Figuring out what to get the wine lover who seems to have everything can be a source of great anxiety during the holiday season. People like me tend to buy the stuff they want, when they want it, and we also have very strong opinions about the difference between useful gear and utter crap.
This is what leads many people to simply give the wine lover a good bottle of wine, but that’s an exercise fraught with peril, in my opinion. True wine geeks would much rather choose their own wine than receive a bottle from someone who doesn’t exactly know their tastes, no matter how good the intentions.
So if not wine, what do you get your favorite oenophile? First, let me tell you what’s even worse than a bottle of wine they wouldn’t like. Please don’t ever, ever buy them one of the million wine aerators on the market. They’re all utter crap, and many are complete scams, to boot. Nobody needs a wine aerator. Nobody.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here’s some stuff that your favorite wine lover might not already have in their possession. Whether you’re looking for a stocking stuffer or something seriously substantial that will earn you heartfelt and damp-eyed thanks, I’ve got you covered.
When you’re looking for something inexpensive, here are a range of gift ideas from $5 to $50 that aren’t run of the mill.
Sparkling Bottle Stoppers
Now, finishing a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine, once opened, should not be that much of a problem, but occasionally everyone has one that doesn’t get finished and 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. $14.45 for a set of three. Buy them at Amazon.
The Irony of Wine: Hipster T-Shirt Edition
How do you know someone is a badass wine insider? They show up on a pandemic Zoom call wearing one of Andre Mack’s t-shirts on top, and… well, we’re never sure what they’re wearing on the bottom these days, right? 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 Bourgogne has a second name, it’s J-A-Y-E-R), and Barolo King. The shirts run $25 a piece and you can check out the full selection of delicious logo jokes and other wine ironies at Mouton Noir.
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. $6.49. Available at Bed Bath & Beyond.
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 favorite local wine store. Not all wine stores offer gift certificates, but I’m sure you can find one in your area. If you’re looking for some suggestions, I recommend the following stores who can ship nationally:
Crush Wine Co. in New York
Flatiron Wines in San Francisco
Flatiron Wines in New York
Gary’s Wine and Marketplace in New Jersey and Napa
JJ Buckley in Oakland
More Substantial Gifts
When you’re looking to make an impression, here are gifts from $50 to $200 that will impress the most discerning wine lovers.
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 won The Chairman’s Award at the 2015 Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards, and even the New York Times said nice things about it. 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 $12 for first-class shipping. Buy it from me directly.
The Ultimate Guide to Champagne
The other book I would recommend this season is more than just a book on Champagne. It’s also a set of gorgeous maps that bring Peter Liem’s thoughtful and in-depth treatise on the terroir of Champagne to life. The book and the maps are beautifully published in a box that holds both the book and the maps, and it’s honestly one of the classiest wine books you’ll ever manage to get ahold of. Anyone, even the most die-hard Champange lovers will get something out of this atlas, analysis, and ultimately a celebration of Champagne. $35.91 in a hardcover box set from Amazon.
Napa Wine Maps
Antonio Galloni has been building his own empire of wine criticism and resources after leaving the employ of Robert Parker in 2013. One of the more interesting, valuable, and beautiful efforts he has undertaken since then has been his work with acclaimed cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti to create incredibly detailed maps of Napa Valley and its sub-appellations, including many named vineyards. They come in handy folded formats, rolled and suitable for framing, and first-edition signed prints, costing $25, $50 and $500 respectively. Buy them at Vinous.
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. I use mine all the time, and it has saved me from the dreaded dissolving-cork syndrome more than a few times. It’s worth every penny of its $125 price tag. Available from The Durand.
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. $202 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 roughly $90 per year. Purchase a gift subscription at World of Fine Wine.
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 will suffice. 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 use at home when I’m not drinking from my precious set of Zaltos (see below). $60 for a set of six. If you want larger glasses, go for their Cabernet stem, if you want slightly smaller glasses, choose their Sauvignon Blanc stem. Both will do the trick for any wine. Buy on Amazon.
Drinking the Wine Leftovers
For those that aren’t looking to have a random glass of wine from any bottle (and therefore require the pricey services of a Coravin – see below), but still do want to be able to keep the remains of a bottle fresh for some time, consider the Eto. This snazzy device, bills itself as a sophisticated decanter, but really serves quite well as a wine preservation system. Think of it as what VacuVin might have become in its wildest dreams. I have a very discerning friend who swears by his and says he doesn’t use the Coravin much anymore, instead opting for this several times per week. $160 for one, with discounts on pairs. Available from Eto.
Mini Oak Barrel for Vinegar Making
Sometimes you don’t want to drink the leftovers, or sometimes you don’t get around to it. So why not put them to some use? Most wine lovers I know also happen to be foodies, and appreciate the difference between good vinegar and bad vinegar. This 5-liter oak barrel (which you could even personalize with a name) 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. $84 for the 5-liter version. Other sizes available. Buy at Amazon.
If price is not an issue, and you want to get your favorite wine geek something special, here’s a list of gifts at which no one can turn their nose up.
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 The Manufactory.
Drink WITHOUT OPENING THE BOTTLE
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 4 years since the launch of the tool, and it has literally transformed by-the-glass wine lists around the world, not to mention changing the way that many people drink their wines. The company now has a dizzying number of different models to choose from, many of which have bells and whistles that I don’t necessarily think are worth the extra money. My recommendation would be the sturdy Model Five. No matter which model you get, it’s a pretty astonishing and handy invention. $299. Available from Amazon.
Vintage Wine Posters
Wine advertising hasn’t been the same since about 1895. No seriously. The big illustrated posters advertising wines around the turn of the century represent a high point in marketing, in my opinion. These days, they’re collector’s items and an original vintage print will set you back a couple of thousand dollars. But they’re beautiful and make wonderful additions to dining rooms, living rooms, studies, and yes, wine cellars, provided you’ve got one big enough to hang out in, let alone with wall space for one of these beauties. There are lots of places to buy such posters online, for various four-digit price tags, such as Spencer Weisz Galleries in Chicago.
Code 38 Wine Key
Know someone who opens a ton of wine and would appreciate the difference between an ordinary corkscrew and the Tesla 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 well above $500. Available from Code 38.
A License to Chill
Like many accessories made specifically for wine lovers, the standard ice bucket can certainly be done without, or replaced by much more utilitarian alternatives, such as stock pots, paint buckets, salad bowls, etc. But there are times when you either want to make a statement, or times when you want a little more aesthetic pleasure from the things you use. And then there are times when you don’t want to chill just one bottle, but five. So perhaps you want a fancier ice bucket? This beautifully modern “Noe” bucket is brought to you by the mavens of Italian design, Alessi. $270, and available at Nieman Marcus.
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, I receive affiliate fees from any Amazon links.