The adorable little cottage in the Loire Valley had it all. A comfortable couch, beds outfitted beautifully, and lots of kitchen essentials – including a toaster! The bathroom had a supply of good French soap and plenty of toilet paper on a cute vanity table, the fireplace had a stack of ready-to-go firewood alongside it. There was even a small telescope on a table near the door for late night star-viewing.
It all seemed so perfect. Then, after opening a bottle of Burgundy I’d brought from Paris, I saw the wine glasses.
Thud. All that perfection came to a screeching halt.
They were those tiny balloon glasses you get when you drink a glass of cheap wine in a workingman’s bar, the kind that hold a couple of ounces at most and have a fat rim around the top. And this was the one time I had not brought my Riedel “O” glasses with me. I was seriously bummed.
As a wine lover and daily drinker, I now NEVER neglect to pack my Riedel “O” glasses and have, over a few years, discovered a few other wine accessories I would not think about traveling without. I recommend all of these without reservations, and they all fill a certain need. All would make a great gift for the wine lover in your life.
The Riedel “O” glasses I mention above are stemless crystal glasses from Austria. The great thing about these glasses is (besides drinking out of them) the two-pack box they come in, which is a good size to transport in your carry-on. They come in several shapes and sizes, but my favorite for travel is the Viognier/Chardonnay glass which is 11 ¼ ounces and works great as an all-purpose glass. I am on my third set of these and I first traveled with them in 2005. The third set I just purchased a few days ago. While the glasses last a long time if there are no accidents, the boxes do not. After a while they will fall apart and though a bit of tape helps it doesn’t forever. With a set of these, you will always have a nice glass to drink out of, in your lodgings, on the train, or wherever you like to drink wine. Just know that eventually you will have to retire the box to the recycling bin, and buy a fresh set.
One of the dilemmas of the single wine traveler is opening a bottle of red wine when you are not sure how long it will take to drink it all. I might want a glass of wine one night, but what if I am out for the next two nights? One runs the risk of the wine going off, and that would be a waste of good wine. Vacuum pumps don’t work that great and a canister of Argon is not an easy thing to carry around, so thankfully a few years ago I discovered Wine Shields. This Australian product is a food safe, recyclable, feather-light plastic disk that you insert into an open bottle, where it then sits on top of the wine. The disk prevents any oxygen from getting to the wine, thereby preserving it, and it stays there until you finish the bottle. I have tested this product and it keeps wine fresh and just-opened tasting for up to five days. Each shield is discarded with the bottle, and I carry a few with me at all times. For more information on how these work, visit www.wineshield.com.
The Ah-So Corkpuller
The TSA now allows a corkscrew with a small blade on flights originating in the United States, but a corkscrew with a blade going through security in Europe will often be confiscated. Even a bladeless waiter’s corkscrew may not make it (because of the screw.) Thankfully, there is the “Ah-So” style corkpuller which has no screw OR blade, making it safe for the traveler who likes to have an opener in their carry-on. The double-prong technique takes a little getting used to – insert the two prongs into the space between the corks and the bottle, wiggle down with a rocking motion, then twist to bring the cork up – but once you’ve got it, you’ll never be without a decent corkscrew in a hotel room again. The best Ah-So is produced by the Monopol company in Germany, but there are also inexpensive brands you can generally find in your local wine shop.
Wine Chiller Sleeves
You have to be staying in a place with a freezer to utilize these, but if you will have a freezer on any part of your journey and you like white wine, they are worth taking along. Once frozen, you simply slip one over a bottle of white wine. It will help to chill a warm bottle, but the better use for me is keeping an already cold bottle nicely chilled while heading out on a boat, for a picnic, or to your next destination (where a cool glass of white wine always helps with the unpacking.) The sleeve pictured on the tray above is a Pulltex I picked up in Venice, and I find it to be the most durable and easy to pack for traveling.
PlatyPreserve Wine Preservation System
This is a pretty long name for what is essentially a plastic container you store wine in. But I sometimes wonder how I traveled without it before. Developed for backpackers but now used by wine lovers in all walks of life, PlatyPreserve is a collapsible vessel that you pour your wine into; as you consume the wine, the vessel compresses until it is completely flat. It preserves the wine by eliminating the oxygen, but even better, it eliminates the heavy bottle. So if you are headed out to a long train ride and want to have a bit of the grape with your sandwich, you’ve got a less heavy sack to carry. It is also a great way to transport undrunk wine between two destinations. No more cumbersome half filled bottles to contend with! As an added bonus, the Pulltex wine chiller sleeve will also fit around a PlatyPreserve!
There are other, more expensive products to transport a bottle of wine safely in luggage, but my go-to is the Wine Skin. I usually carry one or two with me to transport a bottle or two in my suitcase. Wine Skins are also useful for olive oil and I have transported many a bottle home this way. A plastic sleeve lined with bubble wrap on the inside, there is a piece of heavy tape at the bottom to secure the package and help prevent any disasters should the bottle inside somehow break (which has never happened to me, in years of using these.) I’ve managed to re-use one Wine Skin a few times; I am not sure it is something the manufacturer would recommend, but when on a long trip one does what one must to get by.
But if you can’t manage that, any wine shops and liquor stores carry items like these, along with the usual online sources. I would love to hear comments on other wine related items for the traveler!
Shannon Essa leads small-group tours focusing on wine, food, and local culture in Croatia, Slovenia, Northern Italy and Northern Spain & Portugal.
Discover the backstreets of Venice or the wine, craft beer, and slow food of Piedmont, Italy. In Spain, experience the rustic foods and low-key lifestyle in beautiful Galicia, the wineries along the Camino de Santiago in the Bierzo region, or the justifiably famous wine regions and local food traditions of Catalonia. See many of Croatia’s most beautiful sights and learn about the rebirth of one of Europe’s oldest wine areas. And see all this with Shannon, who loves unique and out of the way wine and food experiences.
When not in Europe, Shannon does her eating and drinking in San Diego, California.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.