Thursday, December 6, 2018

Christmas gifts for wine lovers

If you have a wine lover on your gift list, you might think the best gift is a bottle of wine. That's not untrue -- if you know them well enough to get a bottle they would find delightful.

Sometimes that's easier said than done. If you pick up a $12 bottle at Trader Joe's for your niece the sommelier, she'll thank you because she's polite, but she'll also look for the nearest opportunity to unload it.

Wine gadgets wind up in magazine stories this time of year because we all have to write holiday gift stories, but most gadgets are just more space-eating junk. (Exceptions are below).

Here are some gifts the wine lover on your list will enjoy. I guarantee it!

Wine glasses

Glasses break. We always need more. Look for a simple design, and don't spend too much money. More expensive glassware is often handblown and thus even more likely to break.

I usually buy wine glasses at Cost Plus World Market, but I admit I'm intrigued that this is a product Amazon has decided to make as part of its Amazon Basics series, like batteries. It does make sense: if you need 4 today, you're going to need another 4 soon enough. I have not tried Amazon's glassware but I probably will.


A Coravin

The Coravin is a revolutionary system that allows you to take a glass of wine from a bottle without pulling out the cork, so what's left in the bottle stays fresh longer.

I'm in the middle of reviewing a new $1000 version of the Coravin and I haven't yet decided whether I'll recommend it to readers at Wine Searcher, who can afford $1000. I will say this: a Coravin is a gift no wine lover will reject. We're all curious about it. The plastic one at left is only about $200. Buy it here.

Wine charms

Need something cheap? Wine charms hook around the stem of a wine glass so you can tell your glass from your friends'. They're invaluable at parties. I'm still using a set I got as a present years ago, along with a few others I have picked up since.

Good books that are about wine, but not intros to wine

The problem with most year-end wine book lists is that many of the best books about wine aren't really of interest to a wine lover. I know that seems paradoxical, but we don't need a book that tells us what we already know.

Here are some excellent books that a wine lover will enjoy.

Wine and War: Interesting history of Nazi occupation of French wine country

The Botanist and the Vintner: Phylloxera nearly destroyed wine as we know it. A scientific hero's journey

By the Smoke and the Smell: This one's about artisanal spirits, and it will make the reader thirsty for some

Wine Grapes: The reference book I use more than any other, it tells the history and current state of every commercial wine grape in the world. A must-have for people who like offbeat varietals

A good bottle of amaro

Most wine lovers enjoy amaro, the Italian bitter drink meant as a digestif, but they won't necessarily think to buy a bottle for themselves (and if they do, that means they can use another). A bottle of amaro will last much longer than a bottle of wine. In past years I have recommended whiskey or brandy, and those are also fine ideas: get the wine lover something nice that he wouldn't buy himself. I'm switching to amaro because of the rising price of whiskey. If you're going to buy somebody an artisanal Bourbon now, you have to be very sure they'll love it. In contrast, they can fall in love with an amaro they haven't tried before.

One reason amaros are interesting to wine lovers is that they're very different from each other. My favorite is Braulio (buy it here), but currently I'm enjoying a bottle of Amaro Dell'Erborista (buy it here). There are lots of good choices in this category.

A birth-year wine

That's always going to be welcome. It's also easier to buy than you might think: Just go to Wine-Searcher, put the year into the search engine, and you'll see all the wines available.

For the heck of it, I put in 1979 and came up with 1660 wines! There are a bunch of red Bordeaux from that year for under $100.

You can obsess over which is the best one to buy, but don't bother. I can tell you that, as a serious wine lover who knows vintages matter, I am going to exclaim with surprise and delight if you hand me any bottle from my birth year, no matter what it is. You have my permission to buy the cheap one.

Try entering your (friend's) birth year here. Happy holidays!

Follow me on Twitter: @wblakegray and Instagram @wblakegray and like The Gray Report on Facebook.