It’s that time of year again. Black Friday looms. Thanks to the global supply chain disruptions, we’re all on edge about shopping for the holidays. Of course, that’s all beside the fact that sometimes it seems positively impossible to find a decent gift for the wine lovers in our lives. Wine lovers can be a little…. particular when it comes to what they like. And we’re not just talking about wine. Which is why each year I putt together what I think is the ultimate holiday shopping guide for the serious wine lover in your life.
There are two things noticeably absent from this guide, and very much on purpose. The first is a specific bottle of wine. People shake their heads at me when I say it, but I really don’t recommend buying bottles of wine for the wine lovers in your life unless you are absolutely, positively, 100% sure that it’s a wine they adore. When it comes to special bottles, most wine lovers would prefer to shop for themselves (which is why gift cards for wine are on my list below). It almost (but not quite) goes without saying (especially after articles like this) that wine club subscriptions are to be entirely avoided.
The second thing you’ll notice missing from the list below is a fancy crystal wine decanter. That’s because while they’re easy gifts to give, generally they suck. They can be expensive as hell, they take up a ton of cabinet space, they’re a pain in the ass to clean, and most of them lack the most basic of ergonomic affordances that would make them easy to use (handles, anyone?). As far as I’m concerned the world’s best decanter is a lemonade pitcher or a simple carafe (even a vase) that you can actually get your arm inside with a sponge and can replace easily if you drop it or chip it.
But enough about what’s not in here. Let’s talk about what I have included. I’ve got you covered from the simplest and least expensive wine stocking stuffers, to solid, moderately-priced wine gifts, to some of the fanciest, most exclusive and stylish wine-related accessories on the planet. And everything else in between. In the list below you’ll find gifts that even the fussiest and most well-stocked wine lovers in your life will appreciate.
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. $14.87 for a set of three. Buy them at Amazon.
Filtering Wine Funnel
I don’t use it all that often, but there are times when I absolutely need this little sucker, usually after a cork has disintegrated into the bottle. It’s billed as an aerating funnel, which is a little ridiculous, since the action of pouring wine through it would aerate the wine just fine, even if it didn’t have the little sideways holes at the end. But I love the fact that the screen and the funnel are separate, which makes the whole contraption easy to clean. Made by the folks at Rabbit, you can buy it on Amazon for $20.
Simple Wine Carriers
I’ve got more stylish options for carrying wine around below, but I have to say that my default way of dragging a couple of bottles over to a friend’s house or out to dinner is with one of these Built neoprene wine carriers. They’re padded, sturdy, slightly insulating, and sophisticated enough that I don’t feel self conscious at all showing up at a restaurant with one of these in tow. From $19.95 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. $8.00. Available at Sur La Table.
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:
More Substantial Gifts
The Essence of Wine Coffee Table 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.
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.
Masnaghetti also has an amazing set of maps for Piedmont and the Left Bank of Bordeaux, not to mention an encyclopedia of the new Barolo MGAs. You can find all of these starting at $15.95 for the maps at The Rare Wine Co.
Finally, Steve DeLong has been making excellent wine maps for years, and you can see his whole assortment, starting at $30 over at DeLong Wine.
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. $39.99 in a hardcover box set from Amazon.
The Durand Wine Opener for Older Wines
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.
Inexpensive Wine Storage and Racking
When someone is ready to start actually storing their wine (as opposed to just shoving it in some corner) the question of racks or shelving immediately arises. There are an infinite number of approaches, and almost an infinite amount of money that can be spent on the creation of a proper wine cellar, but for most mortals, something more practical is in order. That’s where these ingenious stacking wine bins come in. Now they’re not gorgeous cedar racks that showcase every bottle individually, but most people don’t have that option. Instead these are sturdy crates that each hold 12 bottles (or 6 magnums) and that can be stacked 6 or 7 high. The handy drop down access door allows you to pull out a bottle or three even when stacked. They’re not sexy, but they really do the trick. They start at $72 for three of them, or $216 for nine. Available at DomaineStorage.
Fun With Bubbly and Friends
Juvenile? Yes. A waste of good sparkling wine? Probably. Kinda fun regardless? Totally. This little device, the Bubbly Blaster turns any bottle of sparkling wine into a spray gun. You can shoot people from 25 feet away with a thin stream of sparkling wine. If you’re really talented or ambitious you can try to get it into their mouths or glasses, but honestly, this is just about being ridiculously conspicuous, which is why the damn thing looks gold plated. On the other hand, the thing doubles as a bottle-stopper, which keeps your bottle fresh if you leave it int. So if you know someone who wants moments in their life that feel like a party of super-rich people at an expensive resort, then this is precisely the gift for them. There’s even (sigh) a version that comes with an iPhone mount for ‘da Gram. Starting at $99 at the Bubbly Blaster web site.
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). Less than $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.
EVERYDAY Wine Preservation with THE CORAVIN PIVOT
Coravin changed the game when it came to drinking a single glass of any wine without opening the bottle (see more expensive gifts below). But they haven’t stopped innovating. Their Pivot product, released this past spring, now makes it possible to drink a bottle of wine over the course of a week or two without any loss in quality due to oxidation. Simply uncork the bottle, immediately pop in one of the Pivot wine stoppers, and then attach the pivot device which you then use to pour a glass (or two) of wine. Remove the device, close the cap and throw the bottle into the fridge until the next time you want a glass. It’s as simple as it is ingenious, and the argon capsules seem to last a long time. $99 gets you started at Amazon.
Turn Wine Leftovers into Artisan Vinegar
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. $99 for the 5-liter version. Other sizes available. Buy at Amazon.
Ultimate Indulgences — The Expensive Stuff
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 up their nose.
The Ultimate Wine Glass
There are wine glasses, and then there are wine glasses. Not too long ago, the folks at Zalto reset the bar for what truly fine, modern crystal wine glasses could be. Since then, a number of competitors have joined the fray, some of which are excellent. Right now, the global supply chain is wreaking havoc with many of these players. Both Zalto and Gabriel-glas are sold out and back-ordered until a ways into 2022. But I was recently introduced to a new player in the market, Nude Glass. Fantastically light, delicate, and so finely wrought they seem effortless to use, these glasses claim to be the most resilient glasses in their class. I can’t say I’ve put that to the test, but the sample glass I was sent recently is quite fine. Drinking from an incredibly delicate stem like this represents the most luxurious way to appreciate any wine. 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. $72 each. I recommend their red wine glass as a universal glass for any wine, red, white, pink or orange. Buy them from Nude Glass.
Carry Wine Bottles With Class
I don’t know about you, but I’m thrilling at the opportunity to have dinner with friends again. And when the opportunity arises, I’m bringing wines from my cellar because, well, life’s too short. It’s time to drink great wine with friends again. So when schlepping wine over to someone’s house for dinner or out to a restaurant, you want to carry the wine safely, securely, and (for some) stylishly. Which is where a really nice leather wine tote comes in. This one will set you back $290 from Nieman Marcus.
Drink Still Wine 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. $227. Available from Amazon.
Drink A Single Bottle of Sparkling Wine Over Weeks
Those sparkling wine stoppers in the stocking-stuffer category above are handy but they will keep a bottle fresh in the fridge only so long. If you’re drinking the bottle glass-by-glass, they’ll do fine for maybe up to a week. But if you’re the type of person who would really like to savor a nice bottle of bubbly over several weeks, then you’d be wanting the newest device to come out of the labs at Coravin: their sparkling wine preservation system. I’ve been testing this device over the past month or so, and it’s kept bottles of Champagne fresh for me for up to 3 weeks, with no noticeable loss of bubbles or oxidation. While many serious bubbly lovers don’t tend to have the problem of leftover Champagne, if you want to make sure that bottle stays pristine, Coravin Sparkling is what you need. $399 from Amazon.
Fly Safely With Wine
Now that the world is opening back up again, some folks may want to take trips, and bring along some favorite bottles. There’s the roll-it-up-in-a-t-shirt approach to traveling with wine, and then there’s the classy way: the Vanguard Valise. It’s simple. It’s a specialized suitcase that holds 12 bottles of wine, plus a couple changes of clothes, and all but guarantees that your precious oeno-cargo gets there safely. 5 and 8 bottle versions are also available. The 12-bottle model starts at $349. Available at 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 three-to-four-digit price tags, such as Antiqueposters.Com or Vintageposters.Us
The Rolls Royce of Corkscrews
Know someone who opens a ton of wine and would appreciate the difference between an ordinary corkscrew and something James Bond might use? 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 $365, and the most tricked-out Titanium version will run you close to $900. 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. $360, and available at Nieman Marcus.
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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, I receive affiliate fees from any Amazon links.