Giving gifts to wine lovers during the holidays can be a royal pain. Especially if your recipient tends to have many of the basics covered when it comes to wine. And forget about what a hassle that people like me tend to be. I’m one of those wine lovers who already has most of the gear that he wants, and has very strong opinions about everything else. Sound like anyone you know?
I’ve said before that buying wine for your favorite wine lover can be an exercise fraught with peril. Many wine lovers I know would much rather choose their own wine than have someone buy something for them. Many of you know what I’m talking about when I describe the pang of guilt we feel when someone has clearly bought a pricey bottle of wine that we would avoid drinking even if it was open in the room.
And don’t get me started on the complete waste of money that most wine aerators and other gadgets represent.
But I’m here to help you find something that even the pickiest, over-opinionated wine lover like me would enjoy (provided we don’t already have one).
The Essence of Wine Book
This is a fantastic book. How do I know? I wrote it. A coffee table book of photographs and essays about the many flavors and aromas of wine, it is a collaboration between yours truly and award-winning food photographer Leigh Beisch and her art director Sara Slavin. The photographs are stunningly gorgeous, and the essays aren’t half bad either. For each of the 46 different aromas profiled in the book, I offer wine recommendations that you can seek out to experience that particular flavor or aroma. The book recently won The Chairman’s Award at the 2015 Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards.
The book sold out last year in advance of Christmas, but we’ve still got a bunch of the second printing left. If your favorite foodie or wine lover doesn’t have a copy yet, it’s a sure fire gift that’s bound to please. $75 plus shipping. Buy it from me directly.
If you’re dealing with a serious wine lover, especially one who regularly opens older bottles of wine, you can’t find a better gift for them than The Durand wine tool. Specifically designed to deal with the most fragile of corks, this handy little tool is an awesome piece of wine equipment. $125. Available from http://thedurand.com/.
A Doorman Subscription
What’s the bane of every serious wine lover’s existence? No, not cork taint. Those little flappy stickers you return home to find on your front door telling you that FedEx or UPS tried to deliver your latest wine order but couldn’t leave it on your doorstep because they needed an adult signature. If only every home came with a New York style doorman, who could receive packages all day long for you. Well now it does. Having launched first in San Francisco, and now operating in Chicago and New York City as well, Doorman receives your packages, and then delivers them when YOU want them delivered (7 days a week between 6 PM and Midnight). I tell you, this service has literally changed my wine delivery life and saved me hours of driving down to pick up packages at my local FedEx or UPS depot. Subscriptions start at $19 per month, and can be purchased at Doorman.Co.
Code 38 Wine Key
Know someone who opens a ton of wine and would appreciate the difference between an ordinary corkscrew and the Porsche of corkscrews?. If you’re really looking to impress someone, or if your recipient happens to be a wine professional, they will certainly love using the Code 38 Wine Key, which brings precision engineering and fantastic modern styling to the simple corkscrew. Extravagant? Yes. Totally swanky? Definitely. The basic model starts at $225, and the most tricked-out Titanium version tops out at $525. Available from http://www.code38.com/.
The Coravin II Wine Access System
The Coravin has quickly revolutionized the wine world in its own small way, by allowing us all to have a glass of wine from any (non-sparkling) wine without removing the cork. It’s now been more than 2 years since the launch of the tool, and it has literally transformed by-the-glass wine lists around the world, not to mention changed the way that many people drink their wines. The company recently released an improved second version of the tool (Coravin II) which I reviewed here recently, but suffice it to say, this is a pretty astonishing and handy invention. $299. Available at http://www.coravin.com/
GoVino Plastic Wine Glasses
Sometimes you just don’t want to mess with breakable wine glasses, but who wants to drink wine out of a Red SOLO cup? That’s where GoVino glasses come in. If you want to sip a nice glass of wine by the pool without worries, these handy little reusable plastic wine glasses are all you need. They even have a little spot to rest your thumb. While they won’t provide you quite the same aesthetic experience as a lovely crystal glass, they will certainly allow you to swirl, sniff, sip, and enjoy the full aromas and flavors of your wine. $29.99 for a set of eight. Buy on http://www.amazon.com.
The Best Everyday Wine Glasses
You know all that talk about the different wine glasses you need for different grape varieties? It’s all hogwash. You need only one glass for red, white, and sparkling wines, and for most people this Schott Zwiesel Tritan is it. Titanium crystal is the sturdiest stuff on the market, and this glass is both visually elegant, modern in style, and perfectly shaped for wine. It also happens to be quite reasonably priced for a top-quality wine stem. This is what I drink from at home when I’m not drinking from my precious set of Zaltos (see below). $77.28 for a set of six. Buy on http://www.amazon.com.
The Best Wine Glasses Money Can Buy
There are wine glasses, and then there are Zaltos. Most people only need to pick up one of these gorgeously hand-blown works of art to understand instantly what they are all about. Fantastically light, delicate, and so finely wrought they seem effortless to use. Drinking from a Zalto stem represents the most luxurious way to appreciate any wine. While Zaltos come in several shapes, their Universal glass is just that — perfect for anything. If money is no object and you’re looking for a treat to give your favorite wine lover, there are few things that will impress as much as these glasses. Lead-free, handblown crystal from Austria. $59 each or $354 for a set of six. Buy them at http://www.winemonger.com/.
The Irony of Wine: Hipster T-Shirt Edition
How do you know someone is a badass wine insider? They show up to a party wearing one of Andre Mack’s t-shirts under their Hugo Boss sport coat. Mack is a superstar sommelier-turned-winemaker, as well as one heck of a t-shirt designer. Most people I know in the wine business have at least one of his shirts. My favorites include the Oscar Jayer (My Borgogne has a second name, it’s J-A-Y-E-R), and Barolo King.
The shirts run $25 apiece and you can check out the full selection of delicious logo jokes and other wine ironies at http://moutonnoirwines.com/schwag.
A Subscription to The World of Fine Wine
Easily the best wine periodical in the world, each hefty, quarterly issue of The World of Fine Wine is more like a book than a magazine. Filled with great photography, fantastic writing, and top quality wine criticism, this magazine will appeal to anyone who brings a bit of an intellectual bent to their wine appreciation. I like to think of it as Granta for wine, if that analogy works for you. The World of Fine Wine is where some of the best wine writing is being done today. $157 per year for a US Subscription printed on dead trees.
You can also get digital subscriptions as well through their handy iPhone and iPad app, which may be preferable for those who don’t want to have these big thick magazine stack up around the house (as beautiful as they are, they do really take up a lot of shelf-space after a few years). Digital subscriptions will run you $112 per year.
Purchase a gift subscription at http://www.worldoffinewine.com
Mini Oak Barrel for Vinegar Making
Even the most die-hard wine lovers occasionally have a little wine left over. And most wine lovers I know also happen to be foodies, and appreciate the difference between good vinegar and bad vinegar. So help them make their own! This custom-made 5-liter oak barrel from Tuthilltown Barrels is the perfect way to make and age your own wine vinegar. Just simply add a little high quality vinegar to start, and then gradually fill up the barrel with unused, good quality wine, and violá. $96 for the 5L version. Other sizes available. Buy at http://www.tuthilltown.com.
BUILT wine bags
There are fancy wine carrying devices, and then there are useful wine carrying devices. These neoprene wine bags are most definitely the latter. I’ve got several, and they are how I end up toting most of my wine around to restaurants, parties, and anywhere I’m bringing a couple of bottles. They’re nicely designed, insulating, and provide good enough padding that you don’t have to worry about knocking over a bottle when it is snugly fitted inside. I can’t live without mine. A 2 bottle tote costs $14.52. Buy it at http://www.amazon.com.
Sparkling Bottle Stoppers
Now, finishing a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine, once opened, should not be a problem, but every once in a while, that third or fourth bottle in my house doesn’t get finished. While there are some folks who would never let this happen, the reality is that sometimes you want to save the last of that bubbly for another day. That’s where these handy little gizmos come in. You could shove a regular wine cork into that bottle, but there’s no guarantee it will fit, or if it does, that it will seal very well. These guys snap on with a satisfying “clack” and make sure that there’s a tight seal on the bottle so there’s the best chance of preserving the bubbles. Every bubbly lover should have at least one. A great stocking stuffer at $19.99 for a set of three. Buy them at http://www.amazon.com.
The Best Stemware Cleaning Device
Washing your nice wine glasses is always an exercise in gentle deliberate movements. But that’s invariably when most delicate glasses are broken (other than being accidentally knocked onto the floor). You have to be careful when washing stemware, but on the other hand, sometimes they can be a royal pain to clean, especially if, like me, you have slightly larger hands that don’t always fit along with that brush into the bowl of the glass. This inexpensive little device, then, is your savior. Wonderfully soft and shaped perfectly for wine glasses, it makes quick work of cleaning any glass. $5.99. Available at http://www.bedbathbeyond.com.
Gift Certificates for Wine
If all else fails, I don’t know a single wine lover who wouldn’t love a gift certificate to their local wine store. Not all wine stores offer gift certificates, but I’m sure you can find one in your area. The two I recommend on either coast are:
Crush Wine Company in New York City – Buy a Gift Certificate
K&L Wines in San Francisco, Redwood City, and Hollywood – Buy a Gift Certificate
Feel free to recommend others in the comments section below if you have favorite stores that offer gift certificates.
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Best of luck in your holiday shopping, and remember, a glass or two of wine will make this whole process a lot easier. Happy holidays and happy drinking!!
Disclosures: In case you care, Coravin and Doorman happen to be paying advertisers on this site, and I receive affiliate fees from the sale of Coravin, as well as any Amazon links.
Image of wine glasses in front of a Christmas tree and gift card courtesy of Bigstock.