Wine Gifts for the Holidays
Copyright 2001 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved. Originally printed Dec 4, 2001. For more information go to www.wineloverspage.com.
Nothing makes holiday shopping easier than having a wine lover on your gift list. It's a breeze to shop for a friend or relative who has a hobby interest in wine, not only because gift options abound at all ranges of price, but also because you can skip crowded malls and head straight for the relatively calm ambience of the wine shop.
Let's take a look at a Santa's list of suitable gifts for a wine fancier, starting at the low end with a few inexpensive trinkets.
OXO Good Grips, manufacturer of those kitchen tools with fat, black handles intended for easy gripping, has a new line of wine-cork removers in many styles. My favorite is the standard "waiter's style" corkscrew, shaped like a pocketknife with a sturdy screw and pry lever. I've seen them for as little as $5.99 at wine shops.
Available at the same price is the new Boomerang corkscrew, a sturdy waiter-style model with a "foil cutter" device built into the handle. Squeeze it around the bottle neck and twist, and it neatly removes the tip of the foil or plastic capsule that protects the bottle's business end.
If you want something a little fancier, consider the Rabbit cork extractor, a gizmo with pliers-like handles that resemble, well, rabbit ears. Squeeze the "ears" around the bottle neck, then pull a sturdy lever down over the cork to run in the screw; pull the lever back and out comes the cork, no muss and no fuss. At $60 or so, it's heavy going for a corkscrew, but a recipient of this gift may be the only oenophile on his block to have one.
For true ostentation in the realm of corkscrews, though, nothing will do but La Laguiole, a truly fine instrument made by traditional Basque artisans in southern France. Combining a quality pocketknife and powerful corkscrew in one, it comes with a variety of fine wood or bone handles attached to shiny stainless-steel working parts and a presentation certificate that reads, "Someday you will present this corkscrew to your grandchildren." Laguioles range from around $80 to $150 or more.
WORDS ABOUT WINE:
Two editions of wine book standards lead my recommendations for this holiday season:
The Oxford Companion to Wine (Second Edition), edited by Jancis Robinson, may be the most comprehensive single reference book about wine. This 800- page volume isn't for light bedside reading. But its $65 list price comes into perspective for serious wine enthusiasts when you figure that this is just over 2 cents for each of its 3,000 entries, from "abboccato" (sweet Italian wine) to "Zweigelt" (a red Austrian grape).
Hugh Johnson's World Atlas of Wine (Fourth Edition), is the next best thing to a trip to the wine country. Loaded with detailed topographical maps of the world's wine regions, plus color photos and articles, it's another must-have book for anyone who's even slightly geeky about vino.
WINE, WINE, WINE:
Last but far from least, there's no better gift for the wine fancier than the fruit of the vine itself. A bottle of bubbly is always in good taste, and prices range from less than $10 for domestic and Spanish sparklers up to more than $100 for the leading French vintage Champagnes.
Finally, if you've got a lot of folks who enjoy wine on your holiday list and you're running out of time, here's a canny strategy: Buy 12 bottles of a popular wine, taking advantage of the volume discount that many wine shops offer if you buy by the case. Wrap them individually, and you've taken care of a dozen friends.