The English Reverend Samuel Henshall filed the first official corkscrew patent in 1795, paving the way for other inventors over the years. He was not the first, though. The earliest dated device is a French cage style corkscrew from 1685, but the Reverend added a flat button of metal to the helix to make a firmer fit with the cork and registered his design. Many gadgets have become part of the wine scene over the years and are excellent gifts.
Some experts in the South African wine industry share their top wine gadgets.
Abrie Beeslaar, winemaker at Kanonkop Estate outside Stellenbosch, has received the International Wine and Spirit Competition’s award for International Winemaker of the Year three times – in 2008, 2015 and 2017. In 2019, at the same competition, he was also the first recipient of the Outstanding Wine Producer Trophy, awarded to the winery achieving consistently over the competition’s illustrious 50-year history. Buy Abrie’s highly sought after Beeslaar Pinotage here.
Abrie says he is not a big supporter of wine gadgets as he believes the wines must speak for themselves, but he has tools that makes his life easier.
His favourite wine tool is The Durand®, a corkscrew with a difference. The Durand® is a fully patented, two-part device that enables the user to remove older and fragile wine corks whole and intact. Using The Durand® for older, fragile or compromised corks eliminates the unwanted outcomes of broken corks, corks pushed into bottles or corks partially removed leaving pieces floating in the wine. The Durand removes the cork whole and contained.
It was invented by wine collector Mark Taylor who struggled with challenging corks when opening older fine wines. He founded Wining Taylors, LLC (based in Atlanta, Georgia, USA) to manufacture and market The Durand® in 2007. The Durand is named for Yves Durand, a world-renowned sommelier, and a personal friend and mentor.
Abrie says at Kanonkop they have many older vintages in perfect condition, but they are not always sure of the condition of the cork and The Durand® works very well. It a safer opening method. It pushes the cork away from the bottle’s neck and clamps the cork, while the screw grips the cork and pulls it out.
He says, “I also enjoy varietal specific glasses and found the Burgundy glasses are excellent for Pinotage.” Shop a selection of South Africa’s finest Pinotage online here.
Jean-Vincent Ridon manages the Sommeliers Academy, training the hospitality industry and grooming the best sommeliers of the future. His dedication toward education makes him a key stakeholder in the transformation progress in South Africa.
He is active in all fields of the wine industry from viticulturist, journalist, wine importer and winery equipment importer, host of the Web TV program “Extreme Pairing”, wine judge and founder of the South African Wine Tasting Championship.
Jean-Vincent’s favorite wine gadget is a variation of Abrie’s Durand, called the SANBRI. “This double blade bottle opener was designed in 1956 and is not manufactured anymore. You can find many manufacturers of double blade opener these days, but the quality of the steel that makes the SANBRI has never been matched.
“I have a few pairs of these, but my friends keep on abusing my generosity and often leave my place with one of them. To remedy I keep on buying some on Ebay from people who may not even know the purpose of this strange looking gadget. Since I am often opening historic bottles for clients, the SANBRI is the safest way to open a bottle with a crumbling cork…”
Charles Withington is a wine veteran. After many years at Rustenberg Estate, he became manager at Backsberg Estate. He has been working with Niel Joubert since 1996 and as export manager he has presented these wines in the UK, USA, Netherlands and China. He is the Secretary of the Stellenbosch Wine Circle and founder of the Darling Wine Group and owns and runs the Darling Wine Shop.
Charles stocks a variety of Fairview Wines and says for the Cape Coastal Chenin Blanc – the best of which comes from Charles Back’s 145 ha of fine Darling vineyard – he is going to be rather boring. “I have assessed all sorts of aerators and gadgets, from the ‘turbo’ model with the two little holes in the side and that gurgles wine through like a jet engine in reverse thrust, to the bubble mouth model that you can never clear properly. I have decided that the best of all is a plain and simple wide mouth decanter of 500ml in size.
“Why? We are dealing with a white wine and so sediment from age does not come into play. The wine does not need major aeration – but it has been closed up for months maybe under screw cap, so, like us in the morning, it needs to have that breath of fresh air.”
He uses a 500ml carafe and fills it to about 400ml level. “Give it a swirl or three, and then let it settle for a few minutes (patience required, as we are really looking forward to tasting this wine) and then serve. The carafe can stay on the table, as there is something rather civilized about this, and when it is empty, I simply re-fill with the other half of the bottle.”
He will use the vaselike glass carafe as it looks good, can fit in most dishwashers, and are relatively inexpensive – so no domestic eruptions should it perchance break.
Other wine gadgets to be considered, include an aerator, that introduces air into the wine. Oxygen breaks down the harsh, sometimes young tannins and makes them smoother. A decanter does the same job, but also separates wine from sediment. A decanter with a narrow neck and modest base is going to limit the amount of oxygen that touches your wine. It also looks very smart on a dinner table.
Wine pourers are also popular, as it reduces the chance of dripping wine on the table or over your guests and a stylish wine cooler is ideal for hot summer days.
Whether you have a case full of wine gadgets or like winemaker, Abrie Beeslaar prefer to let the wines speak for themselves – you can shop all your favorite wines online here.