This is the time of year we take to the malls – or the web – to find the perfect gifts. No matter who the lucky recipient, you want to buy a meaningful gift you can afford.
Today, there are more wine enthusiasts than ever who would appreciate a gift of wine. It can be a bottle of wine – or maybe an accessory that will make their pastime a greater pleasure. Consider a special corkscrew, a book, a bottle stopper, a carafe or even a special bottle of bourbon or scotch.
Next week, we will focus on some very special wines any collector would love to have. But this week, we offer 10 gift suggestions that range in price and, in some cases, make for great stocking stuffers. These may be hard to find in your local stores, so look to the internet as a substitute.
- “The World Atlas of Wine” by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson ($65). Now in its 8th edition, this indispensable atlas is a must for serious wine collectors and even people who want a deep dive into wine regions of the world. It is not a bedside reading book but rather a reference to help guide readers through areas ranging from California to China. It is incredibly concise and detailed with oodles of maps. The first several chapters are a simplistic but highly understandable prelude to tasting wine and understanding terminology. New to this edition are chapters on climate change, orange wine, wine fraud and sustainability – all indicative of why you need a reference book to keep up.
- “Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2020” ($17). Johnson has sold millions of these travel companions since he has been writing it in 1977. We’ve taken it with us through Europe long before the arrival of the internet. It remains indispensable for the traveling oenophile.
- Woodford Reserve Holiday Edition Bottle Straight Bourbon ($45). Woodford has earned a place in our liquor cabinet for decades. It has one of the most opulent bouquets with oranges, mint, dried fruit and spice. The texture is smooth with citrus and cocoa flavors and a hint of caramel. The value of this particular bottle is a beautiful Christmas scene that would leave your bourbon fan impressed.
- Redwood Empire Whiskey’s Emerald Giant Rye ($45). Just last year this producer released three hand-crafted California whiskeys. This one is blended from rye barrels aged 3- to 5 years. It is highlighted by spice, orange and a hint of honey.
- Champagne Bollinger 007 Limited Edition 2011 ($230). Okay, your friend has to be pretty special to pay this kind of money for one bottle of champagne. But, if he’s really special and he’s a James Bond fan, maybe this is the year to impress him. The bottle is in celebration of “No Time to Die.” Of course, everyone knows Agent 007’s favorite champagne was Bollinger. It was featured in 14 Bond films.
- A selection of burgundies ($35-$100/bottle). If you’re like us, burgundy prices are generally out of our range. But there are many delicious burgundies that won’t require a loan to buy. Small producers have a hard time getting their wines on the market, but now an online wine store called Elden Selections brings an impressive collection of wines from 30 small producers. It is not a club, but a web site without any commitments needed. We’ve tried several of the wines and have been very pleased. It’s an easy-to-use web site and prices are reasonable. See www.burgundywine.com.
- Corkscrew ($25-200). Our day-to-day corkscrew is called waiter’s helper. It looks like a jackknife and is easy to carry in your pocket or on the boat. It’s reliable and easy to use, unlike a lot of those gadgets that can destroy a cork. In the last month we have tried two battery-operated plastic corkscrews that looked pretty – but broke after a few uses. We thought we had seen every corkscrew and then we saw the Durand, an Ah So device with an additional screw to lift and pull an old cork. It costs a hefty $200, but it was impressive when we saw it used in a restaurant.
- Carafe ($60-$300). Crystal carafes can cost hundreds of dollars, but it’s not impossible to find one that looks good and costs less. We like Wine Enthusiast’s Platinum decanter ($60) that will do the job of letting a wine breathe plus grace any table.
- Wine savers ($20-$300). There are wine preservation systems that substitute harmful air with an inert gas, but these can cost you hundreds of dollars and require gas cartridges. If you want an inexpensive stocking stuffer to preserve wine after the bottle has been opened, consider Vacu-Vin’s wine saver for just $20. It gets the job done.
- Journals ($35-45). We’d be rich men if we had a dollar for every time we wished we had kept a journal of all the wines we tasted in the last 30 years. Maybe it’s not too late for your special friend to start. There are journals for labels and journals for notes. See the Wine Enthusiast web site for examples.
Weekly Wine Picks
- La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2016 ($15). This is a great buy from the Abruzzo region of Italy. Simple, pure cherry fruit flavors and a dash of spice. A majority of the wine was fermented in stainless steel.
- La Valentina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Reserva Spelt DOC 2015 ($22). This wine, made entirely from montepulciano grapes, is rich and complex for the price. Violet and red currant aromas with red fruit flavors, a dash of licorice and mineral.
- Flat Top Hills Red Blend 2016 ($16). This wine is an excellent value for what it delivers. Full-bodied and showing off plum and raspberry notes with a hint of cinnamon and spice. This is probably the most attractive label we’ve seen in a long time – and what’s behind the cover is just as good.
- 10 wines that’ll impress your holiday guests, Nov. 20, 2019
Generic photos are selected by ThePhillyFiles and don’t indicate any preference.
Tom Marquardt (email for questions) and Patrick Darr have been writing a wine column since 1985. They’ve traveled extensively to vineyards in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and the U.S.
Tom lives in Florida with his wife, Sue, where he conducts wine tastings. Patrick is in the wine retail business in Annapolis, Md.