Have you hit the stressed-out moment of holiday gift shopping? Is there someone on your list who likes wine (and who doesn’t)? Then this list of wine gifts is just right for you.
Of course you can always shell out $300 for a Coravin system, which lets you remove just a bit of the wine from a bottle without opening it, preserving the rest in pristine condition. Or you could go with this insane Riedel decanter for just over $500. But for most of us these might not be in the cards.
On the other hand, here are some great ideas for you to give alone, mix and match, or pair with a bottle of wine. Easy enough.
1. Wine gadgets – You know you and your friends love the gadgets. And there’s no end to the wine gadgets. The truth is, a bunch of them are really dumb, so here are some that I think are actually useful.
— Chill it —
- Rather than adding ice to a glass of wine to chill it quickly, which will unfortunately dilute and change the profile of the wine, instead you can use some cubes or balls made of metal or glass that are made to chill liquid quickly but that don’t contribute any flavor – or water – to the wine. Add a bottle of white wine and you have a nice gift.
- A nice wine chiller sleeve works well to keep your wine cool. This one is classic and simple, made of marble and adds to elegant wine service.
— More gadgets –
- An easy-open method to uncork a favorite bottle is always fun. This one is the Cuisinart cordless opener and it’s even on sale.
- If you want to do kitschy, here’s a customized wine bottle stopper for your best friend.
- While most wines don’t need to be decanted, if you’d like to see the effects of mixing a red wine with some oxygen, a carafe does the trick for decanting and, when it’s a beautiful decanter, can double as a work of art.
- Sparkling wine sealer — These are simple devices, but they let you open a bottle of sparkling wine even if you won’t drink all of it. So many people hate to open a bottle of bubbles if they think they won’t finish it, but a sealer will maintain the bubbles until your next glass. Rabbit makes a set that includes a device that helps open the bottle and a sealer, and also a sealer alone. Other simple but effective options are, for example, the Tablecraft model and the Williams Sonoma These are not expensive, so the perfect gift might be a couple of sealers and a bottle (or 2) of a sparkling wine.
2. Aldi Wine Advent Calendar —
Can you believe it? This is a lovely advent calendar by Aldi, with a different bottle of wine for each day. Unfortunately they are sold out online but maybe you can find a store (Delaware?) that still has them. If not, remember this one for next year.
3. A Practical Item
This might not be the most gift of all items, but I had to include it because it’s so valuable to have on hand. It’s this wine stain remover. A very, very good friend once spilled a fair amount of red wine on my upholstered chair (you know who you are) and amazingly, this stain remover made it ALL disappear. Poof. I find that people are always looking for a good remover for their tablecloths, furniture or rugs, and this one works well.
4. Wine books, books, books –
Here are five good suggestions for books about wine. Some are basically reference books and the others are just great non-fiction retelling fascinating historic moments in the wine world.
How to Taste: A guide to Enjoying Wine – I love this book. If you or someone on your list wants to learn more about wine, I cannot suggest strongly enough Jancis Robinson’s (my hero’s) How To Taste. I know you can find a Wine for Dummies and all the other wine basics books, which are fine, but this one gives you not only great factual background, but fun exercises to help you learn. We all know that wine homework is the best homework there is in this life, and this book gives you lots of this fun.
Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure – A tale recounting the history of winemakers in France can’t be bad, but this tale also gives you the impending destruction of French vineyards and their wines with the struggles faced during World War II. It’s a fascinating tale of the creative efforts to save a heritage that we all are grateful was preserved.
Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2018 — If you want a handy reference book for looking up wines and the best vintages, this is your book. It started as a small book that could literally fit in your pocket, but over the last 40 or so years it’s grown to a thicker volume. It also has some very useful tips about wine.
The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It – This fascinating story of a fearless entrepreneurial woman of the 19th century, well told by Tilar Mazzeo, is can’t miss for wine lovers. You’ll learn how a young widow built a Champagne empire through pluck, smarts and relentless force of will. Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin witnessed the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars and overcame the struggles wrought by both to build a Champagne empire and become one of the richest women of her time.
The Oxford Companion To Wine: This is the heavyweight of the wine reference book world. When you look up a wine subject on Wikipedia, chances are this book will be one of the references. Jancis Robinson, my hero, is the editor and she has been at this for a long time. It is basically an encyclopedia of all wine subjects and is perfect for any serious or semi-serious wine student.
5. Wine paired with other food items –
It’s always nice to receive a bottle of good wine or two plus some food items to go with it. Cheeses are great, but you may not want to give something perishable, so consider other types of food-related items such as grilling spices paired with fruity reds that pair with grilled meats.
6. And Then There’s, Well, Wine –
Of course, you can always give a wine lover, well, wine. The safest choice and most likely to please is a sparkling wine. Sparklers pair with everything (almost all foods, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and are always a great choice. Fortunately there is every price point for sparkling wines, so you should be able to pick just the right one. You have the options of Champagne itself, Crémant de Bourgogne or Crémant d’Alsace, Prosecco or Cava. You probably know that sparkling wine ranges in sweetness levels, and the most popular level at this point is Brut, a dry wine. So look for the word “Brut” on the label (either on the main label or on the label on the neck of the bottle) and you’ll be good to go. You can always ask in your wine shop for advice on the background of the various sparklers to help you make the best selection. Or you can email me and I’ll help be happy to help you out.
If not a sparkling, you have a choice of giving a wine you know the recipient loves already, or something you’ve tried, loved, and think they would like too. The second option is a bit riskier, but if you choose well, the gift will be so appreciated. And you can always give a wine club gift.