Browse any kitchen, home goods, or liquor store inventory and you'll be barraged with literally hundreds of gizmos and gadgets
created just to make your wine drinking easier...If you have the dough to blow, diamond-studded bottle stoppers and $200 state-of-the-art openers may make pretty little stocking stuffers, but for most of us flipping the cork upside down and reinserting gets the job done just fine.
So, then, what tools should the average drinker actually have on hand? Here’s a list of the five essential wine accessories you should have handy before you pop your next cork.
Those openers with the triple-digit price tags sure are swanky, but it’s sort of like investing in a pair of Laboutins to wear while walking the dog; they sure do look pretty but you’ll be a bit overdressed for the occasion. All you need to open most bottles of wine is what is commonly referred to as a waiter’s corkscrew. This tool has a small fold-up knife for quick removal of the bottle’s foil capsule, a spiral corkscrew, and a lever for lifting up the actual cork. Look for a sharp knife for the cleanest cuts, a coated, mid-length spiral so you’re not puncturing the bottom of the cork, and a double-hinged lever designed to do most of the removal work for you.
Good Quality Glasses
You don’t necessarily have to spring for fancy schmancy Riedels or send out for Spiegelau delivery (although if your budget allows it, both manufacturers make some lovely glassware), but investing in some suitable stems really will help bring your wine to life. Technically you can get a glass for almost every red varietal, including Burgundy, Bordeaux, Cab, and there are numerous options for full-bodied versus lighter whites as well, but unless you’re routinely serving multi-course meals complete with pairings and have a lot of cabinet space to fill, dozens of dedicated glasses may be overkill. At the very least, buy two sets of multi-purpose glasses – one for white, one for red. The white glass should be narrower than the red, as reds tend to need more room to breathe, but both should have a curved shape so the goblet or bowl is wider at the bottom and thinner near the top or rim. This keeps some of the aroma in the glass. If you love sparkling wine, and you really should, pick up some flutes as well; sparkling wine should always be in a narrow flute, not in those fussy vintage-looking saucers which are an excellent way to ensure your your fizzy drink goes flat in record time. By the way – crystal glasses are delicate and lovely, but unless you’re happy to hand wash them every time and deal with the inevitable party foul (ie, breakage), go for a more durable pick that still has a nice weight and feel.
Having a decanter on hand for aerating lackluster bottles or separating a wine from its sediment is a nice idea, especially since it’s pretty easy to get one for a reasonable price. Some people may get fussy and buy an aerator as well, but for the most part a vigorous decanting does the same job without the additional financial investment. Don’t be afraid to slug that young, tight wine into the decanter with a little authority – get all 50 Shades of Grey with it, if you want. Unless it’s a delicate varietal or vintage, in which case you shouldn’t be decanting it in the first place, you can’t hurt it.
If you treat yourself to nice glasses and a pretty decanter, wash them carefully between uses, then dry them with a big roll of Bounty, you’re just going to end up with fuzzy covered glassware and paper towel-infused wine. Pick up a couple lint-free polishing towels to keep your wine gear free of debris as well as streaks and water spots.
There are all kinds of opinions on wine temperature, but the bottom line is that if you like even an occasional bottle of chilled vino, you should have a bucket dedicated to bringing that bottle to temp. You can MacGyver your way to happiness by jury rigging a mixing bowl or other handy vessel, but those options won’t display as beautifully or work as efficiently and effectively as a bucket or chiller designed especially for wine. Choose a bucket that easily holds a standard 750ML plus room for ice and water (the combination will actually chill wine faster, and adding a little salt will amp up the cold factor even more) – the rest of the aesthetics are up to you.