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’Tis the Season

Holiday gifts for the wine lover in the family

Robert Taylor
Posted: December 7, 2007

Finding the right gift for the discerning wine connoisseur is never an easy task—we're finicky almost by definition. We've gathered up some of the most recent gifts to catch our eye here, and included gifts for people in every stage of wine appreciation, from novice to master (and every price range, too).

Buying wine for an enophile, whether budding or seasoned, is always risky, but presenting the right bottles to the right wine lover is an often surprising and very well-appreciated gift. Let the editors of Wine Spectator help you decide with two mixed half-cases that each includes six different types of wine—sparkling, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Syrah/Shiraz, Pinot Noir and a Cabernet blend. The first features value-oriented wines that earned very good and outstanding scores; the second features highly sought-after classic-scoring wines. Finally, if you know a wine lover that likes to enjoy a glass of wine and a good book, check out our recent roundup of the best new wine books this year.

 

Holiday Neckers ($1.49 each, available in customized packs online at a 25 percent discount, www.holidayneckers.com) Even if you select just one of the bottles from our recommended mixed case, a nice bottle of vino is a sure hit at any party. Now you can set your gift apart from the pack with Holiday Neckers, gift cards that loop conveniently around a bottleneck. The cards are currently available in eight different varieties, but more designs, including one for the Fourth of July and some with additional birthday greetings, are planned for release in 2008.

Erlenmeyer flask decanters ($15—$75, www.thelabdepotinc.com) Don't laugh—an Erlenmeyer flask is the preferred decanter in the Taylor household. A 2,000ml lab-grade glass flask provides a perfect wide base and wide mouth that ensures the wine is both well-exposed to air and easily poured. For those comfortable with their inner nerd, borrowing a tool from the lab for home decanting makes any wine geek proud.

 

 

Decanter No.2 by Etienne Meneau ($2,900, http://decanter.free.fr/) In contrast to the Erlenmeyer flask, these original works of art appeal to the art lover with a wine habit. While the narrow mouth doesn't particularly enhance a wine's exchange with oxygen, these decanters are jaw-dropping aesthetically. Meneau is a Bordeaux-based painter and sculptor who created these decanters after a visit to Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte. The series of carafes began when he met Florence and Daniel Cathiard, the château's owners, in Pessac-Léognan at an exhibition organized at their property. Meneau proposed to create a sculpture specially for Château Smith-Haut-Lafitte, and this series was the result.

 
When it comes to corkscrews, it sometimes seems there are as many variations as there are wine lovers, but that makes it simple to find the perfect bottle opener for any personality. The Built Wine Ratchet Magnum ($100, Builtny.com) appeals to the handyman who is as obsessive about his tools as he is his wine. The unique corkscrew requires some elbow grease, as there is lever action to assist with removal of the cork, though the ratcheting process twists the cork inside the bottle, easing its removal. VinTemp's new waiter's corkscrew ($129, iwawine.com) features a built-in temperature gauge that uses infrared technology to measure the temperature of the wine inside a bottle, ensuring you the discerning connoisseur will always be able to open a bottle at precisely the desired temperature. And for one of the most perfect combinations of form and function, an authentic Laguiole corkscrew ($165—$400, www.laguiole.com) is the Rolls-Royce of waiter's keys. Located six hours south of Paris, the Auvergne region of France was renowned for its knifemaking trade before mass production threatened the area's centuries-old tradition. Almost a casualty of the Industrial Revolution, the village of Laguiole was revitalized by entrepreneurs such as Gèrard Boissons, who founded the Forge de Laguiole in 1987. These luxury corkscrews have a satisfying heft and balance and ease of operation akin to that feeling of using a solidly built and well-constructed chef's knife. They're an extravagance that even the most difficult-to-please wine snob will adore. Engraving is also available on most models, so the lucky recipient will be reminded of your generosity every time they uncork.

 

Fusebox from Crushpad ($120, crushpad.com) Shopping for a wine lover with winemaking pipe dreams? The Crushpad Fusebox includes six 375ml bottles of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc blending wine, a half-bottle of "mystery wine" for guessing-game purposes, as well as a graduated cylinder with pipettes and a corkscrew—everything you need to make your own personal red blend.

Riedel Tyrol wineglasses ($40 per pair, iwawine.com) Tyrol is the latest line of stemless wineglasses from Riedel, and features a solid glass half-sphere base that keeps the glass well anchored to the table. (They were originally designed for the occasionally bumpy ride on the Orient Express.) These offer a fun and unpretentious way to enjoy wine without eschewing the pleasure of drinking from fine Riedel crystal. They're also dishwasher safe and relatively affordable to replace compared with Riedels more upscale stemware lines.

 

 

Holiday Wine Mixed Half-Case: Values  (Score average: 88.6; Total case price: $182; Average bottle price: $15)

Wine Score Price
Sparkler:  GLORIA FERRER Blanc de Noirs Sonoma County NV 89 $20
Fun and festive, with a delicate pink hue, floral strawberry and vanilla aromas and crisp, delicate citrus, spice and cherry flavors. Drink now. 28,096 cases made. —T.F.
 
Sauvignon Blanc:  POMELO Sauvignon Blanc California 2006 87 $10
Pungent gooseberry, lime, green papaya and pea notes have zippy acidity, a fresh fragrance and a juicy finish. Drink now. 40,000 cases made.
 
Riesling:  BANROCK STATION Riesling South Eastern Australia 2006 87 $6
Light and fragrant, offering floral apple and star fruit flavors that linger on the silky finish. Drink now through 2010. 10,000 cases made. —H.S.
 
Syrah/Shiraz:  ST. HALLETT Shiraz Barossa Faith 2005 90 $16
This is a beautifully contained wine that's neither too broad nor too tight, expressive of cherry, violet and sweet spices, playing against refined tannins on the long finish. Best from 2008 through 2013. 20,000 cases made. —H.S.
 
Cabernet blend:  VIÑA SANTA RITA Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Medalla Real Special Reserve 2004 91 $19
Densely packed, with fig, currant and blackberry flavors, all wrapped up with coffee, bittersweet cocoa powder and loam notes. Long, ripe, muscular finish lets the notes of dark fruit, earth and grilled sage linger. Drink now through 2011. Tasted twice, with consistent notes. 22,435 cases made. —J.M.
 
Pinot Noir:  A TO Z WINEWORKS Pinot Noir Oregon 2005 88 $20
Smooth and refreshing, with a lilt of raspberry and red plum flavors that glide over the velvety texture. Drink now through 2009. 24,000 cases made. —H.S.

 

Holiday Wine Mixed Half-Case: Classics  (Score average: 96; Total case price: $1,466; Average bottle price: $122)

Wine Score Price
Sparkler:  KRUG Brut Champagne 1996 99 $250
A powerful, majestic Champagne. Deep and compelling, with aromas of whole-grain toast, coconut and dried citrus that draw you in. Lean and racy on the palate, with a creaminess that's yet to be integrated. A classic '96, with ripe, exotic aromas and a steely structure. Still a baby, with the long, resonant finish confirming its potential. Best from 2009 through 2040. 10,000 cases made. —B.S.
 
Sauvignon Blanc:  DIDIER DAGUENEAU Pouilly-Fumé Pur Sang 2005 97 $65
Shows a humus hint in the aroma, with lots of fresh herb, lemon peel, grapefruit, macadamia nut and floral notes. Long and very stony on the finish, with herb and fleur de sel notes that refuse to quit. Hangs together perfectly, leaving a mouthwatering impression. Drink now through 2012. 1,600 cases made. —J.M.
 
Riesling:  JOH. JOS. PRÜM Riesling Auslese Mosel-Saar-Ruwer Wehlener Sonnenuhr 2005 95 $45
Peach, lime and floral aromas and flavors are highlighted by a golden apple tone in this pure, focused Riesling, with a juicy, lime- and mineral-tinged aftertaste. Has great definition, based on the vibrant structure and precision balance. Best from 2009 through 2030. 1,200 cases made. —B.S.
 
Syrah/Shiraz:  PENFOLDS Shiraz South Australia Grange 2002 95 $250
Lithe, almost subtle, this is a dense, powerful wine that plays its plum and currant fruit against deft nuances of pepper, coffee and sassafras. Finishes with vibrant acidity that elevates the fruit and spice. A graceful wine that needs cellaring to grow into itself. Best from 2010 through 2020. 1,095 cases imported. —H.S.
 
Cabernet blend:  ROBERT MONDAVI Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2004 95 $85
Beautifully crafted, rich, chewy and concentrated, yet with a wonderful lift to the flavors. Refreshing, vibrant and supple-textured, with layers of anise, currant, sage and mineral that unfold gracefully, ending with a long finish that has just the right mix of ripe fruit and tannins. Drink now through 2014. 1,012 cases made. —J.L.
 
Pinot Noir:  SHEA Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Shea Vineyard Estate 2004 95 $38
Lithe, supple and expressive, offering layers and layers of white pepper-accented currant and cherry, with a mineral note that adds depth and distinction. Broad and open-textured, lasting beautifully on the finish against superfine tannins. Best from 2007 through 2016. 1,200 cases made. —H.S.

Additional reporting for this story by Meghann Murphy

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