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Wine Openers: What is *really* useful?

Wine Openers: What is *really* useful?

It's not something into which most people put a lot of thought, but if you open bottles of wine regularly, the proper opener is absolutely something to look into. Everyone has their favorites, and I've used about a billion different styles of opener over the last couple of years.

Honestly? Most of them are absolutely terrible.

There are wine openers that are necessary for certain tasks (a two-prong Ah-So is perfect for opening a really old bottle without the cork crumbling) or help with arthritic hands (the automatic Rabbit corkscrew is great for people with limited dexterity of the wrist or fingers), but the majority of wine openers are too overwrought and ineffective to be useful.

If you've ever purchased or been given a "full bar kit," I can almost guarantee that the cheap "waiter's helper" corkscrew will have a dull knife, a hooked lever arm, or a shiny chrome corkscrew--or worse, all three! The knife or rotating foil-cutting blade will not effectively cut through the foil on a wine bottle neck. The hinge is hard to maneuver once you get the corkscrew into the cork, making it likely to chip the glass or break the cork. And the screw will rust and break the cork into small chunks that end up in your glass. Why do these cheap versions even get made?

Dealing with the awful versions of a waiter's friend opener is enough to go buy the lever-press corkscrews. I have one of these, and it works just fine. But it's bulky, and the foil-cutter has the stupid rotating little metal blades that don't cut through foil, and corks have a tendency to get stuck on the screw. Plus, if you ever want to get a full pat-down by a TSA agent, try sticking one of these in your carry-on luggage! Mine mostly stays in a drawer.

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Judging Wine by Its Label

Judging Wine by Its Label

The over-used cliché that “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” is absolutely something to keep in mind when faced with the task of picking a bottle of wine at the store. It’s hard to escape, though; at least with books, you can open the front cover, flip through, read a couple paragraphs, and decide if it’s to your liking. How do you do that with wine?

It’s unlikely that the store will allow you to just open the bottle and taste it before committing to the sale. So you are faced with the dilemma of whether to go with something that you know is decent and will suit your needs, go off of a salesperson’s recommendation, or select a wine based on the label.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that you don’t recognize any of the wines on the shelf or that you’re in the mood to try something different, and that you don’t want (or, sadly, can’t find) assistance from a sales clerk. You’re flying blind in the wine aisle!

Don’t panic.

First, focus on what you want; varietal, price range, region. Narrow down your search as much as you can, and then focus on that area of the department. When you’ve done that, you can start to have some fun with selecting the exact bottle you should bring home.

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