With women buying the majority of the wine consumed in this country, Mother’s Day offers a great opportunity to make their wine lives a little easier, both in understanding wine and serving it, with six cool and inexpensive gifts that you can give Mom separately or as a basket full of useful wine items.
First, for the basics and beyond, pick up a copy of the paperback “Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine,” by Courtney Cochran (Viking Studio, $18.95). Cochran, a San Francisco-based wine expert, has a breezy, down-to-earth style that makes this info-packed book a quick and fun read (find out why “women make better wine tasters” than men). Beyond the fundamentals, I also like it as a handy reference guide that you can turn to for food and wine pairings (salty blue cheese with sweet wines “because salty and sweet combos rock”) and to find the difference between that Barbera someone brings to dinner and a Brunello di Montalcino. Now let’s get to the wine itself. For opening wine, the corkscrew is not the only essential tool. To start the process you have to cut away the top of the bottle’s wrapper to get to the cork, unless your bottle has a screw cap. Forget doing this with the corkscrew (it will leave the wrapper looking ragged) or with any kitchen knife (for obvious reasons). While many corkscrews come with small knives, they require precision and effort to get a clean cut. The real solution is a good foil cutter, and one of the best I’ve seen is the Screwpull Foil Cutter (about $10), which has four sharp little cutting wheels that sit under a plastic holder and requires little effort.
With your cork visible and waiting to be extracted, any corkscrew should theoretically do the trick, but one of my favorites for ease and style is Screwpull’s Corkscrew 3-in-1 (about $21). Now, the “three” in this gadget, which comes in black and a range of bright colors, refers to a small, serrated knife to cut the foil (it takes more effort than it’s worth) and a bottle opener, which might come in handy. But the real value of these openers lies in the fact that they make removing a cork almost effortless; you simply put your index finger in a hole in the lever, turn it and wind out the cork. Both the corkscrew and the separate foil cutter are available at winestuff.com. From the same Web site, you might also consider adding in the $5 Wine Collar, a felt-lined metal ring that stops those annoying wine drips from streaming down the bottle and staining a nice tablecloth.
So now that your wine is open, it’s time to pour. This Mother’s Day, and for less formal spring and summer dining, why not give Mom a set of stemless wine glasses, also known as tumblers? They’re becoming increasingly popular, take up less storage space and, it seems to me, aren’t as likely to break. True, your fingerprints will eventually be visible on them, but I like how they make the whole wine experience a bit more casual. A fun twist is a set of four Riedel Happy “O” Wine Glasses, with a splash of four distinct colors in their bases that will make it a cinch to tell whose wine glass is whose. Wineenthusiast.com lists them for about $49 and offers a range of other stemless glasses.
What about leftover wine? Most of the time it will be just fine for a day or two if you close it up. But since corks expand after they’re out of the bottle, pushing them back in can be a real struggle. Not only that, a bottle with a cork sticking out of it will often be too tall to place in your refrigerator shelf or door. I deal with both of these problems all the time. The solution? Good old-fashioned bottle stoppers from Zyliss that expand when you press the lever down. I was amazed at how well they sealed up a wine bottle the other night when a friend pulled a handful of them out of her kitchen drawer. Cookingtoys.com offers a set of four multicolored Zyliss Bottle Stoppers for $16.
With all these wine toys, the only thing left, of course, is a great bottle of wine — and a warm toast to Mom.
Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at