To easily open a bottle of wine I always believed that the classic waiters corkscrew was the best tool available. Who needs all those fancy contraptions when you have a little instrument that cuts the foil and allows you to pull the cork with brute force? Well after experimenting with many different openers and corkscrews, I finally gave in and am convinced that those contraptions are actually better and require less strength than the waiter’s corkscrew. So here’s my favorite wine opener.
I tried out all the different models in an attempt to find the best one for both cork and artificial cork stoppers. The best part was drinking all the uncorked wine in the name of science.
After experimenting for a few weeks I have decided on two. First let’s look at an extremely popular apparatus. The estate opener (picture on the left) looks great on the top of any bar or table, and does the job. It works by the use of a lever that is moved up and down to push and pull the spiral into the cork. I found it a bit uncomfortable when it is placed on a bar, as the bar-top is higher than most tables. On a table it works a little better as you have more leverage and can maneuver the opening of the bottle with more force. While it functions as expected, it is still not the ideal opener for me. The long wooden handle goes up too high and places your arm in an awkward position that limits the strength you can use to bring the handle down. Other than that, it is a good opener but not my favorite.
Now for my two favorites. The Italian-style lever wine opener (picture on the right) has an insertion and extraction lever that is a U-shaped double arm, giving it a wide grip at the handle. It makes it very easy and comfortable to uncork the bottle. I actually inserted and extracted the cork in less than 3 seconds. This lever opener is strong and sturdy. It brings a foil cutter that is simple to use, and a spare spiral. The spiral is Teflon coated so that it is easy to insert into the cork. Once you learn how to use it properly it will become your must-have opener, and your guests will be impressed with the smoothness and brevity of the uncorking.
The lever corkscrew really impressed me. The simplicity and ease of use was extraordinary. All you have to do with this corkscrew is raise the lever and place the unit over the bottle’s top opening. Once it is firmly in place, squeeze the handles on the side of the bottle and bring the lever down, pushing the spiral smoothly through cork. Simply hold the bottle down using the handles and pull the lever. The cork will slide out of the bottle with ease. After the extraction bring the lever down and grab the cork with the handles. Once again pull the lever up and the spiral will pull itself out of the cork. Once you release the handles, the cork will drop into your hand. While the whole process sounds complicated, you can actually extract the cork from a wine bottle in about three seconds. One of the features that I really enjoyed was how compact the opener is, and how efficiently it uses all of its parts.
All the models that I tested were VIP brand openers, come in a set with an extra spiral and other utilities, are gift packed and are fully guaranteed. In addition to the above models, the screwpull, rabbit, pulltaps and other types of corkscrews were tested.
I had the pleasure of having some wonderful French wines with Sebastian Roux from Domaines Roux Père & Fils. His family has been making wine since 1885 in Saint-Aubin in Côte d’Or, France. They are one of the finest wine producers in the Burgundy region of France and with great pride he poured me a glass of one of his vintage wines made under the label of Charles Mignon & Fils wines. It was delicately balanced and had rich but smooth berry tones that complemented the creamy mouth-feel.
Charles Mignon & Fils wines are affordable priced and are practically the same as his Domaines Roux Père & Fils that have earned ratings of 94 out of 100 from industry publications. It’s a way for Sebastian Roux to enter some U.S. markets without affecting the price and profile of his higher priced flagship wines.
His 10 family members tend to the Estate of 160 acres in Burgundy, France and 250 acres in the Languedoc, France. Each year his family is rewarded for their efforts by the top industry magazines and wine guides throughout the world. Roux’ wines have gained notoriety and have received some of the highest ratings and reviews. Talking to him and seeing his passion for wines reveals why their wines are so well regarded. Wine is his life.
This family winery provides premium wines through 60 appellations. Sebastian proudly promotes his wines as only the person personally making the wine can. Even though most of his wine production is drunk in France, he wants more than the experienced wine drinkers and collectors in the United States to drink his wine. As he explains it, he wants the world to drink his wines. It was obvious that it was not about the money, but rather his true love of wine. I’ve seen this same characteristic in the world’s greatest wine makers.
Afer the first bottle was gone, he kindly uncorked a delightful white Burgundy from his 2004 vintage. The nose clearly prepared my palette for what was to come. An elegant and full wine that satisfied. It’s no wonder that wine critic Robert Parker called this wine an “Excellent value, opulent, luscious Meursault” concluding that this is “Burgundy’s most hedonistic white.”
You’ll be hearing a lot more of Domaines Roux Père & Fils fine wines as they are aggressively expanding their distribution in the United States. Even though their wines are already discovered, the price is still affordable as Roux’s goal is to have as many as possible enjoy his wines. Will the price go up afterwards, probably. In the interim, enjoy this great value while you can.
One of my favorite red wines from Argentina is a Malbec. While Malbec wine is popping up more and more, not many know the background of this delightfully full-bodied wine.
Malbec is a grape used in making red wine that tends to have a dark and rich color. Another characteristic of Malbec is that it has robust tannins. While historically it is one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of French Bordeaux red wine, the French Malbec plantations are now only visible in Cahors, the Southwest wine region of France. It was introduced in Argentina in 1868 and little by little, this grape has become prominent in Argentina and has finally reached the celebrated level as an Argentinian varietal wine. Due to its growing popularity, growers from Chile, Australia, California and Washington have been moving quickly to grow Malbec. These growers have improved the wine producing processes. The quality of Malbecs from Chile and Australia are getting close to their competitors from Argentina.
Here’s a little background info. Malbec is named after a Hungarian peasant who introduced it to France. The Malbec grape is thin-skinned and requires more sun and heat than Cabernet or Merlot to mature. Malbec ripens mid-season and can display a very deep red color with lots of tannin and a fruity plum-like flavor. The red wines made from Malbec grapes are rich, dark and extra juicy. As a varietal it is a deep red color with intense flavors and bouquet.
So what’s my favorite? It’s a boutique wine produced by Argenvine. The Malbec from the Reserva Especial of 2002 is one of the most intense wine drinking experiences that I have had from an Argentine varietal. The grapes are from the Mendoza region and the wine is aged 12 months in French oak barrels. The deep purplish red color is delightful. The bouquet is of dried fruits, plums, toast and chocolate. On the palate, it is silky and pleasant with delicate fruity overtones of truffles and dried plums, which give it an excellent long lingering finish. It’s a great bottle to enjoy with a steak dinner.
A Wine accessory is just about anything that is made to be specifically used in the storing or serving of wines. Wine accessories include items such as wine openers and corkscrews, wine racks and wine stoppers. I was talking to some serious wine connoisseurs about the most important accessory. It wasn’t a surprise that while they mentioned the essentials, the one that they all pointed to as being the most important is the wine opener. Without it (a good one) you have the potential of tainting the wine with cork scraps. While there are many different types available, one of my favorites is the V.I.P. Vintage Opener. You can use the top unit by itself (by placing it on the table’s edge or locking it on any wood or metal cabinet), or you can use it with the solid wood and steel stand. It works and looks great in any home or bar.
It’s easy to use. Just place the lever to the back and place the bottle in the holder. Tighter the handle flaps around the bottle and move the lever to the front. It will place the corkscrew tip into the cork. Pull the lever back and the cork will be pulled out of the wine bottle cleanly. After you release the handle flaps and remove the bottle, just move the lever back to the front and the slightly to the back. The cork will be released in one piece.