ALMOST every year manufacturers invent a new and "revolutionary" corkscrew, a "breakthrough" decantor or a "truly innovative" chilling device.
All you really need to enjoy a bottle of wine is a corkscrew and a glass. But, I admit, some of the additional wine serving equipment is interesting and functional.
Wine coolers: Wine can be cooled in the refrigerator, but if you are in a hurry or wish to keep the wine cool at the serving table, a bucket of ice and cold water is the most effective method. When choosing a wine bucket pay special attention to its height. It is essential to get a bucket that will accommodate the entire contents of the bottle. And speaking of the entire contents, it's a heavy load, so check to see that the handles of the bucket are securely attached and provide an adequate area for gripping.
If you are not actually trying to chill the wine to any great extent, but merely wish to try to keep it at a low temperature, you might try using the Wine Brique: This is a tube made of flower pot clay. It is first soaked in water, then emptied and a bottle of wine is placed inside. The water evaporating from the clay lowers the temperature of the air surrounding the bottle and helps keep the contents cool. This is not a device for giving room temperature white wine a crisp chill. Its best use is for keeping chilled wine cool. Always put a plate under this device. The Wine Brique is attractive and realtively inexpensive, retailing for $9.95.
Cork retriever: This nifty little tool consists of three 10-inch-long flexible wires with tiny curved hooks at one end and a wooden handle at the other. The curved ends of the wires descend into the bottle and catch the floating cork like grappling hooks. They are then drawn up by the wooden handle and the cork is removed from the bottle. There is a cork retriever made with a metal handle and a colar that slides down the wires to give you a more secure grip on the cork.
There is also a model that consists merely of a trough with a hook at the end. You use it to catch the cork against the inside wall of the bottle and draw it up. The retriever that suits you best is determined by your level of manual dexterity. My personal perference is for the flexible wire models. They are priced between $2 and $3.
Decanting funnels: When a wine needs decanting, stand the bottle upright for a day or more, so the sediment falls to the bottom, then pour the wine gently into another container in one continous motion leaving the sediment inside the original bottle.
Often the opening of the carafe into which you are decanting the wine is small, making the process somewhat difficult. A wine funnel can be a distinct advantage.
They come in various materials but my choice has always been the glass funnel made by Polgrim. The bell-shaped, blown crystal funnel has an angled lower spout that gently curves the pouring wine down the side of the carafe. It will not interact with the acid in the wine and it sells for $10.
Champagne openers: Almost every mushroom-shaped champagne cork can be removed by holding the cork with a cloth and slowly turning the bottle beneath while drawing the cork upward. From time to time, however, I come upon an uncooperative little devil and resort to the use of a champagne opener. This chrome-plated tool has a large screw attached to a three-sided cap lifter. The cap lifter is wedged around the top of the cork and an oversized wing nut is turned to raise it.
To make sure that you don't reject purchasing this tool because you are not a regular consumer of champagne the manufacturer has shaped the top of the handle into a standard bottle opener, giving you the ability to move quickly and easily from Don Perignon to bottled waters. Champagne openers retail for about $7. In bar equipment areas at large stores, you might look for another handy champagne adjunct. It's a recorker (one made by Pedrini is available in the area for $2.50) that fits over the top of the bottle and allows you to store a partially drunk bottle in the refrigerator for a day or two without losing all the bubbles.