Product Type: Oz Clarke electrical appliances
Disgruntled of Burgundy
Oz Clarke Electric Bottle Chiller
Member Name: SueMagee
Oz Clarke Electric Bottle Chiller
Advantages: Chills or warms wine.
Disadvantages: No guidance on correct temperatures given and won't take champagne bottles.
There comes a time in your life when those fine judgements about how long you can safely leave a bottle of sparkling wine in the freezer before it explodes and how close to the central heating boiler you should put the bottle of red become tiresome. You want an easy way. You certainly don’t want to have to clean out the freezer or drink mulled wine on a regular basis.
We enjoy wine. We’re also probably better-known than we ought to be in various wine-merchants and supermarket wine departments where we’re happy to pay more for a good wine. It makes sense to ensure that you serve wine at the correct temperature so that you get the best out of it: most people have grimaced when given a tepid white wine or one so chilled that it tastes rather like water. Worse still, if that’s possible, is the red that’s served cold and all it tastes of is, er, cold.
Shortly before Christmas I was browsing for something else entirely when I chanced on the Oz Clarke Electric Bottle Chiller for £29.95. I’ve seen Oz Clarke on television and thought that he was a bit of a buffoon, but a buffoon who knew something about wine. Not only would the machine chill wines, it would also warm them, having a temperature range of 3°C to 50°C. It would, I was told, ensure that my favourite wine was served at the correct temperature. Two extras sealed the deal for me – it was wide enough to take champagne bottles and an Oz Clarke wine guide was included in the price. It was sold to the lady whose dogs were trying to do some wine tasting on the bottle she’d just put near the radiator in the dining room.
I fondly imagined that I would select my wine, say a decent Rioja, look up the correct temperature in the wine guide, pull the cork, pop the bottle in the machine and then enjoy the wine at its best. I’m easily fooled.
Packaging, when the machine arrived, was appropriate and there was nothing there that I couldn’t recycle. The chiller itself is smart with a slightly retro look in grey and burgundy. I’d have preferred something plainer myself, but it wasn’t there for its looks. The first problem was where to put it. The diameter, at 20cm was alright, but the height of 28cm meant that it couldn’t go under a wall unit in the kitchen if I was to get the bottle into it without a struggle. You’re also warned that it shouldn’t be placed near a source of water. There’s a decent length of flex, but a rather bulky and ugly transformer which you might not want to have on permanent display.
So, kitchen rearranged and bottle of wine selected, I settled down to see what the wine guide would tell me. Disappointment began to set in. In fairness, no one said that it was a book, but I was expecting something a bit better than a sixteen-page leaflet with a glossy cover, particularly when two pages are the instructions for use for the chiller, a further two pages are the instructions for an electric corkscrew and another two pages are adverts for other products. The instructions are not a great deal of use either. There’s a picture with various parts labeled and a list of things that you mustn’t do, which most people would never think of doing. As to how the machine works there’s not even a hint other than to say that you should pre-cool white wine in the fridge before using the chiller. Er, that was the sort of thing I was trying to avoid!
The advice given by Oz in the leaflet would cure this, surely? No, it doesn’t. I headed straight for the single paragraph on temperature. He talks about “room temperature” and bandies about such words as “chilled”, “cool larder temperature” and “well chilled” but nowhere does he put a figure on it and when you’ve just bought a machine where you turn a knob to set the temperature which you wish to achieve that’s exactly what you want. There’s some reasonable information about matching wines with food, tasting wines and storing it, but if you’ve been drinking wine regularly for over a quarter of a century there’s unlikely to be anything there you’re not familiar with.
It was down to trial and error then. We found a bottle of wine which showed the recommended temperature, opened it and wrapped the insulating collar, which comes with the machine, around the neck. The wine reached the “temperature” – and was tasteless. We had, of course, over many nights, to try a considerable selection of wines at different settings and we have now worked out our own “tastes best at” settings. They might not be right for the purists but they suit us and I regard the machine as a success on that point. It didn’t come easily though and I still have a niggling feeling that I’m getting something that we like but it might not be the best that can be achieved.
Our treat on Christmas Day is a good champagne. We pre-chilled it in the fridge and then went to put it in the chiller. The bottle wouldn’t fit in. Wondering if this was just an isolated incident we searched through the wine rack and found four other champagne-type bottles, all different. None of them would go into the chiller.
In buying this machine I broke one of my golden rules – never buy machinery with a celebrity endorsement. It probably means that it wouldn’t sell otherwise and all you’re doing is feeding someone’s greed. The chiller is manufactured by Catalyst Home Products Ltd and they’re an authorised licensee of the Oz Clarke trademark. I did wonder if Oz had seen the machine at all. It also struck me that Oz wasn’t quite such a buffoon, particularly where money is concerned. I’d just paid nearly £30 for something which was probably worth about £15 to £20.
It’s enough to drive you to drink.
Summary: It will chill and warm wine but no guidance on correct temperatures and champagne bottles!