Christmas Shopping For That Wine Lover by (PB)
Need some gift ideas for that enophile in your life? I hope this helps.
I have been studying wine for over 25 years so it’s fairly safe to say I have all the gizmos, gadgets and gee-gaws any aspiring enophile could want. So remember, my council is based on the assumption that I am “every man” and that my particular gift likes and dislikes might be fairly representative. If you grant that assumption, I think you will find this helpful and may even spare you some embarrassment on the gift giving end when you give that cork wreath to someone special…
In the wine category—
Any wine that has been thoughtfully obtained; if you don't have the expertise to do the selecting, find a reputable wine store--probably not a supermarket--and ask for the wine expert! I have rarely been steered wrong by a knowledgeable staff making recommendations!
Special wines like Ports—“Ruby,” “Tawny,” and “Late Bottled Vintage” ports are all quite inexpensive. Don’t confuse a “Late Bottled Vintage” port with a Vintage Port. You will know immediately by the price! A L.B.V. port will usually cost less than $20. A vintage port will start at twice that and you’ll be hard pressed to find any for under $50 and that will be for a very young one. With an aged, vintage port, you are usually talking in the $80 and above range.
Vintage Port—Always a treat and a great gift but it is pricey—(see above)
Champagne—also another reliable treat for most normal people. I am not normal and a good bottle of champagne would be wasted on me. But for well under $50, you can buy some very nice sparklers.
There are loads of wine clubs available now online, provided your state allows shipment of wines into your area. The retailer would be able to tell you if your state is open.
In the wine paraphernalia category—
Glasses are always welcome; namely because there are so many different shapes geared to a particular style of wine and because they break. But please--not just any old wine glasses; but "nice" glasses and that doesn’t have to mean expensive.
I like Riedel (pronounced to rhyme with “needle”) and their “Vinum” series are lovely crystal and will run you around $22 for one glass. (See I’m not talking about a whole set here, just a special glass or glasses just for “him” or “her”) The Bordeaux glass with it’s large 21 oz. bowl is great for tasting and evaluating red wine. But then they make a special shape and sized glass just for Chardonnay; Zinfandel; Burgundy, you get the idea. Spieglau (pronounced to rhyme with, uh, never mind) is also another name which makes a nice quality, but inexpensive glass. And for the really economical accident prone wine lover--Crate N Barrel sells their own wine glass which cannot be beat for the price to value ratio--about $10 each!
Williams-Sonoma carries Riedel and Crate N Barrel also carries Spieglau or at least used to.
Vacuum seal stoppers—These actually work and again will cost you less than $20! They help keep opened wine a bit longer. Some work better than others but I paid $7 for mine at T.J. Maax and they are now a 3 years old and still working well. That includes a pump and two stoppers.
Spray preservatives—The Wine Enthusiast has an aerosol spray that you shoot into an opened bottle of wine which displaces the air with an inert gas thus preserving the wine. I use this primarily for my opened bottles of port which you tend to drink in small quantities.
Stemware Care--Various sizes and shapes of stem ware brushes and odor free soaps are available at wine suppliers on line. I love mine!
*Wine glass charms--these are tiny wire thingies that slip onto the stem of a wine glass so that it can be positively ID'd. this is a nice and practical addition for anyone who entertains more the 3 people at a time. (*There are tasteful charms and there are stupid charms--go tasteful!)
Label Lifters—for removing wine labels from bottles; some work better than others and I have found the ones from labeloff.com to be the best. Around $8!
Wine identification--The very best wine gift I have received to date is an aroma kit which my lover, girlfriend, and wife of 36 years made for me. A wooden box, some glass vials (obtainable on line from any medical supply house) and you put your scents in each vial for continued reference. You can buy a small, ready made kit though from the Wine Enthusiast but they are a bit pricey ($60 and above) I believe.
Cork screws like my glasses, just can’t really have too many of them; especially a unique one, (*note—unique doesn’t mean stupid; like a Santa handle) or a particularly functional one. The best are called waiter’s cork screws and have a hinged lip on it. These are purely functional and are less than $10. But a very special cork screw, like one from Laguiole can run you in to the hundreds of dollars. If you have money to burn… I'd rather have a $10 cork screw and spend the rest on a decent bottle of wine!!!
Bottle tags--If your devotee has several bottles at any given time laying down in a make shift or bonafide cellar--these are little tags that hang around the neck of the bottles identifying the wine so you don't have to pick up the bottle thus disturbing it's contents. They are reusable if you use a wet wipe marker and are very inexpensive.
Wine cooler—these come in drastically variable price ranges. I have a Sunbeam generic 35 bottle cooler which cost me less than $200. The same size from one of the premier makers like Haier will cost you more than twice that but of course you get a better quality unit.
Chillers—For my birthday this year I received a crystal, monogrammed chiller which is essentially just a big glass jar—a pretty one—which fits a bottle of wine submerged in ice water for that quick cool down. The prices vary widely depending on composition.
Wine totes are also very practical and handy. I'm not talking about the bag kind of tote but one that looks more like a small piece of luggage. It can carry one or two bottles of wine, has an insulating material on the inside and keeps your wine temperature moderated while in transit. These are also fairly inexpensive at $25 or less. Neoprene totes are also handy and are great for packing your treasured wine purchase in your suitcase when you have been traveling abroad.
Books are a nice idea if the person is a book kind of person. I like the huge wine volumes with the magnificent pictures from around the world. I received Wine by Andre Domine (Barnes and Noble) several years ago and it is magnificent for the very beginner to the very studied. A handy reference book is also a nice idea; Andrea Immer and Food and Wine Magazine each have a quick reference book that costs around $10. Jefferson on Wine for the history buff and oenophile in your life (check review in our blog) and George Taber is a reliable author putting out two books in the past couple years--To Cork or Not too Cork which is about the screw cap controversy, and his latest "In Search of Bacchus." Also a really good read is the Billionaire's Vinegar by A. Wallace. This is the intriguing account and controversy surrounding the sale of the famous--or infamous--Thomas Jefferson bottles of Lafite purchased by billionaire William Koch and others, from seller Hardy Rodenstock.
Mags. If we’re talking about a real wine enthusiast the Wine Spectator ($49/year) and the Wine Enthusiast ($29) are essential! If your wine lover enjoys cooking as well, I like Food and Wine magazine. The Wine Spectator also has an online membership which is really handy for your smart-phone when you are out shopping.
A wine journal or log book; If they haven’t been doing so the wine lover in your life needs to be writing about their wine. This doesn’t have to be some gimmicky official “wine log” but just a nice book with blank or lined pages. Leather is ALWAYS special…
What not to get—any kind of clothing with a silly wine motif, really, please! Unless perhaps its an apron--the one "possible" exception. Have fun and raise a glass!