The season is upon us and after eleven months of filling our own cellars, it’s time to think about friends and family.
As a wine lover, I am most surprised by how seldom I’m given a wine-related gift. Often the reasoning that’s explained to me is that people are intimidated by others that know a lot about wine. However, when I do receive a wine-related gift, it puts me over the moon. Sort of the same feeling you get when you’re a chef and someone is willing to cook for you. Suddenly, that individual is elevated to your insider’s list. Those in the know. Insightful, caring, and full of surprises. I guess what I’m trying to say, is that giving a gift of wine, or wine accessories, means just as much to others as it means to us.
This year I’ve put together a list of my favorite gifts for the curious, the passionate, the collector, the professional and also one gift that I believe can be given to them all.
What to Buy For The Wine Curious
The best gift you can give to the wine curious is a gift of enlightenment, and my favorite way to do that, is to show them that quality is not always commensurate to cost when it comes to wine. If you can deliver an $100 experience for $50 or a $50 experience for $30, then you may have just opened someone’s eyes. Granted, this does require that you divulge what you spent, but that’s the moment that you also tell them the amazing story behind the wine, and how it will soon become their secret weapon as well.
One of the region’s iconic producers, Denis Bachelet produces this under-the-radar gem from family-owned vineyards that he tends himself. It’s unknown why he chooses to keep the Bourgogne Rouge at such an acceptable price while other producers of his caliber ask for much more. What is known, is that at $59 per bottle, it drinks like a red Burg that you’d expect to pay twice the price for.
Denis Bachelet Bourgogne Rouge 2015 – M
($59) Drinks like a $100+ bottle of red Burgundy.
Luca Currado has changed the game in Piedmont. His single vineyard wines now demand $150+ and are always the top scoring Barolos of each vintage. However, while Luca cherishes each of his crus, he also has holdings throughout the region which are either too small to bottle separately, or too large to add to (the multiple 100-point awarded) Ravera. It’s because of this that he puts so much of his passion into the Castiglione. Castiglione may be a blend of vineyards, but its raw ingredients are second to none. I’ve been told that nearly two thirds of this blend comes from the Ravera vineyard. Frankly, when you taste the wine, its pedigree is immediately apparent. It’s a must buy in every vintage.
Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2013 – M
($49) Drinks like a $100 Barolo
Ridge vineyards remains my go-to California producer. There was a time when the average consumer was looking for the big fruit bombs of Napa Valley’s past, which kept Ridge an insider’s secret, but today tastes have changed. Wine lovers looking to California want purity, depth, structure and minerality–all of the which the Ridge Estate Cabernet has in spades. What’s more, all of the fruit comes from the esteemed Monte Bello vineyard, from which Ridge also makes their top-shelf Cabernet, a bottle that costs three times the price. This is a no-brainer for the California Cab lover in your life.
Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2014 – M
($59) Drinks like a $100 California Cab
When I had my first taste of the 2016’s, I will admit that I was skeptical, but now that the wines are here and have had some time to rest in bottle, what I’m finding is absolutely amazing. The vintage has come around beautifully. As for the house of Schafer-Frohlich, they have produced many of the top wines of the vintage. In fact, just recently their top-level GG’s scored between 96 – 99 points (wines that cost $90+). That said, I can’t ignore the level of intensity, minerality and quality that I find in the Trocken Vulkangestein, a bone dry wine that’s priced at the entry level, but performs like most producers’ GG’s. If you have a Riesling Geek in your life, this is the perfect gift.
Schafer-Frohlich Riesling Trocken Vulkangestein 2016 – M
($36) Drinks Like $50-$65 GG
What to Buy The Aspiring Wine Collector
The number one thing that a collector fears is spoiling the experience. The moment that a cork breaks and falls into the bottle, or crumbles altogether, can take all of the momentum, fascination and climax out of enjoying a great vintage. That’s where the Durand comes in. It may not be the prettiest gift, but it’s probably the best thing you can get for a collector of older wines, or someone with a deep cellar. The Durand works by not only securing the cork with a corkscrew, but then also inserting an Ah So, which connects with the screw to create the perfect tool for removing a fragile cork. Once you use the Durand, you’ll wonder how you got along without it.
The Durand ($125) – M
The number two thing that a collector fears the most is opening a wine too soon. When I first heard about the Coravin, I honestly didn’t believe that it could possibly work. They advertised tapping into a bottle of wine for a single glass and then returning the bottle to your cellar for months or years. Most professionals were skeptical, and what it finally took to convince us was a massive marketing campaign where Coravin went on the road to serve bottles dated a month or a year prior, and then asked if we would ever imagine that the date on the bottle was the first time it was opened. I left these events with a whole new outlook on what’s possible in wine preservation, and today the Coravin is used throughout the industry.
The Coravin works by inserting a medical grade needle into the cork and removing wine, while replacing it with argon (an inert) gas. Once the needle is removed, the cork naturally seals itself up, trapping the gas inside.
What this means is that you can taste from a bottle, evaluate how ready it is the drink, and then return to the cellar if you believe it’s not quite ready.
The Coravin ($299) – M
What to Buy The Hardened Wine Professional
If you haven’t noticed, the majority of wine professionals don’t order wine when they’re off the job–they tend to order beer. Granted, that’s not my style, but it certainly does pay to watch what your wine-pro friends like to drink when they’re kicking back. That aside, let’s talk about gift giving for a Wine Professional and the one wine that nearly all of them love–Champagne.
If richness and body is their thing than Vilmart is the Champagne for them. At one time these wines were considered by some to even be a little over the top, but no longer. Today Vilmart has found a new level of clarity, which, when mixed with their rich style, creates a gorgeous balance.
Vilmart & Cie Grand Cellier Champagne NV ($72) – M
For the mineral and acid loving Sommelier or wine pro, the 2004 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne is a fantastic gift. Not only can they enjoy its intensity now, but this is also a Champagne that can go in the cellar. The vintage has already received high marks from critics, but what’s more impressive is the response it’s received from wine lovers that have been singing its praises.
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2004 ($152) – M
The absolute best bang for your buck in grower champagne, the Rene Geoffroy Expression is a champagne that will make you do a double take. Especially when you when you compare the price ($44) to what you find in the glass, it’s an amazing value from an artisan producer. So before you reach for a large production Champagne for $50, check this out at $44.
Rene Geoffroy 1er Cru Expression Brut ($44) – M
What to Buy When All Other Wine Gifts Fail
Upgrading or expanding your friends or loved ones’ glassware is probably the best gift you can possibly give. No one ever has enough glasses, and for the collector, a new glass is like a new perspective on the world. However, you don’t want to just give any glass, nor do you want to give one that’s only meant for only one kind of wine. What you need is one glass for all wine, a universal glass.
The Gabriel-Glas Standart Universal is one solid piece made from lead-free crystal. The balance from base to stem to rim makes it a pleasure to hold, feeling more like an extension of your hand than a glass. The bowl was created to perfectly replicate the effect of a decanter, making it ideal for all types of wine. It’s durable, balanced, yet elegant, and perfectly communicates all of the intricacies of aroma and flavor of each wine you taste from it.
Gabriel Glas Universal Wine Glass (2 pack) $39.95 – M
However, if it’s also the feel of pure elegance that you are looking for, then the Gabriel-Glas Gold Edition is what you need. The Gold edition is a hand-blown work of art that feels like a feather in your hand, yet will stand the test of time. The effect of weightlessness and elegance is otherworldly as you enjoy your finest vintages.
Gabriel Glas Gold Universal Wine Glass (2 pack) $89.95 – M