Saturday, December 02, 2023

Christmas gift guidance for the wine lover in your life

Glasses of Red Wine in Front of Christmas Tree Stock Image - Image of ...
If there's a wine lover in your life it can be tough getting a meaningful gift for them. With nearly 50 years in the study of all things wine, here's the struggle: if you are NOT a wine enthusiast yourself, you may be led astray into the "cutesy," the novel, or the gimmicky trying to please your recipient. Let me help you not waste your money or embarrass your gift recipient.
Let's begin with what NOT to get. 

Consider wine related "doo-dads" that hang on a wall off limits.  Eg. a hangable meme stating "Life is too short to drink cheap wine." Don't do it, even calligraphy can't enhance such a "gift." 

Little stuffed toys holding wine themed signs, or a plush figures holding a corkscrew are off limits too. Custom made, carved wood signage with wine allusions or references are inane UNLESS they have meaningful significance. Eg. My wife had a friend make me a wood sign with the name "Ornellaia Del Cripini" on it.  It still hangs in my *"cellar" and was a wonderful surprise. At the time I had a very small vineyard in my yard from which I made 1-2 cases of wine from my own hand nurtured wine grapes.  I called my wine the name emblazoned on the sign! I love it! Most everything else--avoid with a couple exceptions.

1 Eg. I have a vintage poster from NAPA Valley back around the latter 70's. It is not only gorgeous but enologically meaningful. It too hangs in my cellar.

So let's look broadly at what TO get.

My first pick would be a wine aerator. I have had a Vinturi ($27 Amazon) for over a decade. There are numerous styles and price points and many are galmy, too big, and just too ostentatious. Mine cost under $20, it is held in your hand and wine is poured through it into your glass. They actually work! Avoid the ones that attach to the bottle, look like pot stills or something from Star Wars.

A very functional cork screw is a must and you are talking from $7 to $50.  (The expensive ones don't work any better than the cheaper ones. If you go this route, here is a MUST for a great wine cork. The leg of it, which hooks on the lip of the bottle needs to  be "articulated." This means the "leg" should be jointed in the middle. The purpose is so that when you are putting that hard to screw auger in a very dry and hard cork, you have to get that auger way down into the cork before you can pull the cork out using the little "leg." If it is articulated, you don't have to get that auger buried as deep into the cork making it much easier to extract even the toughest corks.

Wine glasses are a nice gift and should be clear!  Meaning NOT colored at all. They should have thin stems and you want what is typically known as a "Bordeaux" glass. These work well for all wines! But glasses get broken so you want a good quality glass as it truly does enhance the wine experience. I suggest you buy a single, VERY nice, higher end Riedel for the wine lover that will be HIS/HER own tasting glass. Everyone else can have decent glasses too but not the kind you loose your breath over when it tips over on the granite counter-top and breaks.  There are also wine glasses that are break resistant being made of glass and plastic. They feel good, they look good, and while they will break, they are much tougher than classical glass or crystal.  Schott Zwiesel Tritan Crystal are very nice.

Unscented dish soap-- Not sexy but if your recipient is a budding taster,  There is nothing worse than opening a lovely $45 wine and taking a first whiff of perfumy lemon scented soap. 

A wine aroma kit is wonderful but unless you make it yourself, it is cost prohibitive.. 

Wine books are good only if you know the wine lover likes to read and desires to learn more about wine.  The choices are myriad. But a "general" kind of book with nice pictures, are another nice gift.

Buying a special wine is always a good score and this is where "professional" help is very helpful. Go to a decent wine store and ask who their wine expert is. If they laugh, you're not in a good wine store. A real expert will ask you questions about how much you are thinking to spend and will try and get a feel for the level of hobby you are buying for. And do NOT be shy about saying "I don't want to spend more than $15 if that's what you are hoping.  (If you follow this blog-- which now has close to 1.5 million hits--I believe it is because I blog about the kinds of wine a "normal" person buys.  Sure I have been privileged to taste many extravagant wines but not that came out of my pocket.  :) 

If you are able to spend a couple to a few hundred dollars consider a wine refrigerator! I have one that holds maybe 30 bottles, keeping them at 55 degrees. I did not pay but a couple hundred bucks.

I will post more in the days ahead of New Years so check back! 

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