Is there more of a letdown than when you’re opening a bottle of wine for dinner guests, casually talking all the while, twisting the opener, pushing, pulling, and then — suddenly — the cork is in the bottle? Or chopped off halfway, stuck in the neck, and headed down farther from there? In either case, flecks of material float around in precious liquid, bound to be swallowed or get caught in someone’s mouth. It’s not the best dinner-party look.
Luckily, Camille Lindsley, co-owner and beverage director of the NYC-based queer restaurant HAGS, has a solve: this two-piece stainless-steel wine funnel, which is made up of the funnel itself and a fine mesh (also metal) filter that fits snugly inside and catches the unwanted bits. “It’s something that seems like a silly, pointless little gadget, but honestly, it’s so utilitarian,” she says.
Lindsley used this exact one, an industry-standard model, at Aldo Sohm, Le Bernardin’s sister wine bar, where she worked before opening her own spot. “At a lot of places where they have wine programs with many bottles with serious age on them, the funnel is a workhorse,” she says. In those cases, it’s not so much that somms are breaking corks as that they regularly open older red wines, which sit for so long they’re liable to have naturally crumbly ones. Even more so, the bottles have sediment at the bottom, matter that should also be sifted out.
The tool, though, isn’t just for professional settings; it’s comes surprisingly in handy at home for Lindsley, too. On occasion, it’s because she opens an aged bottle akin to what you would find at Aldo Sohm or HAGS. Sometimes, it’s because she breaks the cork. But even more than either of those scenarios, it’s because she often decants wines for the sake of decanting (not because of unwanted particulate matter) — something that the funnel can do even without its fine-mesh counterpart.
“Exposing wine to oxygen chemically changes it,” Lindsley explains. “Some wines, when you first open them, might be a little meek — or as somms will sometimes say, a little closed off. It basically means that they haven’t had enough exposure to oxygen to really show their full hands, to really show their depth.” This is true of older reds but also of really young wines, where decanting makes it “easier to pick apart atoms and flavors that may be hiding.”
If that sounds like fancy winespeak, that’s because it is. But at the end of the day, Lindsley is simply saying that using the funnel makes certain wines taste better — and functions as a handy problem solver when opening a bottle goes awry. After all, she admits, “it happens to the best of us.”
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