Top 5 Gifts for Wine Lovers

Categories: Wine Time

riedel decanters.jpg
Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
Decanters by Riedel take wine service to a higher level of aesthetic pleasure.
If you're ever invited to dine in someone's home in France, please don't bring a bottle of wine. Nothing will spur a French host to recoil in abject dishonor and displeasure than the gift of a bottle of wine (like carrying coal to Newcastle, bringing owls to Athens, or selling snow to Eskimos).

Beyond the delicate subject of French pride, there are practical reasons for this: Does the wine pair well with the dishes your host has prepared? Does the style of wine jibe with the host's tastes? Will the host feel compelled to open a bottle of wine that requires aging or aeration?

Ultimately, the gift of a bottle of wine can create more trouble than reward (although there are some exceptions; see below). Here are five gift ideas that are sure to bring wide grins to the face of any wine lover.

5. Decanters - Crystal vessels by Riedel (above) are the benchmark for fine wine decanters these days. They're not cheap, but they're worth every penny for their high-concept design and the technical precision. You can find them at an independent wine shop like the Houston Wine Merchant or at a department store like Macy's. But here's a little tip: Look for crystal decanters at consignment and thrift stores in high-end neighborhoods. As long as they're not chipped, they will polish up like brand-new. And remember: Decanters don't need to be made of crystal. Glass decanters work just as well, are more sturdy, and go a lot easier on the pocketbook.

wine map.jpg
Photo via Delong Wine.
I dare you to show me the true wine lover who doesn't love a good wine map!
4. Wine Maps - Tracie P and I fell in love this year with Delong wine maps (that's his new California map, right). At around $25, "Metro Wine Map of France" is one of the gifts I'll be using to stuff stockings this year (not literally, of course): It's an entirely unique and innovative approach to enocartography that uses the French subway system map as a mnemonic device for learning the appellations of France. It's simply brilliant. The conventional maps devoted to Italy and France are superbly executed. And Delong also offers a wide range of "wine discovery tools" like tasting notebooks and the chrome Pulltap double-hinged wine key, also around $25 (my favorite cork screw).

3. Olive Oil - From California to France, from Italy to Greece, nearly every one of the great wine regions of the world is also blessed with top growing sites for olives and exceptionally delicious olive oil. No matter what style of wine a connoisseur enjoys, I can guarantee that she or he will appreciate the gift of fine olive oil. My top pick (at around $24 for a 500 ml bottle) is the Vetrice from the village of Rufina, Tuscany. You'll find it at the Rare Wine Company in Sonoma. Unfortunately, the Rare Wine Company cannot ship wine to Texas (because it's prohibited by our state's legislature). But it can ship olive oil and also offers reproductions of vintage decanters, excellent wine maps of Piedmont and Tuscany, and original vintage Italian wine posters like the famous Contratto poster by Cappiello for $2,950.

For the best selection of small-production olive oil from California, check out the selection curated by "national treasure" Darrell Corti in Sacramento, the man who made Zinfandel a household name in the U.S. and our country's top purveyor of domestic olive oils (he's also one of the world's greatest expert on olive oil-cured tuna and offers one of the best selections of tuna in the U.S.).

2. The Oxford Companion to Wine - Meeting and tasting with Jancis Robinson -- the first woman in the world to become a Master of Wine and the editor of the Oxford Companion to Wine -- was one of the highlights of my year. But I felt like I already knew her: Not a day goes by that I don't consult her Companion. It's what is called a folio in the book trade, a large-format tome ideal for your reference library and your coffee table. For $65 a year, you can also subscribe to the fully searchable online version at her site, JancisRobinson.com. I can't think of a better gift for someone who's trying to develop and expand their wine knowledge. I use it nearly every single day.

1. Champagne - The only wine that we give as gifts during the holiday season is Champagne. No matter what style of wine a wine lover likes -- new or old world, modern or traditional -- everyone loves Champagne. And yes, when it comes to Champagne, brand-name recognition is a big part of the equation. But isn't that what the Christmas season is about? My number-one retail resource for Champagne is Spec's because of the cash/debit card discount. A behemoth among wine shops, it has the widest selection. And don't hesitate to ask the store's Champagne specialist about "Grower Champagne," an emerging category of grape growers who have begun bottling their own wines instead of selling to the historic domaines of the appellation.

But if you're coming to our house for Christmas, please make it Bollinger (around $50 for the classic Special Cuvée).

Check out our other 2011 holiday gift guides:



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Location Info

Venue

Map

Houston Wine Merchant

2055 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: General

Spec's Warehouse

2410 Smith St., Houston, TX

Category: General

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15 comments
Marniawaugh
Marniawaugh

Balloon Bouquet

Looking for elegant and delicious fruit baskets? Gifttree is your premier gift resource, featuring handcrafted fruit baskets and gifts for your special occasions. Each fruit basket is filled to the brim with fresh fruits and quality gourmet items. These are great gifts to send to groups or the office. In a hurry? Our baskets are also available for same day delivery and are backed by our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee. 

Adelaide venues
Adelaide venues

Wow! Nice list. This blog is great and has provided interesting and useful information. Thank you for giving us idea.

Tracy
Tracy

First off, wine lovers are some of the coolest people I know and I've found that they also love cool wine gifts--that are not just wine. And who doesn't like something that is personalized?  Take a look at www.wordcouture.com.  Personalized wine bottle hurricane lanterns, which can be used on a bar, on an end table or as a centerpiece. 

Karen Cease
Karen Cease

a beautiful book is an elegant gift. for food and wine lovers, find 'Bouquet', G.B. Stern's story of 2 couples 1926 romp through the wine regions of France. there are still first editions available or go to www.eatdrink.co for the luxury limited edition reprint.

Wanda
Wanda

I buy "great" EVOO and balsamic from a small oil store in San Clemente, CA and they ship.  Try the Frantoio (Italy) or the Picual (Spain), both are superb.  Also, if in stock, is the Segreto (Sicily)...unbelievably fresh and delicous, but not always available. The store is called 'Oliver's".www.oliversevoo.com

Erica Nonni
Erica Nonni

Thank you for this guide! It's possibly the best gift guide I've read all season. I'm especially excited about the wine maps tip.

TWG
TWG

I thought it was OK to bring Champagne as a house gift in france.

RickWakemann
RickWakemann

Christopher Massie used to give out free punches around this time of year.Sometimes even kicks as he ejected customers from his store, free of charge.

JonSomm
JonSomm

Just a side note Richard's does carry all those Riedel decanters. The one on Kirby would be the best but others can make things happen. They too carry a wide range of growers in 750ml, 1.5L, and in 3L. Not to mention Ratafia. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Doneginswake
Doneginswake

We're lucky to have good wine shops like Houston Wine Merchant and Richards, Central Market and Whole Foods.And like your idea of high dollar zip thrift stores.

(Btw, amigo, it's 'jibe', unless you're Huggy Bear, Lamont or some similar tv character)

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

thanks for reading and for the kind words. The wine maps are awesome. The ones from Rare Wine Co. are SUPER geeky but they're great, too... 

Jeremy Parzen
Jeremy Parzen

I've found amazing decanters and stemware at thrift shops... Upper East Side Manhattan is a treasure! 

Thanks for the heads up on the tipo... I love Huggy Bear! 

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