It has been a vintage year for the wine consumer, and the selection of interesting wine accessories, good books and fine wine values available is enough to fill even the most jaded wine enthusiast's stocking this holiday season. Wine Accessories
Local wine enthusiasts have long lamented that while Washington is blessed with some of the country's best wine stores, there is not a shop that features a wide selection of fancy corkscrews, decanting machines, crystal stemware and decanters, as well as a host of other wine related items, that make such wonderful gifts.
Times change. In Montgomery County, in the White Flint Mall, on the third floor, is Le Courtier. Called by its owners "an elegant wine and gift boutique," it has been in business for almost one year and seemingly is filled to the ceiling with virtually every imaginable accouterment that would enhance the serving and appreciation of wine. Among the mandatory necessities for the wine enthusiast in your life are a $35 silver decanting funnel, silver collars that sit atop wine bottles to catch those nasty drops before they spoil a fine linen tablecloth and, best of all, a collection of cradles that make efficient decanting of a bottle of wine or port an easy job. Le Courtier also sells a wide range of crystal glasses, books and even a complete software package for tracking your wine inventory on a personal computer. Wine Books
The world's greatest and most successful wine writer, Englishman Hugh Johnson, has just come out with the third edition of his classic "World Atlas of Wine" (Simon and Schuster, $40). This book justifiably has been called the wine book of the century and the latest edition features 50 new maps, for a total of 175. The new edition has much more detailed coverage of such emerging viticultural areas as the Rhone Valley, Alsace, Piedmont and Spain, as well as much better maps of the vineyards of California. This is an indispensable book.
Another book that merits inclusion in your wine library is "Wine into Words -- A History and Bibliography of Wine Books in the English Language" (Bacchus Press, Baltimore, $38). This book, written by Baltimore attorney James Gabler, is a formidible work of scholarship. While it lists virtually every other English-language book written on wine (3,200 entries), the book is much more than just an alphabetical listing. Gabler often comments on the books, provides innumerable tidbits of interesting information, essays about the authors and their works, and does it all in a witty, interesting style.
Another book that merits a serious look for the beginning wine enthusiast is Kevin Zraly's "Windows on the World Complete Wine Course" (Sterling Publishing, New York, $18.95). Designed for the neophyte, it is a cute book, very cunningly packaged and quite slick. If it is this slickness that is necessary for one to learn about wine and the major viticultural regions of the world, then so much the better. Wine Tours
Moving up in price, there is a growing interest in well-run, educational tours to major viticultural regions of the world. The best I have seen is a tour run by The French Wine Institute. It offers very serious, educational tours with tastings of Bordeaux and Burgundy and has gotten excellent reviews in the French press. For more information, write to The French Wine Institute, 76 Champs-Elyse'es, 75008 Paris, France. Wine
Of course, the most obvious gift for a wine enthusiast is wine itself. The hottest gift this year is still a bottle of bordeaux from a great vintage. Truly great bordeaux vintages occur about once every decade and 1982 is the current candidate for legendary status.
Prices have escalated over the last 12 months, making those who bought these wines as futures smugly overjoyed. However, there are a number of these vinous gems that are available at what still look to be fabulous prices. Look for some of the underpublicized bordeaux chateaux that make wine as good as their more glamorous siblings but have not yet been discovered by the public at large.
Among the '82s that are good deals and still available locally are: Brillette ($6.99), La Louviere ($8.29), Hortevie ($6.99), Potensac ($8.99), Sociando Mallet ($12.99), Croque Michotte (8.99), Poujeaux ($8.95), Roudier ($4.95) and Chasse Spleen ($11.95). All will benefit handsomely from 5 to 8 more years of cellaring, but they all have the tell-tale character of this fabulous vintage -- masses of thick, rich, ripe blackcurranty fruit and intense, deep concentration and length on the palate.
Lastly, perhaps the two most undervalued wines of this great vintage are still available: Leoville Poyferre ($16.95) and Leoville Barton ($15.95). Needless to say, they have smashing price/quality rapport.