Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gifts for Wine Lovers

'Tis the season for gift giving, and if you're looking for gifts that might appeal to the wine lovers in your life I've got some seasonal tips for you to help you out. Of course, if you are the wine lover in question, you can send this link to everybody that you know in hopes that you will get some goodies! These go beyond the bottles of wine, glasses, or the decanter that might be the first thing you think of, and hopefully at least one of these suggestions will fit your budget and the personality of your intended recipient.

For Generous Wine Lovers: Hopefully, that's most of us, and if you are often on the receiving end of bottles of wine from a wine-loving friend, you may want to consider giving them this great box of Wine Lovers Gift Tags ($12.95). Now, this may seem like an odd present but if you know someone who is always giving wine, then chances are they are usually ransacking the cabinets for something to put the wine in that makes it seem like a genuine gift. This box of tags (with nice sayings, and ribbon to tie them to the bottle) will be a welcome addition to their wine accoutrements.

For the Wine Lover Who is Also a Foodie: I'd get them a copy of Sid Goldstein's The Wine Lover's Cookbook ($17.50 from Jessica's Biscuit) and wrap it with this great clipboard ($28). Perfect for organizing shopping lists, menus, recipes, and the all important wine lists, the clipboard and cookbook duo will become Ground Zero for dinner parties for years to come. Goldstein's book is a food and wine classic, but it's relatively hard to find so it's a good option for holiday gifts.

For the Wine Lover Who Is Just Getting Started:
I received a copy of Courtney Cochran's Hip Tastes: The Fresh Guide to Wine (Penguin Books, $18.95) from the publisher and it hooked me immediately. Cochran has a breezy style that never intimidates, yet she gives seriously good wine advice. In the book you will find succinct overviews of classic varietals (always key information), suggestions for wine and food matches for sushi and other favorite foods, and fantastic tips to help you get the most of wine vacations and touring wineries. I don't think there's a better book out there that's so approachable yet covers so much ground with everything from terroir to restaurant wine lists getting a thoughtful treatment. If the person you're buying for is not only just starting out but also under 30, this book would be perfect. If you are at all doubtful, check out her blog, Hip Tastes. I think it will convince you that she's got the right stuff.

For the Wine Lover Who Seemingly Has Everything: First, this is just not possible. Second, they probably don't have a subscription to Decanter, the UK's pre-eminent wine publication. For $50, you can get them a subscription to a magazine that will give them a very different view on the world of wine. The current issue includes book reviews, an excerpt from Jay McInerney's Hedonist in the Cellar, Bourdeaux "outsiders," sparkling alternatives to champagne, a run-down of Argentinian reds, and a panel tasting of 2004 California Cabernet Sauvignons. This is a gift that shows that you were thinking outside the box when it came to gifts this year, and will give them a year's worth of reading pleasure. It will also give them the opportunity to say, "Well, Michael Broadbent thinks that ..." when at the next gathering of wine geeks.

For the Wine Lover Who Travels: If your wine lover travels a lot, lugging a stack of wine reading with them may not be the ideal thing. So what about a subscription to Jancis Robinson's Purple Pages? Robinson is hands down one of the best wine writers in the world, and she has embraced online media enthusiastically (all the while producing the latest edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine). For $139, your wine lover will get online access to all the information on Robinson's site--all her tasting notes, insider tips, access to what is described as "the most courteous wine forum on the web," and the Oxford Companion to Wine's 3rd edition. Every road warrior will appreciate being able to log in anywhere and get fresh articles and insights into wine every week.

You may want to also check my post from last year on gifts for wine lovers, which includes some additional tips, and my series of wine book reviews. Happy shopping, and happy gifting!


Anonymous said...

You really liked Cochran's book? I thought it was really over-simplified to the point of being just another "ho hum" intro/Wine 101! The writing is fun and approachable, which is good, but there are some factual errors that turned me off.

Dr. Debs said...

Lenn, I really did like the book. I didn't catch the factual errors, I must confess. What I did catch was that this was a book I could imagine giving to my 25-year old friend who wants to get into wine and is hugely intimidated by most of the books. So I do recommend it. Perhaps, though, this is because as a writer of books I know that finding one without a single factual error (or two, or three, or four, is a complete impossibility. But others have different standards!

Dr. Debs said...

PS. Given the impossibility of writing a book with no errors, most authors take kindly to receiving notes pointing out the mistakes so that they can be corrected in future editions, just as we do on our blogs. Typically, they acknowledge such assistance! So you may want to drop her a note to her through the contact information on her site if you have noted down what you thought was wrong.

Anonymous said...

I like Cochran's style too, but I took issue with her advice for consumers to be suspicious of wines at prices that seem too good to be true. She says they're often close-outs or wines distributors can't get rid of, sub-par quality or something of the sort.

In fact, I was lucky enough this year to get a whole bunch of one such close-out, the 03 Cenit, because the 04 came in with one point higher from Robert Parker before the distributor had sold through the 03. As a result, I am able to offer the wine for 25% to 50% less than other retailers who bought at the original cost. It's great wine. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. It's a win-win situation.

I admit, I haven't read the whole book and with your recommendation I'll do so. I guess I shouldn't take that piece of advice as an indication of the entire tome. But I admit it did turn me off.

I'll take ALL of your gifts, by the way, should any of my friends and family be reading this and looking for ideas!

Dr. Debs said...

Jill: Interesting reaction. I actually think she's right. I've bought end-caps of wine at supermarkets and big chain stores which were definitely over the hill and not stored properly. You do need to be wary--unless you know and trust the merchant. I know and trust you. If you are offering wine at a "too good to be true" price, I snap it up. But if I see a wine at Ralphs? Thanks, I'll pass!

Anonymous said...

That's a good point. I didn't think about it in that context. But with places like Costco and Cost Plus it gets very tricky, hard to tell what's being blown out and what's just a great deal.

By the way, I don't like that my signature can't be hyperlinked anymore on Blogger. I don't like signing things with my blog so it's a little bit frustrating!