This post is the best guide on the internet for all of the best wine tasting essentials you will actually use when you host wine tasting parties.
Whether you’re just starting out with wine tasting, or are a serious wine student, this is a list of things that I use all of the time throughout my decades of wine tasting.
I’ve hosted informal tastings with friends, and moved on to structured, focused tasting with other wine students and wine professionals.
These experiences have allowed me to discover what things I use and re-use and what’s a waste of money when it comes to hosting tastings.
I’m breaking down every product here and explaining ’why’ it’s worth the money. I’ve also thought hard about what’s just not worth it. Some of these items are better for informal tastings, like a wine party with friends, and some are definitely must-haves for your more serious tastings if you’re studying wine.
This post is all about the wine tasting essentials you will need to buy before you pop open that first bottle of wine.
All-time Best Wine Tasting Essentials
These are the top 10 absolute best wine tasting products that really recommend. The products are so good, that I gift them to friends and family regularly, and I’ve used them for literally years.
There are some things in this post that are better for party-style informal tastings, and other products that are better for formal tastings (or at least this has been my experience), so I’ve put that in the description where appropriate.
Waiter’s Friend Corkscrew
Having a waiter’s friend corckscrew is ESSENTIAL if you’re opening lots of wine. Actually, it’s my number #1 product recommendation because… well, you can’t open wine without a corkscrew!
Why don’t I recommend rabbit ear corkscrews, or fancy corscrews that open wines with leavers and pullies or small engines? Because I’ve broken ALL of those. Every. Single. One. All of the fancy designs, all of the moving parts.
They all break.
Save any money you would have spent on fancy corkscrews and spend it on wine.
I actually own 3 waiters corkscrews:
- 1 for the kitchen
- 1 for my hiking backpack, and
- 1 for my car
12 Tapered Wine Glasses
Yes, drinking wine out of glasses with different designs will change the way the wine tastes. You may not be able to pick up on it during your first wine tasting, but you definitely will notice differences after your 10th tasting.
I highly recommend getting a dozen glasses that are exactly the same.
They need to have a slightly tapered rim, meaning they curve inwards at the top.
This curved design concentrates aroma molecules at the top of the glass, helping your nose pick out all of those juicy fruit aromas.
If you have a household of kids or pets, these affordable and functional party glasses listed in the link above. Life happens. Wine glasses will break. You want something that’s easy to replace and has a classic design that you can use for both white and red wines.
Here’s quick summary of why wine glasses matter:
If you’re looking to level-up, then you want a nicer set of glasses for when you taste white wines and when you taste red wines, white wines, and sparking wines, then check out this complete set:
I own this set as well and use these glasses when it’s just me or me and just one other friend doing a tasting (of course, they work for enjoying wine with dinner, too!).
Wine Glass Markers
One of the best gifts I ever received was a set of glass markers. These are absolutely critical if you’re doing a wine flight.
Helpful Tip: Wine flights are the best way to unlock the great mysteries of wine (or at least have a good excuse to drink more wine). Check out this comprehensive post on wine flights and wine flight ideas.
You use them by writing directly on the glass what wine’s inside the glass (or give it a number).
I actually don’t recommend them if you’re doing a party-style tasting because the ink can rub off, but if you’re just sitting down and have a lineup of wines you’re tasting, then these wine markers are essential.
It saves you the trouble of having to print tasting sheets for everyone.
You need glass charms if you’re hosting a party-style wine tasting event. Wine markers get rubbed off too easily as your sip, swirl, eat, gossip, and move around.
Not to mention if the lighting’s low, it can be almost impossible to read the ink on your glass from wine makers.
So, for party-style wine tastings, you want wine glass charms. These come in a variety of cute and fun styles, some charms are actually metal with colorful beads and charms.
I don’t recommend metal wine glass charms. Why not?
- Metal charms can scratch the glass
- Metal charms can rust
- Metal charms seem to fall apart easily
Silicon glass charms are an absolute must! I own a set and they are easy to put on the glasses, easy to take off the glass, easy to clean, easy to store, and won’t break.
Ever. I’ve owned the same set for 5 years.
Wine Spit Bucket
Spit happens. And wine spit’s pretty gross and gobby. You will spit out wine at some point. If you’re doing a group tasting, your guests will spit and dump out wine, too.
Of course, they’re free to just dump the dregs down the kitchen sink, but it’s so much better to have a tactful way to dump wine right at the table where you’re tasting.
I actually like the black ones, because it obscures the grossness of red wine spit really well.
Pick a bucket with a lid!
The lid on spit buckets hides the grossness inside, and it also serves to prevent backsplash when you dump, so you’re not going to get hit with anything nasty.
This set of 4 wine tasting spit buckets is functional and you can place them around the table so no one’s reaching.
For a classier experience, check out the stainless steel version:
Vacu Vin Wine Preserver
If you open up enough bottles during your tasting, you’re going to have leftover wine. Re-corked open wine bottles last for 2 days on the kitchen counter, 3-4 days in the fridge, and 4-7 days with a Vacu Vin wine preserver.
What do I love about the Vacu Vin?
- It’s affordable
- It’s indestructable
- It’s easy to clean and maintain
- It doesn’t take up much space in your kitchen
I’ve owned my same Vacu Vin for over 15 years. I’ve had to buy a few new plugs during that time, but this little device just keeps on going. If you’re opening more than a few bottles, it’s totally worth the investment.
If you’re serious about wine tasting, then you’re going to be opening multiple bottles at a time to do side-by-side tastings. You can’t drink it all (though I applaud anyone for trying). The absolute best gift I’ve ever received for my wine studies and wine tasting was a Coravin.
The Coravin works by inserting a small needle through the cork, allowing you to remove wine and replace the wine with argon, an inert gas that protects the wine from oxygen.
I actually didn’t get a Coravin until a few years ago, but I should have just invested in a Coravin as soon as I knew that I was getting serious about wine. Why?
It takes away any pressure you feel to “finish” open bottles of nice wine, meaning there’s no guilt for opening bottles and knowing you can’t finish them. The Coravin upped my wine tasting game and seriously took it to the next level.
I was able to:
- Taste several of the same bottles at the same time over multiple weeks.
- Invest in more expensive wines for tastings knowing that I could save them for later.
- Not drink as much.
Everyone I’ve met who’s tasting wines professionally uses a Coravin. Saving livers one bottle at a time.
Wine aerators that you insert into the bottle work by mixing a little oxygen in your wine while you pour. If you have lots of time to sit around and swirl your wine and contemplate the meaning of life, you don’t necessarily need an aerator.
However, if you’re impatient (like me), then you want a wine aerator for your blockbuster reds.
Don’t get the aerators that you have to hold in one hand and pour the bottle with the other hand. I’ve tried, and it can get messy. (I mean, common, this is wine. They expect hand-eye coordination??).
Like the other products above, I own this little aerator and I have used it for years. Great investment. Just make sure you rinse it after every use.
If you’re looking for something more luxurious, you can certainly splurge for an electric wine aerator like this to wow! your guests:
Wine Away Red Stain Removal
Tried and true, Wine Away works wonders! If you drink enough red wine, then you’re going to need Wine Away at some point in time. Use it on your clothes, carpets, tablecloths, cloth napkins, sofa cushions, etc., etc., etc. I can’t emphasize enough just how invaluable Wine Away is if you’re hosting wine tastings.
Saving the celebratory Champagne accessories for last…
Yes! It’s possible to open multiple bottles of Champagne and do a Champagne tasting and still keep the leftovers.
I LOVE these Champagne stoppers and have bought them as gifts for friends and family. They work really well and will keep your bubbles in the bottle for up to 4 days.
Every winetasting room I’ve visited that serves sparkling wines uses these stoppers. They’re affordable, easy to clean, and easy to store. And when cheap Champagne starts at $30 and only goes up, it makes complete sense to have a way to store open bottles so you can toast every drop.
Thirsty for More?
I wrote a post on wine flights, and what they are, and include 16 ideas for your next wine flight. Go check out wine flights here.
If you haven’t gotten around to getting a Coravin yet, here’s a post on how long open wine is good for that’s worth a quick read.