Accordingly there are an endless number of gadgets and devices designed to empty the bank accounts of those who have bought into the cult. Sometimes their very practicality disguises their secondary function as part of an ancient litany: an ornate goblet is also a chalice, and “passing the port” is both a tradition and a means of keeping the entire gathering equally “refreshed”.
Not all the accoutrement available to wine enthusiasts is strictly necessary, or even useful. You can pretty much manage with a reasonable corkscrew and a decent glass. That said, some of the toys do make a difference. I consider the lever model Screwpull an essential tool when I confront a long line-up of bottles. The pocket model, with its teflon-coated thread, is ideal to open old bottles with brittle corks. Equally useful are the two-pronged devices that fit between the cork and the neck of the bottle, loosening the closure and effectively easing the stopper gently out of the bottle.
You don’t need a funnel unless you’ve broken off particles of cork and they’ve landed up in the wine. You do, however, need decent wine glasses and, providing you shop intelligently, they will easily repay the investment. To prove to yourself they do make an impact, conduct this simple test at home. Use a polystrene cup, a small “Paris” goblet of the kind restaurants still offer their customers, and a couple of larger glasses with different shaped bowls and lips. Pour the same wine from the same bottle into all four receptacles. Then taste what a difference the material, size of the bowl and the way the wine lands on your tongue makes to your appreciation.
This is the theory behind Riedel wine glasses – widely regarded as the best in the business. At its extreme, this logic leads to a different set of Riedel glasses for every cultivar. But even if you consider this level of obsession an unnecessary extravagance, invest in fine glasses, large-bowled and without a thick rim. And refuse to accept anything less from a restaurant. For the often outrageous mark-ups, they should supply stemware appropriate to the wine you order.