Columnist, Food

Wondering what to give the wine lover on your list this holiday season? Here are a few suggestions, as well as pointers on what to avoid.

Wine. Sure, but which ones? Unless you are intimately familiar with your recipient’s taste and cellar collection, you risk the ultimate disappointment of “Oh, how nice” when you present your gift. (Not that wine fiends are inherently snobbish — just that wine preference is rather personal.) Why not take the pressure off yourself and let someone else make the choice? If you know your friend’s favorite wine store, go there and ask one of the store’s specialists to select wines to fit your friend’s taste and your budget. Or go to your own favorite retailer and describe the wines you’ve enjoyed with your friend. The retailers will enjoy the challenge, and your friend will appreciate a “curated” selection.

A wine club membership. The most interesting club I’ve seen is Le Metro. Wine. Underground, which I wrote about in March. Subscribers pay $175 per month or quarter for a delivery of six bottles of wine with a unifying theme; information about each is presented in attractive graphics and tasting notes. A one-month trial subscription is also available. Le Metro’s proprietor, Aaron Epstein, does an excellent job of finding small-production, high-quality wines that are not readily available in stores. His selections will challenge and excite even the most jaded of wine lovers.

For more modest gifts, ask your retailer to recommend a grower champagne, one produced by small farmers rather than by the large champagne houses. (Though to be honest, any champagne will be welcome in a wine lover’s cellar.) Or go for a fortified wine such as Madeira or port; aged tawny ports such as Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old (about $30) or 20 Year Old (about $50) are surefire winners. A more modest Late Bottled Vintage port will always be welcome as well.

Think outside the wine box and go for a craft whisky. Wine lovers always appreciate a change of pace, and today’s craft distillery movement offers a wide variety of choices, with a good chance you’ll find something your friend has never tasted.

Glassware is a possibility. Consider a set of two Riedel Veritas champagne glasses ($70), which I wrote about last week. Glassware is tricky, however: Those who are new to wine might appreciate a set of decent stems or even a nice decanter, while longtime wine lovers probably have already invested heavily in good glasses.

I would wave you away from gadgetry, such as wine aerators that promise to “age” a wine in minutes or magic wands that chill wine quickly. We can remember to put wine in the refrigerator. Definitely not those wine charms designed to distinguish my glass from yours — no one can ever remember who has the fleur de lys or the starfish. (Sharpies, people! They wash off!) Such gewgaws tend to clutter a wine lover’s kitchen cabinets and drawers. And maybe skip the signs that say things like “We serve only the finest wines. Did you bring any?” and instead go for an infographic poster from Winefolly.com.

Corkscrews are definitely useful. If you’ve noticed your friend or relative struggling with one of those clumsy angel-wing openers (the ones that look like they’re doing jumping jacks), by all means buy them a nice waiter’s corkscrew: the kind with a small blade to cut the bottle’s foil cap and a lever to grip the bottle’s lip while extracting the cork. The best ones have a curved handle, a serrated blade that actually cuts the foil and an articulated lever that helps extract longer corks without breaking them in two. Wine lovers can never have too many corkscrews; we always misplace them or have them confiscated at airports.

Yes, it’s the thought that counts. But these pointers might lead you to a more thoughtful gift that your friends will appreciate and, perhaps, invite you to enjoy.

McIntyre blogs at dmwineline.com. On Twitter: @dmwine.

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