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May/June 2014

Wine Savers

We tested six tools on half-empty bottles of red and white wine, comparing and evaluating the wines’ flavors and drinkability at various time intervals.

Update: July 2014
Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled Coravin Wine Access System and contact Coravin for a free repair kit that includes a neoprene wine bottle sleeve to contain broken glass when a bottle breaks, along with updated instructions and warnings. The wine access system should not be used on wine bottles with damages or flaws. For more information, please call Coravin customer service at 1-855-692-6728 or visit coravin.com/support. Even though the company has added this protective measure to the Coravin system, the risk of breaking a bottle of expensive wine with this costly device still exists, and we feel we can no longer recommend the product. The Air Cork, our previous runner-up, is our new winner.

How We Tested

For years we’ve preserved open bottles of wine either by using the Vacu Vin Wine Saver, an inexpensive ($9.29) pair of rubber stoppers with a pump that sucks the air out of the bottle, or by pouring leftover wine into a smaller bottle or Mason jar to stave off oxidation. But innovative new gadgets promise to keep wine drinkable longer. We tested six tools, including the Vacu Vin, on half-empty bottles of red and white wine, comparing and evaluating the wines’ flavors and drinkability at various time intervals.

Three models were either ineffective or fussy or both. Our old favorite worked reliably and kept wine drinkable for a week, but two new models bested it. As of press time, these two models had kept wine drinkable for one month. (We’ll continue to taste and report, so check our website for updates.) By inserting one model's sharp, hollow needle through the cork—we never had to uncork the bottle—we could pour just the amount of wine that we wanted while activating a pressurized capsule that simultaneously fed argon (an inert gas) into the bottle to displace the tapped wine. Not even our trained wine expert could say which was fresher: a month-old bottle sealed by this product or a freshly opened bottle of the same vintage. Another, cheaper product is a worthy Best Buy: It forms a barricade against air when its balloon is lowered into the bottle and inflated just above the surface of the leftover wine. On the downside, it’s slightly finicky and can be used on only one bottle at a time.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

$33.31*

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Winner
Recommended

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

$33.31*

Lodge Classic Cast Iron Skillet, 12"

Our old winner arrived with the slickest preseasoned interior and only got better. Broad enough to cook two big steaks, it browned foods deeply, and its thorough seasoning ensured that our acidic pan sauce picked up no off-flavors. Though its handle is short, the pan has a helper handle that made lifting easy. It survived abuse testing without a scratch. An excellent pan, at an excellent price, that you’ll never have to replace.