There are exactly three things you need to enjoy good wine. They are, in order of practical importance:
- Appropriate wine glasses.
That’s it. I promise. Perhaps the area of the wine world that draws my ire more than scoring wine on a 100 point scale is the massive array of expensive stemware and wine accessories that serve no real purpose other than to suck money away from the one thing a wine aficionado should be spending their money on: wine.
First, let’s address the corkscrew. There are a plethora of wine openers out there, some of which are priced well into the triple digits. Don’t buy them. Don’t put them on your wedding registry. Don’t buy them for other people. This is the only wine opener you need:
It’s called a waiter’s corkscrew and good ones can be bought for $8-$15. Make sure it’s comfortable to hold (steer clear of that hand-gougingly thin IKEA corkscrew that I see around a lot) and make sure it’s a “two-step” lever that has two separate points for leveraging the cork out (and here’re some handy instructions for using said corkscrew). There is no faster or more efficient way to open a bottle of wine. That’s why this is the favored wine opener for all service professionals. These corkscrews do, eventually, wear out and break but under normal home use they’ll last well over a year and at $10 a pop, it’ll take many broken corkscrews before you approach the price of any of the more elaborate wine openers. You could also splurge on a $30-$40 corkscrew made from stronger material that should last longer, but as someone who travels with my opener a lot and has lost innumerable corkscrews, I like to keep it cheap.
(It should be noted that there is also a $2,300 waiter’s corkscrew on the market. Should you be considering purchasing this corkscrew, might I instead recommend a really nice bottle of wine, a classy escort and a $10 corkscrew. You’ll get to enjoy the wine and the hooker and still keep the corkscrew and the chlamydia.)
On to glassware. Despite what the Riedel sales seminars would lead you to believe, all you need for glassware is a single set (4-8 pieces) of nice, big wine glasses. The entry level glasses from any of the major producers (like the Riedel Vinum line) is sufficient. This will set you back about $10-$20 per piece, but you only need glasses of that caliber for serious tasting and wine drinking with dinner. There’s no need to buy a glass for every damn varietal, as much as Riedel would like you to. The Bordeaux/Cabernet glass is a perfectly versatile glass for any varietal or you can split your nice glasses between a basic Bordeaux glass and a more balloon-shaped Burgundy glass (which can be a bit nicer for many white wines and lighter reds).
For less formal occasions, I just use nice 12 ounce tumblers, since all you really need for a good wine glass is a bowl big enough to hold 4-5 ounces of wine that you can swirl without splashing and a mouth big enough to smell the aromas of the wine. If you’re a stickler for stemware, there are nice enough inexpensive sets of stemware you can buy at Target, Costco or IKEA.
(I will admit that nice crystal is nice crystal and I don’t look askance on those who splurge on expensive glassware like I do on those who splurge on expensive wine openers. There is, however, no fundamental difference in the quality of the wine drinking experience between those $200 wine glasses and a simple, nice, $20 glass. It’s merely aesthetic.)
Lastly, you should own a decanter or two. And, again, you could spend several hundred dollars on a crystal decanter and then smack your kids around when they break it or you could spend about $50 on a decanter with satisfactory functionality. I do recommend a decanter with a decent shoulder on it since the secondary purpose of a decanter after aeration is to prevent sediment from old or unfiltered wines from getting into the glass.
So there you have it, a wine opener, 4-6 nice glasses and a decanter for under $200.
And four things you’ll never, ever need:
This fucking idiotic $300+ wine wand that uses “natural frequencies” to instantly aerate wine. A more productive use for said product would be urethral sounding.
Various vacuum or inert gas systems for “resealing” wine. In the context of a wine bar or restaurant, these makes sense since wines might go a day without being poured and are often stored at less-than-ideal temperatures. But, in a home context, as long as you plan to consume an open bottle within 48 hours and you store the wine in the refrigerator overnight you generally don’t need such preservers and, in fact, these preservation devices can inhibit the natural evolution of a wine after it is opened.
An apron or t-shirt that reads “Wine Diva.”
Bent-metal figurines that turn a wine bottle into a trusty butler.