Wine Accessories 101

The skinny on stemware, corkscrews, and more


The most important weapon in every wine drinker’s arsenal is, not surprisingly, decent stemware.  By decent I don’t mean fancy, just a nicely shaped all-purpose bowl that holds at least 10 ounces. I use both Bordeaux and Burgundy stems, pictured below, but the Bordeaux bowl is probably best if you’re only going to buy one type.

 By the way, I drink my whites and bubblies out of these glasses, as well. Why should they be discriminated against?  They can have aromatics that equal or surpass those of red wines, and being scrunched up in a tiny glass doesn’t help to showcase them!

Now, I know I’m supposed to have a glass for every wine, and truth be told I do have what are referred to as white wine glasses, but I use them for my dessert wines. The fact of the matter is that a well-designed wine glass can be perfectly suitable for a broad range of wines, while one specifically designed for a single wine might not be good for any at all. I went along for years drinking out of a simple, old school wine glass without any issues. (That is, at least when I wasn’t just drinking wine out of a tumbler!)

There's more than one way to screw a cork.

There are so many corkscrews on the market that sometimes it's easy to confuse the popular models with the ones that are most effective. While many of the latest styles do a decent job, the tried and true always seem to save the day. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a good waiter's friend. I use one with twin levers and an extra-long, grooved screw. It's makes pulling most corks a breeze, though sometimes I have to rely on my trusty Ah-so to extract an old, delicate cork.
Another handy must have tool is a nice decanter. Now again, by nice, I don’t mean fancy -- on the contrary. A simple 1-liter carafe is all you need. There are two purposes to decanting: removing the clear wine from the sediment, and allowing the wine to breathe. Both tasks can be accomplished in almost any style decanter, so while really ornate decanters are more attractive, they certainly aren’t more effective, except at inducing anxiety while washing, storing, and eventually breaking them. I use a simple, inexpensive decanter that looks like this.

Of course, getting the cork out of the bottle is the most important task any wine drinker faces. With the latest closures (Screwcap, ZORK, Vino-lok) there's no longer an absolute need for a corkscrew, but with so many wines still in cork-finished bottles you should probably have one. I use a waiter’s friend with an extra long screw that has a groove in it, giving it a better grip on the cork. My favorite corkscrew also has twin levers for helping to extract long or fragile corks.

Sometimes, with older wines, a corkscrew either pushes the cork into the bottleneck, or simply gouges a hole right through the cork. For those times you absolutely need an Ah-So.  Unlike other corkscrews, the Ah-So grabs the cork from the outside, where the cork comes in contact with the bottleneck. Slow and steady twisting of the Ah-So allows the two tines to grab hold of the entire length of the cork all at once, allowing you to slowly extract even the most tender and brittle old corks.

Two Great Blogs You Should Follow

Do Bianchi
Jeremy Parzen has a way with words. Clear and unfettered, his writings -- about some of my favorite wines, I might add -- are frequently the high point of my days scouring the online world of wine. He recently published excellent notes on a tasting of the latest wines from Bruno Giacosa that is a must read.

Chateau Petrogasm

Chateau Petrogasm, the self-proclaimed "wine blog of tasting notes through images" is dreamy. I mean, they come up with some of the most amazing images to represent a wine. That's right: just a single image to give you all the flavor, emotion, and impact of the wine. It's a load of fun, and makes you rethink about your entire approach to wine appreciation.

Mentioned in this article


  • Gregory, thank you so much for the kind words... too generous! but much appreciated...

    When I think about tools of the trade, I can't help but see an analogy between the tools of the sommelier and those of a guitar player... the right instrument and the right amp are so important to the guitar player's expression of his art... just like the right stemware and right decanter to the wine... great post...

    Feb 17, 2010 at 12:03 PM

  • Snooth User: p00hdiddy
    291572 4

    what about an aerator? I can't drink my reds without aerating them!!!

    Feb 17, 2010 at 12:25 PM

  • Snooth User: sor ugo
    283047 23

    Just want to share the greatest corkscrew I've ever found. They are made by a Frenchman in the DC area. Handmade of brass and copper with an iron screw piece from France. They take a bit of muscle to get the cork out but the pop is so worth it. See my photo.....

    Feb 17, 2010 at 4:32 PM

  • Snooth User: CarLess
    247851 9

    I'm all for the two-step waiter's corkscrew. Leaves all others in the dust.

    Feb 17, 2010 at 9:57 PM

  • Snooth User: dmcker
    Hand of Snooth
    125836 5,000

    Good points about the corkscrews and stemware, Greg. I've always used a sommelier's friend and tend to get a bit bothered by newbies who produce a dozen different varieties of new-fangled hardwared but never can seem to pull the cork well, anyway. And I still do drink wine from tumblers on plenty of nights (or noons) during the week...

    Feb 18, 2010 at 12:27 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Wine from a tumbler at noon.

    Now that sounds like a grand idea!

    Feb 18, 2010 at 5:21 PM

  • Snooth User: joss
    Hand of Snooth
    73889 990

    dmcker, absolutely right. i still prefer the sommelier's friend. it's what every sommelier i've ever seen use, n fr good reason. small, light, portable, very durable (the good ones), relatively inexpensive, classic, elegant. imo, something of the romance of the wine experience is lost in the big, bulky, or electric ones...

    Mar 05, 2010 at 7:44 PM

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