It’s that time of year again, and if you’re a wine lover like all of us here at Winetraveler, then you’re probably filling out your Christmas/Holiday wish list with all things wine. Is it bad that we’re adults here and we’re still making personal wish lists? Absolutely not. Never stop believing in the spirit of the holidays. However, for those of you buying gifts for others and not yourself, here are 10 gifts for wine lovers that will make any connoisseur happy this year.
Seems simple enough – get a corkscrew and get it to work. These days, however, there are dozens if not hundreds of options out there to spark your interest in opening a bottle of wine. From the rabbit corkscrew to the waiter’s corkscrew, to something I saw at Brookstone that looked like a UFO, all the way to the heel of your shoe (yes, you can open a bottle of wine with your shoe), I say simple and efficient is best when choosing a wine opener which takes me to the traditional waiter’s corkscrew.
I’ve been a Somm for about a decade and I can tell you for my breed this is a very personal, passionate topic. Over the years, I kid you not, the best wine opener I’ve discovered can be found on Amazon for $11.95. The brand is HiCoup. It’s a two-step version with a knife that can be impressively flipped out with two fingers much like a butterfly knife. Ranging in multiple colors and styles, this device is the strongest and longest-lasting opener I’ve ever worked with. The average lifetime for my use is about two years, opening over 100 bottles a week. So most likely, this wine key will last you a lifetime. Plus, it makes for a perfect stocking stuffer.
Somewhat new to the wine world, and certainly new to the mainstream, is a device called an Ah-So. Specifically designed for older bottles, this opener is perfect for not stripping corks and/or having to deal with crumbled corks – goodbye to filtering out cork particles in your glass! You can find these for less than $20, and a simple YouTube tutorial and some practice will make you look like a pro when opening special bottles amongst your friends.
Wine Glasses and Decanters
Full disclosure, I used to think the kind of wine glasses used for specific wines had little to no bearing on how the wine tasted. Boy, was I wrong. Following one of the best seminars I’ve ever attended in the wine industry, Maximillion Riedel, CEO of Riedel, changed my life forever when approaching glassware. He often does these seminars across the world and if he happens to come to your town, I cannot promote it more to go and see it for yourself. It’s a mind-blowing must-see.
Start with whom you’re buying the gift for. What do they love? What do they usually drink? If they enjoy Pinot Noir, look towards Riedel’s Burgundy collection. If they love Cabernet, look towards their Bordeaux collection. They even have specific glasses for varietals like Nebbiolo, Un-Oaked Chardonnay, Syrah, and more. No joke, it makes a difference. I even bought their Coca-Cola series for my Diet Coke obsession. Although, I will say if you do have someone you’re buying for that basically likes everything, the Cabernet/Merlot standard glass is usually the best overall option.
Moving on to the decanters, again I suggest checking out Riedel’s lineup. From the very basic to the somewhat bizarre, there’s a rhyme and reason for everything Riedel does and it’s all about respect for the wine. In my restaurants, I use the basic Cabernet Magnum decanter, but at home, we get crazy with the Boa, Mamba, and the Swan. The science behind them is true, but from a wow/impressive factor they are a sight to be seen. These can be pricey though, so save them for someone special!
You’ve probably seen someone walking around with what looks like a satchel that has two wine bottles popping out of them. These are great for folks who bring a couple of bottles often to the homes of friends and family as they are safe, secure, easy to carry and relatively inexpensive. They can easily be found online and make for a nice gift.
What you probably haven’t seen, or are just starting to see, are entire suitcases dedicated to wine. Since we’re Winetravelers, we will focus on these traveling needs for your bottles. Nothing is worse than an extended vacation somewhere where the only place to grab a bottle of wine is a local convenient store. The selections are usually brutal and marked up atrociously to take advantage of tourists. Enter the wine suitcase. Ranging in holding capacity of a few bottles to an entire case, this is perfect for travelers who don’t mind checking a bag. They are usually fitted like tanks, able to withstand the angriest airline personnel’s tantrums (obviously I have experience here) while also keeping the wine at level temperatures. Check out the VinGardeValise online and give a gift that I would even freak out over!
My last piece of advice for gifts this holiday season seems obvious, but all too often is overlooked. Keep it simple with the goods, grape juice! No matter what kind of knick-knack you find or accessory, the best way to look like a star is a bottle of something special. I tend to get sentimental when I gift wine with something like the receiver’s birth year. Vintage Port and Sauternes is a fun way of offering something really delicious while looking like you put some thought into it. You can usually find the exact year at a relatively affordable price online too.
What’s not often spoken about in wine, at least not yet, is the potential investment value. Gifting a very allocated wine like Napa’s Scarecrow, Harlan, or Colgin to name a few, can not only impress everyone in the room but can act as an investment opportunity to those holding the bottle for years to come and often bringing an interest value far greater than any investment vehicle on Wall Street. When I was born my Aunt bought me a $25 savings bond. I cashed it out for about 32 bucks once I was 18. If she had bought a bottle of Chateau Margaux for less than the $25 she spent at the time, I could now cash that in for into the $1,000’s!
Lastly, a great wine gift is a wine club membership. There are too many to mention but some offer monthly or quarterly shipments. So, pick one that speaks to the person you’re gifting. It’s the gift that keeps on giving and who wouldn’t love that?
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