Wine can be a confusing, complicated topic, full of ritual and pretension, but those passionate about the topic, including many wine professionals, actually agree that it shouldn’t be. With a handful of inexpensive simple products, you can get the most out of your wine without any stress. After all, sipping wine is meant to bring joy to your life—not clutter it (or your cabinets) with frustration.
As an avid wine collector, wine writer and a person who likes to obsess about all-things wine, I realized that most of the items I use every day are inexpensive and aimed at making the most out of my bottles, whether I’m sipping a glass after a long day at work, opening a bottle at a dinner party, or tasting through a case of wine for a story I’m writing.
Here are some of the items I rely on and recommend for any wine drinker’s home:
1. A good reference book to answer all the questions
Start with Jon Bonné’s "The New Wine Rules," where he simplifies everything from the language of wine to serving temperatures and food pairings, while debunking myths that make this topic less approachable. He even assures you that you don’t need expensive wine gadgets to live your best wine life.
2. Sturdy, long-stemmed elegant glassware
I absolutely love my Zalto Universal glasses. They are nearly flawless in design, have the most delicate yet sturdy stems, and feel invisible while you’re sipping your wine. But if you’re not a complete wine geek, there’s no need to pay the $60 per glass price tag. That’s why I love (and also own) these Crate & Barrel Hip wine glasses (Hip is the product name, not hip as in trendy). For only about $7 each, they provide a similar long stem and a bowl big enough to swirl and get your nose into so you can enjoy the aromas.
3. A basic unfussy wine opener
There’s a good reason why these pocket-friendly wine openers are called a waiter’s friend. Once you learn the proper way to use one (hint: be sure to hold the metal portion of the opener against the lip of the bottle while pulling the cork out), opening bottles is reliably easy. My favorite at the moment is one I purchased at Trader Joe’s for only $1.99. But I’ve only used it for about a week, so I can’t yet speak to its long-term durability. If you want something more reliable, this Pulltap Double-Hinge Waiter’s Corkscrew is a great alternative.
4. Wine stoppers to cork your leftovers
It’s totally fine to cork a bottle back up with, well, its cork. But what happens if the cork breaks or someone accidentally throws it out? Rubber wine stoppers have always been my favorite replacement—even if the original cork is still intact. The grooved rings hold the stopper in place preventing anything from leaking out if it tips over in the fridge, but more importantly, it ensures no extra oxygen enters the bottle preserving what's in there for a few extra days.
5. A Champagne stopper to preserve your bubbles
It’s nearly impossible to get a Champagne (or other sparkling wine) cork back into its bottle, and if you do manage to shove it in, you still run the risk that the pressure from the carbon dioxide inside the bottle will pop it open when you’re least expecting it. These stoppers tightly secure the bottle while keeping the gas inside so your bubbles won’t lose its fizz.
6. A gadget that slices foil (and not your fingers)
One of the easiest (and safest) ways to remove the foil that surrounds the top of the cork and neck of a wine bottle is to use one of these foil cutters. With a simple squeeze of the device on top of the bottle, the circular blades embedded underneath slice the top of the foil right off.
7. A drying rack that’s pretty enough to leave on your kitchen counter.
A glass drying rack is one of Bonné’s five essential tools, and I recently learned the hard way why it probably made his list. Just last month I broke a vintage Champagne glass while reaching for a bowl of wine stoppers (note to self: Stop keeping your wine stoppers in a crystal bowl). And while a glass drying rack won’t fix my clumsiness, it probably would have made me more aware of the fragile glasses that were in knocking distance.
8. A stain remover designed just for wine
Speaking of being clumsy: If you drink enough red wine, there’s bound to be an accident. This cleanser removes red wine stains from carpets and clothing with merely a few sprays and a scrub of a sponge. I’ve saved my beige carpet for years with this product and recently discovered it also removes ink stains from my couch cushions, too.
9. Carrying cases to protect your wine on the go
If you attend a lot of dinner parties, or like taking a bottle of wine on a picnic or to the beach, then neoprene carrying cases, which are also on Bonné’s list of essential wine tools, will help ensure your bottles are protected and remain at the rightful temperatures.
10. Sleeves to pack your wine while traveling long distances
Every time I travel to wine country I bring home bottles wrapped in these plastic sleeves that are lined with bubble-wrap. The sleeves not only protect my wine in case it's getting knocked around inside my luggage, but give me peace of mind that if the bottles do break (which has never happened), my clothing won’t be covered with wine.
Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.