Wine lovers are notoriously hard to shop for, so sometimes it’s best to opt for something inexpensive and fun rather than a pricey gift that they may never take out of the box, especially since most of our budgets are still wearing a tight belt. This year we bring you a collection of gifts that might best be described as stocking stuffers, from the cute and playful to functional traveling gear to a cool electronic gadget for the wine-and-technology buff.
For more great gift ideas, check out some of our past guides. Last year, we suggested a slew of Tasteful Gifts for the Home Chef, including recommendations from Le Bernardin's chef Eric Ripert and Tru’s Gale Gand. We’ve also previously brought you a collection of Holiday Gifts on a Budget, including $3 shatterproof, recyclable “wineglasses.” Check out Something for Everyone if the wine lover in your life is just learning the ropes, a perfectionist or even an insufferable know-it-all. Finally, if you or your loved one is an avid reader, we’ve just reviewed 11 Best New Reads for Wine Lovers, online and in the Dec. 31 issue of Wine Spectator, on newsstands now.
Metrokane Electric Rabbit Wine Opener ($50, www.rabbitandfriends.com)
Is the wine lover in your life a technology geek as well? Metrokane’s Electric Rabbit wine bottle opener might be just the thing to turn them on. It features a back-lit LED screen indicating the remaining number of uses before a recharge, compact tube design and streamlined operation. The Electric Rabbit takes about five seconds to open a bottle, with an easy grasp for even small hands. Plus, it’s not as clumsy as most of its counterparts—there’s no bulky charging station and it’s considerably smaller than most other electric bottle openers. (It’s also a great alternative for those wine lovers prone to fumbling with traditional corkscrews or for whom firmly gripping tools is difficult.)
Swanson Vineyards Glass Dixie Cups ($42 per set of 4, www.swansonvineyards.com)
We love our Riedel and other high-end specialized crystal stemware as much as anyone, especially when opening a special bottle of wine. But to “break” them out for a big gathering, when we’re serving large quantities of quaffable but inexpensive wine, can be a nerve-wracking experience. These glass “Dixie” cups from Swanson are a fun and conversational alternative at just around $10 each, and they come with a nifty retro lunchbox/suitcase for convenient storage and transportation. Wine newcomers in the rapidly growing segment of 20-somethings and millenials now diving into the world of wine will appreciate the playful nod to keggers of the not-so-far-off past, and the older set can reminisce with a cup of wine and one of those new-fangled Blu-Ray DVDs of Animal House.
Chinese Zodiac Wine Stoppers ($15 each, sfmoma.stores.yahoo.net)
In the past few years, China—Hong Kong, in particular—has rapidly ascended to the top of the fine-wine collecting world when it comes to auction prices. Just ask Châteaus Lafite and Mouton-Rothschild, who have seen prices for their 2008 vintage skyrocket after announcing the addition of Chinese art to the two first-growths’ labels (for readers with unlimited budgets, those make a nice pair of gifts …). At the San Francisco Museum of Modern of Art, there’s an exciting new exhibit titled “How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now,” (running through this April), and if you haven’t got the four figures it takes to buy a bottle of 2008 Lafite, the SFMoMA gift store has a much more affordable blend of Chinese culture, art and wine. Resin-and-cork wine stoppers are available for all 12 of the animals in the Chinese Zodiac calendar (dog, dragon, goat, horse, monkey, ox, pig, rabbit, rat, rooster, snake and tiger). Find out which one corresponds to a wine lover’s birth year or favorite critter, or buy all 12 and they can be comfortable opening an entire case of wine at once.
Wine Check Travel Bag ($49, www.thewinecheck.com)
Most wine lovers who have vacationed in wine country have faced the daunting feat of transporting home a case of wine from their various winery tasting room visits, either by hand-carrying a cardboard box to the airport or spending as much on shipping as they spent on the wine. The Wine Check offers a solution. It’s a collapsible bag that fits easily into any suitcase along with the rest of your clothes and expands into an insulated case that protects up to 12 bottles of wine on the journey home. It rolls on wheels and has two carrying handles, and it’s lightweight, helping to keep your full case of wine under the dreaded 50-pound airline checked-luggage fee. There are slots for ice packs, plus three layers of protective covering. (Note that the Wine Check itself does not protect wine from the bumps and bruises checked luggage is exposed to. You’ll need a wine-shipping box with Styrofoam inserts—available complimentary with purchase at just about all tasting rooms as well as at the Wine Check website for $5—to place inside the Wine Check travel bag.)
Wineglass Lamp Shades by DeKoop ($16 per set of 3, www.momastore.org)
Continuing the theme of art and wine are a collection of do-it-yourself wineglass lamps. Once again, this is probably not the best time to pull out the high-end stemware, but add a votive candle to the bowl of a large, inexpensive wineglass and these vellum lamp shades from New York’s Museum of Modern Art create instant wine-themed mood lighting. Created by Germany’s DeKoop design firm, each set includes three unique shades, so if your gift recipient is picky about matching lamps, be sure to order more than one set.