Gifts of wine and spirits are always welcome, but the coming millennium has made such gifts especially fitting. Because wine is a vintage product, it marks the passing of a time in a unique way. And because it so often carries with it the promise to improve with age, a gift of wine injects a note of optimism, and even faith, into our musings about the future.
As might be expected, the wine and spirits industry has spawned a plethora of millennium-theme wines. The following list of my favorites is drawn from the dozens, perhaps hundreds, I encountered during the last year. No matter how good the packaging, nothing made the list if the wine or spirit inside wasn't top notch. Because some items are in very short supply, telephone numbers are provided as a search aid. Prices are approximate.
Champagne Pol Roger 1990 "Selection 2000" Magnum ($175 for 1.5-liter bottle in wood presentation case): This limited-edition magnum is an even grander rendition of an already legendary Champagne, Pol Roger's great 1990 vintage bottling. Because the magnums were disgorged in February of this year, about 11 months after the 750-milliliters, the wine differs subtly, showing an extra fine, exquisite mousse of tiny bubbles, a Pol Roger hallmark, and slightly more freshness. Each magnum is marked with its disgorgement date and is presented in a sturdy wood case. (Frederick Wildman, 212-355-0700; Forman Brothers)
Georges Duboeuf 1998 "Milenage" ($9-$10; Best Buy; France): Only the Wizard of Beaujolais, Georges Duboeuf could have pulled this off--taking a unique bottle adorned with three-dimensional painted wildflowers and filling it with a delectable blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah (60 percent, 30 percent and 10 percent, respectively) and putting it all together for less than $10. More than 700 different wines were tasted, but in the end, only 14 made the final blend. The resulting wine is full and rich, concentrated and soft, yet bursting with Duboeuf trademark full-throttle fruit. (Imported by W.J. Deutsch & Sons, 914-251-9463; and Winesellers, Ltd., 847-679-0121; Forman Brothers)
Domaine des Lambertins 1998 Vacqueyras "Cuvee de l'An 2000" Magnum ($30; Best Buy; France): This stunning gold-embossed magnum, filled with deep purple Rhone wine, looks like it should cost $130, and the wine inside lives up to the packaging, resembling a strapping, young Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Tremendous value. (Vinifrance Imports, 703-271-6185)
Perrier-Jouet Reserve 1995 Belle Epoque du Millenaire ($2,000; France): If you've got the airfare to Paris, Champagne Perrier-Jouet will provide you with an unforgettable dinner and an overnight stay in their luxurious guest house, plus a gilded, numbered, beechwood-encased Jeroboam (the equivalent of 4 bottles) of Cuvee Belle Epoque from the 1995 vintage. You get the wine now, in time for New Year's Eve, and your stay at Maison Belle Epoque, in the heart of Epernay, may be arranged on a date of mutual convenience in the year 2000 or 2001. Only 2,000 bottles (and visits) are available worldwide. (Seagram, 212-572-7184; available in Washington through Wide World of Wines, 202-333-7500; and Calvert Woodley, 202-966-4400)
Nicholas Bordeaux 1998 "Dedicace An 2000" ($9; France): A smooth Bordeaux rouge is presented in a handsome gold- and white-embossed bottle. The front label doubles as a discrete French calling card, with room to write a personal note. It even includes a pre-printed "Dedicated to" script in the upper-left corner. (Wines Limited, 410-712-0000)
Courvoisier "Millennium 2000" Cognac ($52; France): Courvoisier's talented master blender Jean Marc Olivier has developed a versatile, mellow blend of Grande and Petite Champagnes and mature Borderies designed to be enjoyed neat or as part of a cocktail. (See their cocktail recipes at www.courvoisier.com). (Allied Domecq)
Michel Turgy Cuvee de l'An 2000 Champagne Blanc de Blancs ($36; France): An exceptional blend containing wines from 30 different vintages of Turgy, a small house located in Le Mesnil, this 100-percent rated Blanc de Blancs Champagne is made in a rich, full-bodied, toasty style. The glittery op-art package is a fitting departure from Turgy's usual conservative labeling. (Dionysos Imports, 703-550-2250)
Rauchenfelzer Steinbrau Two Liter Millennium Stein "American Millennium" ($35 for 2 liters; Germany): This Bavarian specialty beer house has put its full-flavored lager in a white ceramic stein decorated with scenes of American history through the past millennium, though Native Americans seem in woefully short supply. (DOPS, 301-839-8650)
Romariz 1944 Porto ($350; Portugal): Packaged in a velvet-lined wood box with two fine cigars and a signed millennium dedication, this provides a rare opportunity to experience an exquisite tawny port from the heart of this century. (Kysela Pere, 888-722-9228)
Questions or comments for wine columnist Ben Giliberti may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org