong.  Wiggle the extractor prongs while pushing downwards on the hand. Once the cork puller prongs are firmly tweezing the cork, slowly turn the cork puller while holding the bottle to extract the cork.  Check out our video here:  


This particular cork puller is made in Germany and comes in an esthetically pleasing little black box with plush interior, making it a great gift.  The steel prongs and die cast metal ergonomic handle and cover means it will likely outlast all of us! It comes with a five-year warranty.  

Pros:

  • Cork is not damaged during extraction, reducing the chances that little bits of cork crumbs fall into the bottle

  • Easy to clean

Cons:

  • Requires a little wiggling and pulling, which might be difficult for some with carpal tunnel or other wrist dexterity challenges


Best electric wine opener

Electric Wine Opener Rechargeable Automatic Corkscrew Wine Bottle Opener with Foil Cutter & USB Charging Cable Stainless Steel by Flasnake

While at KnowWines we prefer the classic styles of the waiter’s friend and cork extractors, we know that some wine consumers want or need an electric wine opener.  If you suffer from carpal tunnel, wrist pain, a broken arm, or have use of only one hand, classic wine openers won’t suffice.

In an electric wine opener, we looked for ease of use, sleek design aesthetics, noise level, and warranty.

This wine opener is very easy to use.  One simply needs to cut the foil using the included (free!) foil cutter, then use the down and up arrows on the electric wine opener to first insert the screw then retract the cork from the bottle.  We also liked the energy efficiency of the device - one can open up to 80 bottles on one full charge!

Pros:

  • Attractive beige box - great for gift-giving

  • Quiet

  • Contemporary stainless steel housing

  • Pretty blue and red lights light up during operation

  • Takes 100 - 240 V


The Wine Bottle Opener Round-Up

For almost all bottle opening applications, the classic Waiter’s Friend corkscrew will suffice.  

When selecting the best bottle opener, consider the user and the situation(s) in which bottles will be opened.

In the wine bar and restaurant community, you’ll find our first two picks for good reasons. The Hugger has the feel of a good multi-purpose chef’s knife, while the Pulltap feels like a great paring knife.  They are a good balance of cost and quality - if you lose one, it isn’t the end of the world.

For those looking for a gift for a serious wine collector or a sommelier achieving his/her most recent wine award, the Laguiole wine opener is a lifetime investment and celebration of enduring craftsmanship.  

Outdoor enthusiasts and college students will find the Monkees corkscrew and bottle combination with keychain a practical tool.

And for those who love the ease of use of an electronic wine opener, who may be suffering from carpal tunnel or arthritis, the Flasnake Electronic Wine Opener is a great choice.

We hope this blog helps you choose just the right corkscrew for yourself or a friend. For more great wine gift ideas, check out our ultimate guide to gifts for wine lovers.

Cheers!