Paul Saums, who has been selling wine for more than 20 years, prefers his toilet tank to a $100 electronic wine chiller.
At noon, Saums put a bottle of Cheverny in the toilet tank of D.O.C. Wine Shop, the Brooklyn store where he works. Twenty minutes later, he pulled it out of the cold water, checked the temperature, and declared it perfectly chilled and ready for consumption.
“At a party, people use the bathroom,” says Saums, “As they flush the toilet, cool water keeps running over the bottle -- and that’s very important.” He believes this bath of flowing water is better for the wine than rapidly changing its temperature using a chiller or refrigerator.
The wine accessory business is flourishing in the U.S. More Americans are drinking wine, especially at home. By the end of 2013, they will have polished off 713 million gallons of wine, according to the Wine Market Council, a trade association. Several of them will either buy -- or be gifted -- a product that will help open, drink or store their alcohol. Wine sellers like Saums say a lot of the popular wine gadgets don’t actually make for better tasting wine. Still, they often have customers coming in to ask about the latest holiday innovations.
ALTERNATIVES FOR WINE ACCESSORIES
Image courtesy of Peugeot/Sruthi Pinnamaneni
Corkscrew: TJ Provenzano of Brooklyn Oenology says a waiter’s corkscrew is all you need to open a bottle of wine. Make sure it’s the double-hinge kind.
Electric Corkscrew - $119.95 VS. Waiter’s Corkscrew - $8
Image courtesy of Brookstone/Sruthi Pinnamaneni
Wine Chiller: Paul Saums of D.O.C. Wine Shop stands by his toilet tank method for chilling wine. Most important, he says, make sure you don’t change the temperature of your wine too quickly. That will affect its composition and dull the flavor.
Electronic Wine Chiller - $99.00 VS. Toilet Tank
Aerator: Pauls Saums of D.O.C. Wine Shop says no aerator will beat out the old decanter in flavor and charm. Plus, it doubles as a flower vase. He tells his customers never to wash their decanters with soap. Only kosher salt and crushed ice will do.
Image courtesy of Vacu Vin/Sruthi Pinnamaneni
Wine preserver: Daniel Mensch of Pier Wines finds that the popular vacuum pump systems often leak air into the bottle. He suggests corking the unfinished bottle and sticking it in the fridge to slow the oxidation. Or the cheap man’s solution: finish your bottle.
Vacuum Pump - $9.90 VS. Refrigerator
Image courtesy of Wine Enthusiast
Wine Pajamas: There’s no good replacement for these, according to our wine experts. If you are looking for a witty and cozy way to accessorize your wine habit, this one is a keeper.
Wine Pajamas - $29.95
TJ Provenzano, manager of Brooklyn Oenology, says he for one does not find aerators to be helpful but he does sell them at his store.
“Absolutely,” Provenzano says, “Because it helps people checks something off their holiday shopping list.”
Every Christmas, Provanzano clears space at his store to make way for an accessories section with glassware, stone pump aerators, wine aroma training kits, champagne stoppers and more. He also carries a range of accessories for spirits, such as whisky glasses or liquor decanters, which he says are selling better than years past.
Wine Enthusiast, the parent company of the magazine, makes more than a hundred million dollars a year selling wine accessories. Jacki Strum, director of communications at the firm, says this year’s Cyber Monday was the biggest sales day in their 30-year history. She demonstrated a few of this season’s biggest hits: an Electric Wine Hub with a vacuum preserver, which extracts oxygen from an unfinished bottle, and a corkscrew that looks like a teleportation device. Also, part of this year’s bumper crop: pink wine pajamas emblazoned with the text, “Don’t Drink and Decorate!”
Strum says the company tests all the products it sells. She also believes these accessories add to the ritual experience of drinking wine, where appreciation is about more than just taste.
Wine Enthusiast, whose biggest customers in the U.S. are Costco and Target, has set its sights overseas. It recently launched the Mandarin version of its magazine in China.
This is all good news for people who sell wine accessories, but perhaps not so good for the people getting them as gifts.
“Last year, I received last year a ceramic dog that holds a bottle of wine,” says Provenzano. He also got a lot of corkscrews and wine charms. Provenzano finally cut his family off: no more wine accessory gifts.
His holiday gift suggestion? A bottle of wine, preferably local.