While you can spend thousands of dollars setting up your wine cellar and home bar, there are some basics that everyone needs to have to properly enjoy wine. At a minimum, you need a high-quality corkscrew and the right glassware. I’ve rounded out what I consider to be a wine enthusiast’s essentials for an at-home bar.
The Best Corkscrew for Opening Wine
The best corkscrew is the simplest one: a double-hinged corkscrew, also called a waiter’s friend or a wine key. Forget cumbersome wing corkscrews and lever wine openers — you really don’t need them. The most important thing to look for is the double hinge — single-hinged styles sometimes don’t give you the leverage you need to open a bottle of wine easily. Of course, there are some people who love single-hinged styles, especially stunning Laguiole en Aubrac corkscrews. Next, you’ll want to be sure it has a sharp knife so you can cut the foil. My favorite is Pulltap’s Double-Hinged Waiter’s Corkscrew. It’s also the choice of some of the world’s top wineries’ branded corkscrews. Of course, if you don’t have the strength to use a manual corkscrew, an electric wine opener is the way to go.
If you have older bottles of wine with more brittle corks, it’s worth buying a two-part corkscrew. The Durand’s two-part system has a worm that screws into the middle of the cork and two stabilizing bars on the side that protect the cork as you pull it out.
The Best Universal Wine Glass
Zalto has won countless awards for its delicate stemware, and the Zalto Denk’Art Universal Glass is the flagship piece. It’s the glass I use the most and it’s suited for most wines. Plus, they’re absolutely gorgeous. The stem and the bar are impossibly thin — each is hand blown in Austria. They’re the choice for some of the world’s top restaurants and sommeliers, including the legendary Aldo Sohm at Le Bernardin.
While they might look delicate, they’re rather sturdy. I wash mine in the dishwasher, that way I won’t risk holding it too tightly when washing it by hand.
The Best Red Wine Glass
Certain red wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, can benefit from large glasses. Large bowls increase the amount of wine exposed to oxygen, which lets aromas fully develop. Riedel offers a large selection of varietal glassware and is my pick for powerful red wines. Penfolds, an Australian winery known for its Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, recommended the Riedel Extreme Cabernet glasses for its wines.
The Best White Wine Glass
If you’re drinking a full-bodied white wine, like Burgundy, you might prefer a glass with a wide bowl and a narrow opening, like the Zalto Denk’Art Burgundy Glass. A classic white wine glass that will suit most white wines is the Riedel Veritas Chardonnay Wine Glass. It has a more narrow bowl and opening that traps more delicate aromas. Crystal wine glasses are also suitable for white wines. I have Waterford Crystal Lismore Essence White Wine Glasses at home, which I save for special celebrations and dinner parties.
The Best Champagne Glass
First things first — stop drinking your Champagne from flutes. The narrow shape and opening might be great for bubbles, but it prevents you from fully appreciating the bouquet. Many sommeliers recommend using a simple white wine glass for Champagne. When I order Champagne at a restaurant, I always request they serve it in a white wine glass. There are wonderful glasses designed specifically for Champagne, too. Personally, I love Riedel’s Krug or Dom Pérignon glasses, which Riedel developed with the winemakers. Vincent Chaperon, chef de cave at Dom Pérignon, once told me that they went through at least 40 different prototypes to design the perfect glass for his Champagne. If it’s good enough for Dom Pérignon, it’s good enough for me.
The Best Decanter
A simple decanter can help elevate a simple weeknight dinner, and decanting is necessary for several types of wine. Riedel’s Ultra Decanter is my go-to. It’s beautiful, easy to clean, and will last a lifetime. If you want something with a little more style, Riedel’s animal collections are stunning.
The Best Ice Bucket
A classic stainless steel ice bucket is the way to go for serving Champagne and white wine. Williams-Sonoma has a traditional one that suits most decors.
Ice bags are not chic, but they’re so convenient when you’re on the go. I first discovered the ice bag at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Hawaii, and I have one at home for picnics and sitting outside in my garden. They’re lightweight and fold up into almost nothing.
A Coravin is an indispensable tool for wine lovers. It allows you to have just a glass of wine without opening the bottle. The Coravin Model Two Premium is perfect for vertical or horizontal tastings, seeing how a wine is developing, pairing different wines with different courses, or for very expensive bottles that you want to enjoy on multiple occasions. It’s also great for couples who don’t have the same taste in wine. You can each have the wine you want without worrying about a bottle going bad. Learn all about the Coravin here.
The Best Towel for Wine Glasses
To avoid scratches and leaving dust on your delicate glassware, it’s best to use a wine polishing cloth when drying your glasses. The Riedel Polishing Cloth is my personal favorite. It is thin, so it fits in the narrowest glasses, and it leaves your glasses sparkling and dust-free. It’s washable, just don’t use fabric conditioner.
The Best Way to Identify Glasses
Instead of using wine charms to identify your guests’ wine glasses, buy a pack of Wine Glass Writer pens. These colorful pens write directly onto glass — I recommend writing on the foot of the glass, not the bowl — and help you find your glass at a party. They’re also very helpful for vertical and horizontal tastings, so you can write down the different vintages or producers.
The Best Wine Coolers
Our favorite small wine cooler is the Wine Enthusiast 32-Bottle Dual Zone Max Compressor Wine Cooler. For a larger collection, invest in a EuroCave wine fridge. We love the EuroCave Premiere collection wine cellar.
The Best Champagne Saber
Our go-to Champagne sabre is Ethan+Ashe’s Vagnbys Champagne Sabre. It has a sleek, modern design, so it doesn’t feel too over the top. A lot of sabres out there look like something a pirate would carry. It’s made from one piece of stainless steel, so you don’t have to worry about anything coming loose. It has a hefty blade that will let you pop bottles with ease.