5 Wine Must-Haves

Saving, storing and sipping on a good wine collection isn’t just for the snobs. It’s easy enough for us mortal wine geeks to do, too! Here are some tips to make sure your wine collection (or just the two bottles you’re saving for the weekend) is always fresh and ready to drink!

Decent wine glasses.

Wine glasses are what transport the wine to your taste buds, so you don’t want to mess around with bad glasses. There are several types of glassware for red wine, white wine, champagne, sherry, and so forth. If you’re going to buy just one set, I’d generally err on the side of red wine glasses – those are the glasses with the big round bowls and open mouths that narrow at the top to focus the aromas. These types of glasses help the wine to open up, aerate, and generally become tastier as the complexity of the wine emerges. This aeration isn’t so necessary with white wine, which is why white wine glasses tend to be slimmer. However, the dirty little secret is that it’s not going to make a huge difference if you drink white wine out of red wine glasses. So, if you live in a small place like I do and only have room for one set, red wine glasses it is!

I use the German-made Spiegelau “Vino Grande” Bordeaux glass, but there are lots of good, not-too-expensive alternatives.

A note about stemless glasses: stemless are fine options for casual drinking. But only use them in a place where you can put them down, so as not to heat the glass with your hand, and thereby heat the wine! This is actually why wine glasses have stems; to allow you to hold the glass by the stem, so the heat of your hand doesn’t impact the integrity of the wine and change its flavor. So the key takeaway here: stemless is fine, just don’t clutch your glass!

Good wine storage

Good wine storage isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Ideally, wine is stored in cool, temperature and humidity controlled environments. (If you have the space and money to afford a wine fridge or an actual cellar, good on you!) However, you really only need to invest in nicer storage if you’re investing in some pricier bottles that you’ll be keeping for a while.

If you’re purchasing wine to drink during the week or the following weekend and are looking for basic storage, then there are only a few things to consider. First, store your wine away from heat (or really any excessive temperature variation, for that matter) and away from the sun. Heat and light are the enemy of wine. Heat causes the wine to “cook” and changes the chemical composition of what’s in the bottle. Likewise, too much temperature variation causes the cork to shrink or to swell, letting air into the wine and causing it to spoil. You don’t want this to happen. So keep your wine in a consistently cool place, out of the sun. A wine rack on your countertop is fine, as long as it’s out of the direct sunlight and your place doesn’t get too hot/cold. Your closet, if it stays cool, is another option. (I store some of my wine in my closet, so right now my wine collection is rivaling my clothes for space…)

Wine storage that is not okay: on top of the fridge, in the car, in front of your picture window…you get the idea!

Final note about storage: store the wine on its side, if possible, particularly if you’re keeping the wine for a couple of weeks. Storing wine on its side keeps the cork from drying out. If your wine has a screw top, this is less necessary.

Options for keeping an open bottle fresh

For those rare occasions when you don’t finish an entire bottle in one sitting (…) keeping the wine fresh for your next sipping opportunity is essential. There are a bunch of options for doing this.

I use these plastic corks, because wine doesn’t store itself for too long in my place! These are good for 1-2 days of storage.

Finally, don’t forget to store your wine upright in the fridge once it’s open – both red and white. Open red wines tend to go bad before open white wines. Old wines do as well – particularly wine over 8-10 years old (although, shame on you for not finishing a 10 year old bottle!). Pinot Noir is one of the most sensitive red wines when exposed to air, so finish that one relatively quickly. Likewise, light colored reds like Grenache, Sangiovese, Zinfandel and Nebbiolo won’t keep over a few days.

A good wine store!

Step outside your supermarket’s wine wall, or your local liquor, beer and wine store. A good wine boutique with educated staff can be key to finding good wines, trying new ones, and ultimately discovering which wines you love. Usually these stores are staffed with sommeliers or individuals with other wine creds, and they can point you in new and interesting directions, help you buy a wine to pair with food, or call you before your favorite wine runs out. Don’t be intimidated by the wine boutique, or by asking for help or recommendations – your next favorite wine is in there, sitting on the shelf! (Plus, most of them do free tastings.)

Travel wine bag

Being able to transport your wine to a picnic, a movie in the park, or just up to your roof patio is the best. A few years ago a friend of mine gave me a two bottle wine carrier, with a little pocket in the front for a cheeseboard. It has added a whole new dimension to my life! It’s so easy to grab a few chilled bottles of rosé and head to my roof deck without worrying about the wine over-heating. I can pour a few glasses and keep the wine in the case. Same goes for hanging with a few friends in the park, or having dinner on the grass. Being able to make good wine fit into my (somewhat) itinerant lifestyle is the best!

As for glasses on the go, I use these plastic stemless from GoVino. They’re light, easy, and unbreakable. Ikea can also give you some cheap and sturdy stemware if you’re looking to add a little class to your picnic!

Storing and serving wine like a professional doesn't need to be hard. In fact, it's super easy!