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A Roadmap for Thoughtful Wine Gifts

Surprise the wine lovers on your gift list this holiday season with educational gifts they'll turn to all year round

Robert Taylor
Posted: December 5, 2011

Wine lovers are a particular bunch, and can be tough to shop for if wine accoutrements are the order of the holiday. Most enophiles already have a preferred corkscrew, decanter, wineglass, etc., so the gift of an everyday tool may just accrue dust. No matter how experienced, knowledgeable and set in their ways, however, the true wine aficionado knows there is always more to learn. This year, delight them with gifts that they'll turn to again and again in the never-ending pursuit of vinous enlightenment.

De Long Wine Region Maps ($15 to $30; $130 framed, delongwine.com)
Not even certified Masters of Wine are likely able to pinpoint every wine appellation on the globe. Wine region wall maps are not only attractive works of cartographical art for anywhere wine is enjoyed, they are extremely useful when trying to understand why those two Napa Cabernets from Carneros and Howell Mountain taste nothing alike.

De Long Wine Discovery Tools offers a range of useful—and relatively inexpensive—maps of the world's major wine regions, including France, Italy, the Iberian Peninsula and California. Newest to their offerings are a detailed map of Long Island that features the locations of actual vineyards and wineries and a stylish new map of France's wine regions inspired by various metro subway and train maps from around the world. With the exception of the "metro" map (18" by 24"), each map is 24" x 36" printed in color on heavyweight archival paper and is available framed at extra cost. Also available from De Long is the handy Wine Grape Varietal Table ($25 to $35), essentially a periodic table of wine grapes that features taste descriptors, regions of prominence and alternative names for some grapes elsewhere around the world. (Click on the thumbnail images below to view a slideshow of details from some of De Long's offerings.)

De Long's Wine Map of California De Long's California Wine Regions map De Long's Italy Wine Regions map

Pierre Poupon Collection Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune Maps ($55 plus shipping from France, athenaeumfr.com)
For the wine lover whose tastes have led them down the complex and refined roads of Burgundy, the crème de la crème of maps to the world's most complicated and difficult-to-grasp wine region come from Sylvain Pitiot and Pierre Poupon and the survey work done for the Atlas des Grands Vignobles de Bourgogne. Each of the two maps is printed in full color with guides to the grapes grown in each appellation, at a scale of 1:20,000, allowing even the smallest of monopoles to be labeled clearly and distinctly on the 60" x 23" horizontal guides.

The Wine Aroma Wheel ($6, winearomawheel.com)
Perhaps even more important than understanding where a wine is coming from is knowing how to accurately describe it. Invented by Prof. Ann Noble in 1984 at the University of California at Davis, the wine aroma wheel gives wine lovers a platform from which to compare and contrast wines—the wheel is divided into 12 basic categories, from "chemical" to "floral" to "nutty," with 24 different descriptors in the category of "fruity" alone. The aroma wheel is a must-have for wine lovers who are just starting to stick their nose into the world of wine. For the wine guy or girl who really wants to let people know what smells, there are even Aroma Wheel T-shirts ($28).

Riedel Sommeliers Series Blind Tasting Glass ($77, riedelwebstore.com)
In a recent blog on WineSpectator.com, senior editor James Laube's "Blind Is Best if You Must Assess," Laube says that tasting wines blind is one of the most educational ways to taste wine. "Anyone can conclude that a $100 wine is more expensive than the $25 wine by looking at the price tag," Laube writes. "But price is more about image and demand than quality, which is why most professionals agree blind tasting is the truest measure of assessing quality." And while technically, blind tasting merely means not knowing the identity of the wine in the glass, it gets even more interesting when the taster is literally blind to the wine—unable to see the wine's color at all, as is the case with Riedel's Sommeliers series blind tasting glasses, which are completely black. Some people have even mistaken red wines for whites and vice versa when served at the same temperatures using these tricky but nevertheless elegant stems. Pick up a set of these fun (and humbling) wineglasses for the adventurous wine lover on your list.

Wine Spectator School Classes (winespectator.com/school)
Wine classes are always a good use of the enophile's time, and WineSpectator.com members can take all of the courses offered by Wine Spectator School, including classes for wine lovers like ABCs of Wine Tasting, Wine and Food Pairing, California Cabernet and many more. There are even courses for wine professionals such as ABCs of Wine Sales and Service. It's easy to give a gift membership to WineSpectator.com.

Matilde Parente
Indian Wells, California, United States —  December 13, 2011 4:41pm ET
Prof. Noble's aroma wheel is great for the wine-experienced, too. Wine lovers who attend our Wine Essentials series at Cooking with Class find them useful not just during the wine education classes but also at home. They're great for learning how to train the nose, tastebuds and higher senses to create and cement sensory memory. Brava, Dr. Noble!

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