One of the surest signs of wine's rising popularity is the nearly endless list of accessories and accouterments that have flooded the market in recent years.
Some of them are actually useful.
We're not talking only glassware — although I must admit that the amazing Zalto glasses, which provide infinitely more expressive aromas than any I have encountered, are almost worth the $50-per tab. There are also tools and toys that enhance or ease our experiences.
For starters, those of us wacky sorts who have been known to drop an ice cube or three into our glass (yes, even with reds, which often are served too warm) now have not one, not two, but three doodads to accomplish that without watering down the wine.
That includes the lookiest piece of newish wine equipment around, Kim Crawford Wine Gems. Designed by New York stone artist Anna Rabinowicz, these beautiful orbs are about half again as big as marbles and are not cheap ($76 for six at anna-newyork.com). But after a few hours in the freezer, they make a glass of wine not only stay cool but look seriously cool.
A bit clunkier but no less effective is the Skybar Wine Chill Drops (bit.ly/1l6Wen8), $29.99 for two, which chill a glass of red wine in 90 seconds and a white in 8 minutes.
These devices aren't needed for those who have Host "Freeze" Cooling Wine Glasses (bit.ly/1MVnoUm) for $24.95 for two. These stemless glasses look a bit odd, with a largish silver bar near the top, but they'll keep wine at 45 to 53 degrees when pulled out of the freezer, or 60 degrees if they've been in the fridge.
To keep wine cool before it gets into the glass, consider the Trudeau "Blink" Wine Chiller (bit.ly/1H9fkmR), $49.99. Thanks to two freeze packs, this chiller keeps bottles up to 1-liter size brisk; bonus points for working equally well with beer and cider.
If you want to know the exact temperature of a bottle, check out the Oster Electronic Wine Vacuum Cork (bit.ly/1NE5eHr), $19.99. Inserted into an open bottle, its LED display shows the temp (and toggles between Fahrenheit and centigrade for your French house guest), and its auto pressure sensor gives that puppy a solid seal. And kudos to Oster for these two words on the packaging: "Batteries included."
By far the most crowded market in the wine-widget world is in aeration devices. And small wonder, since so many red wines benefit, often mightily, from passing through something that sucks some air into the fermented grape juice.
In recent years, many wineries have rushed their bottles into the market when a little patience and prudence would have been in order. In addition, some wines, especially "big" reds, simply benefit from some artificial respiration.
Enter the "Wine Breather Carafe (amzn.to/1H9fF9k), $34.99, which can be clamped onto a bottle and quickly overturned to pour the wine into the carafe. But the cool part is that the two pieces can then be flipped over to send the liquid back in the bottle, a practice called "double decanting" that is used by many of us cork dorks.
Still, the once and future ruler of this realm is Vinturi, which hasn't had to do much to modify its years-old hand-held aerator ($29.99), although the company has launched one for spirits ($39.99). Its best addition, though, is an Aerator Gift Set-Up (bit.ly/1PAxEIo), $49.99, that holds a glass securely while the wine is poured through the aerator attached to the top of the stand.
Any (or none) of this equipment can be used while enjoying a game of Read Between the Wines (amzn.to/1HZ2Wkk), $34.99. It's best played by at least four people who are not too geeky about wine, even though it allows them to geek out in certain fashion by coining fun/funny descriptors. Book clubs, bachelorette parties, casual friends, whomever can gather, aided and abetted by a "wine waiter." Playing also requires several different wines, not that there's anything wrong with that. Using theme cards and (groan alert) "zin-onyms" and "vocab-ernets," players craft their own tasting notes, then try to guess who wrote what.
Gentle ribbing allowed, if not encouraged.
Bill Ward writes at decant-this.com. Follow him on Twitter: @billward4.