My first job out of college was on the marketing team at a wine store in New York City. At 22, I didn’t have much experience with wine that didn’t come in a gallon-sized jug. There were many opportunities to taste and learn during my time there, but one bottle stands out in my memory. When the label was damaged on a 1989 Beaulieu Vineyard “Georges de Latour” Cabernet Sauvignon, the buyers decided to use it as a teachable moment. The wine itself was perfectly fine, but the flawed label diminished the retail value—opening the bottle presented a chance for the staff to observe how the flavors of wine develop with age.
The wine itself was lovely—velvety and layered with just a hint of warm baking spice—but what really blew my mind was the fact that the bottle was older than I was. Somehow, drinking it felt like cheating death. This type of experience is actually quite common. For many, there’s an identifiable moment where their idea of wine shifts from being something simply served with dinner to something worthy of time and consideration. Among wine professionals, this is known as a ‘drops of God’ moment; it may be the moment that inspires you to begin loving wine, or it could be the thing that motivates you to keep tasting.
Maybe you had your drops of God moment over a bottle of Chablis, or maybe it’s your partner, friend, or family member who has been inspired to delve into the wider world of wine. Either way, there are a few items (some essential and some just downright fun) that can help deepen and guide a person’s fascination (and enjoyment!) of wine. We scanned our reviews and got advice from author and wine educator Charles Springfield to come up with this list of great wine gifts for the wine lover in your life.
Many wine professionals, Springfield included, recommended a waiter’s corkscrew. These are inexpensive, versatile tools that usually include a coiled piece of metal (the corkscrew or “worm”), a small, dull plate, and a lever tool. All of these elements fold in and out like a pocket knife. Springfield explains their appeal, saying “I like it because you can use it to open beer, and wine bottles closed with beer caps [as well as] traditional wine bottles.” This all-in-one tool does everything you need—cutting foil, popping the cork out, or bottle top off—and nothing you don’t. They’re also inexpensive and small, so there’s no need to fret about storage. In fact, you can easily fit one in your pocket and take it to the park for a picnic. One of our favorite models from Pulltaps boasts heavy-duty stainless steel construction, a sharp foil knife, and a hinged lever that makes it easy to remove even the trickiest corks.
The only downside to a waiter’s corkscrew is that it requires a firm grip and twisting motion. Wine lovers with limited hand mobility may prefer something more ergonomic. In these cases, Springfield recommends a simple electric corkscrew. Our favorite model from Peugeot removes corks with just the slightest bit of pressure on the top of the corkscrew. We also liked this more budget-friendly model from Cuisinart.
When it comes to glassware, the selection can be overwhelming. In addition to red wine glasses, white wine glasses, Champagne flutes, and stemless glasses, you may encounter specialty glasses designed specifically to flatter each grape varietal. There’s no need to get overwhelmed—Springfield encourages thinking of glassware as an opportunity, not a mandate. Universal wine glasses are ideal for those just getting into wine. These Reides Vinum glasses are a perfect place to start—they’re thin enough to feel elegant but sturdy enough to last through reasonable use. Plus, they’re sized well for both red and white wines.
Learning more about wine can enhance your appreciation, but we admit that diving into a book for wine nerds can be intimidating. The Wine Bible covers everything that influences wine—from geography to politics to production—and is somehow still enjoyable to read and unpretentious. This is a book you’ll find on every wine lover’s shelves, including Springfield’s, who is an author himself.
Letting wine breathe can bring out its best flavors and aromas, but you don’t technically need a decanter to accomplish this. If you don’t have a decanter, you can aerate wine by removing the cork well before you plan to drink it, or even by letting it sit in your glass for several minutes. That said, a crystal decanter can accelerate aeration, help separate sediment, and, well, it just looks really sophisticated. Our favorite decanter from Made In is sleek and simple. The neck is spacious enough to allow for easy decanting—pouring from the bottle into the decanter—and the angled spout makes it easy to pour glasses without any errant drips. It would make a fantastic (and stunning) gift.
Many wines improve with age— they become smoother and more balanced. Corks, on the other hand, don’t age well. The corks in older bottles of wine can become fragile and crumbly and a traditional corkscrew can be too aggressive. Inserting a worm-style corkscrew into a vintage bottle can cause the cork to break apart and crumble into your wine—not ideal. A Durand bottle opener is an alternative style of wine opener designed to ease fragile corks out of older bottles without breaking them apart. These two-pronged tools are inserted between the cork and the neck of the wine bottle. The cork is then removed in one piece by gently pulling while the opener applies pressure to the sides. This model from DeVine also doubles as a crown cap opener.
If you have the space (like in a basement or garage) or really want to splurge on a gift, a wine refrigerator is a foolproof way to store wine. Heat and light are enemies of wine—excessive temperature fluctuation or UV exposure can spoil unopened bottles. A wine refrigerator maintains a consistent temperature and keeps wine away from harmful beams of sunlight. They also keep bottles on their sides, which helps prevent natural corks from drying out. For those with space to spare (and money to burn), we recommend the BODEGA 24-inch Wine Refrigerator. This beauty holds up to 174 standard-size bottles of wine. It includes a tinted door for enhanced UV protection and dual zone cooling that allows wine lovers to store reds and whites at two separate temperatures. If you’re seeking a less bulky and pricey storage solution, a wine rack can help protect bottles from breakage and keep corks intact.
No one wants to drink out of a wine glass covered in smudgy fingerprints (or serve such a glass to guests—embarrassing!). Glasses, especially stemmed glasses, can be hard to clean. Purchasing a few microfiber clothes makes the task of polishing stemware much easier. These easy-to-use clothes reduce the risk that you’ll break a glass by applying too much pressure during cleaning.
While most wine professionals prefer a stemmed glass (it keeps the heat from your hand away from the bowl so it doesn’t warm it up), a stemless glass has merit in its own right: It’s less likely to break and, as June Rodil, master sommelier, said in our review, “They allow you to be casual with wine and not take it too seriously. There are so many delicious wines that are just great straight out of the gate, and I think if that’s your purpose of drinking wine, you’re in a great place.” We really liked this set of glasses from Schott Zwiesel, which were delicate without being flimsy and were easy to hold in one hand. Not to mention they look elegant, and would make a great housewarming gift, too.
A wine subscription service may not be an absolute necessity, but neither are most of the other enjoyable things in life. Gifting a subscription to Wine Access isn’t just about skipping a trip to the store—these services can help someone discover small-batch wines that may not be available at their local bottle shop. Wine Access clubs include extra information and accompanying YouTube videos to help your giftee learn as they enjoy their wines.
What’s the best way to store wine?
Unopened bottles should be stored on their side in a cool, dark place. This method protects the wine from heat and sunlight, which can cause flaws. Storing bottles on their side also prevents the cork from drying out and cracking. Opened bottles of wine should be stored in the refrigerator, regardless of whether they’re red or white.
What do I need to serve wine?
All you really need to serve wine is a bottle of wine, a way to open it, and a glass to drink from. If your wine happens to be a screw top, the list is even shorter.
Which wine glasses are the best?
The best wine glasses are the ones that suit your taste and fit your budget. The shape and texture of glassware can subtly affect the flavors and aromas of wine, but unless you’re an extremely experienced collector, you probably don’t need to worry about that. Wine can be enjoyed out of almost any drinking vessel—pick something durable that feels good in your hand.