A walk around any wine store or a few minutes browsing the internet will reveal hundreds, thousands, of wine accessories. There are endless varieties of glasses, wine storage, corkscrews, chillers, preservers, and more. It’s easy to get tempted to buy everything in every color, shape, and size, but you don’t necessarily need all of it. If you need some help narrowing down what you really need and what you don’t, we’re here to help.
Ok, ok, I know this one seems pretty obvious, but not everyone has wine glasses on hand, especially if they’re just beginning their wine journey. I can’t tell you how many times in my early days I had wine out of a coffee cup or a red Solo cup because a wine glass wasn’t available at the time.
Here’s the deal: technically, you can use any container that will hold liquid to drink your wine. However, if you’re interested in improving your experience, I do recommend that you get at least one traditional wine glass. You don’t have to spend a fortune on it and you don’t have to get a different one for every varietal, but there are a few things to look for in an ideal glass:
- Shape- For a traditional, all purpose glass, the opening should be narrower than the body and look more like an egg than a balloon. This shape is reminiscent of a standard tasting glass that the pros use and will work regardless of the varietal you’re drinking.
- Size- Believe it or not, bigger is not always better. I love glasses in interesting shapes and sizes (like these Texas glasses!), but an everyday wine glass doesn’t need to hold an entire bottle of wine. A universal wine glass is a mid-sized, mid-shaped, all-purpose glass that you can serve any kind of wine in. It should hold around 15 ounces of wine, and your pour should reach the widest point of the bowl. This will allow plenty of room for a good swirl and you will be able to smell the wine easily.
- Material- Crystal is the ideal material for a wine glass, but if you’re like me that’s a no-go for everyday- too much of a risk of breakage. If you can, go for a glass in leaded crystal, which is a little harder to break, or standard glass with a thin lip.
- Stem or no stem- While stemless glasses certainly have their place (harder to knock over, easy to cup in your hand, super cute…), glasses with stems are considered ideal for wine tasting. This is because you warm up wine when holding the bowl of the glass in your hand, which affects the taste.
Again, sounds like a no-brainer but there are times when you find yourself without a corkscrew. They can break, get misplaced, accidentally get thrown away, be packed when someone brings you a welcome to the neighborhood bottle…
Funny story, this actually happened to my sister and me years ago. We had just moved to Virginia and a couple came by to welcome us and gave us an unlabeled bottle of what we thought (hoped) was wine. No explanation- just a welcome and here as they handed it over and immediately left. After much discussion (fueled by exhaustion from driving 10 hours and unpacking a Uhaul on the same day) we decided to take the risk and try it but couldn’t find a corkscrew. We did find the toolbox and managed to extract the cork with a long screw and a pair of pliers. We then drank the wine (probably from coffee cups, let’s be honest). Thanks goodness it actually was wine that the couple made (hence the lack of label), and not poison from serial killers targeting new arrivals. We all had a good laugh about it later, but I would strongly advise you to not drink unlabeled liquids from complete strangers without asking a few questions (like what is this and where did it come from) first. Also, make sure your corkscrew is readily at hand when you move.
There are a lot of different kinds of corkscrews out there and everyone seems to have their favorite. Here are the top 4 most popular and their features:
- Waiter’s– Probably the most easily identifiable and readily at hand, this corkscrew has everything you need to open a bottle in one convenient tool. This is my personal favorite, but it can be a little hard to use if you have reduced hand dexterity.
- Winged- These give you a little more leverage than a waiter’s corkscrew. You do need to cut the foil from the top of the bottle before using, then you just screw it into the bottle and push down on the wings to lift the cork.
- Lever- A lever corkscrew is great if you need a little extra control. You just cut the foil from the top, push down on the lever to insert the corkscrew, and then lift the lever up again to remove the cork.
- Electric- The easiest way to remove a cork is to use an electric corkscrew, which requires very little strength or dexterity. You do have to make sure it’s charged, though, so taking it on camping trips may not be the best option.
It’s always a good idea to have a couple bottle stoppers on hand. You can go with a basic silicone one or something more decorative. Now, you may be asking why that’s necessary because you always finish the bottle or because you can just stick the cork back in if you don’t. The reason is, you never know. You might decide not to finish the bottle one night, or get interrupted just as you’re settling in for your first glass. Or the cork might break when you’re opening the bottle or be troublesome to get back in. Bottle stoppers keep you prepared for any eventuality, and the pretty ones are fun to collect and display from your trips.
You don’t need a wine preserver because you always finish the bottle, right? See the reasoning for bottle stoppers above. This is a just-in-case for some people and a necessity for others. Either way, it’s a good idea to have some sort of preserver on hand. There are three primary styles to choose from
- Pump– A vacuum or pump preserver is the simplest option. It works by removing oxygen from the bottle and sealing it with a special cork. This will keep the wine good for up to a few days, depending on how much air you removed.
- Displacement- Inert gases can be pumped into an open bottle to force the oxygen out and essentially cover the wine to protect it. This type of system is fairly inexpensive and will keep wine fresh for longer than the pump, usually around 2 weeks but sometimes longer.
- Coravin- If you really want to keep wine good for a long time and you don’t mind making an investment, the Coravin is the way to go. It only works on natural corks (there are attachments for screw top bottles but the wine doesn’t last as long), and essentially puts a tiny hole in the cork while inserting inert gas into the bottle. This forces wine out while keeping what’s left in the bottle safe.
The wine journal can take any form you like, from an actual journal to notes on your phone to an app. No matter how you keep track of the wines you drink, I highly recommend doing it in some form. I cannot tell you how many wines I’ve had that I wish I remembered what they were called or what I thought of them. Learn from my early mistakes and jot down a few notes about every wine you drink- at the very least, it’s name, varietal, and if you liked it or not. Some other things that will come in handy later:
- Taste and smell
- Structural components of the body- acidity, tannin, sugar, alcohol
- Any food you had with it.
There are so many other accessories out there for wine drinkers, but these are the ones I would say are most important when you’re getting started in wine. You can basically take on any wine with these items. If you’ve already got these covered, stay tuned for our article on advanced wine accessories.