What to Give … An Enthusiastic Newbie

Wines to expand their horizons, selected by top sommeliers; plus gadget gifts for the person who has every wine

What to Give … An Enthusiastic Newbie
Sommelier Amy Racine likes to give people wines that help them develop their ability to identify aromas and flavors. (Conor Harrigan)
From the Dec 15, 2020, issue

How should we mark the holidays in this most confusing year? We posed that question to our sommelier friends in the restaurant industry for our "Bottles to Uncork, Bottles to Unwrap" feature in Wine Spectator's Dec. 15, 2020, issue.

Whether you are shopping for an enthusiastic newcomer to wine, or have to come up with a present for the person who already has every bottling, you can help them enjoy what they drink just a little bit more. Here’s the advice drinks pros from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning spots around the country gave us on bottles that will help your family and friends learn by exploring regions, grapes and styles. From Barolo and dry Riesling to Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, plus truly useful gadget gifts, here’s what they’ll be wrapping this holiday season.

For more useful gadgets, see Wine Spectator's 2020 Gift Guide, including our Editors' Favorite Wine Accessories.


Amy Racine

Wine director
701West, New York
Best of Award of Excellence

I think Barolo is a great way to go. Giacomo Grimaldi is a great one, and their Barolo is like 30 bucks. Barolo is such a classic region, so it’s a good place to start, explaining that it’s [made from] a thin-skinned grape and it’s known for being very tannic. I think it’s very aromatic and it’s not something that you struggle to find tasting notes for. If you throw out that it smells like fennel seed and salumi and rose petal and cherry, it’s like, “Oh yeah, I get that right away.” So I think it’s a good confidence-building wine, too.

Gabriel Di Bella

Wine Director
Davies and Brook, London
Best of Award of Excellence

It is really difficult to pick a specific wine for someone starting to discover the wine world. As I would always recommend to any young staff wanting to know more about wine, Burgundy is the place to start. So maybe starting [out by gifting] a Meursault from Domaine Buisson-Charles, and then moving on to other lieu-dits, different premiers and grands crus, other villages, etc. This is, to me, is the best way to truly realize, and start to understand, the complexity and the diversity of the wine world.

Swati Bose

Co-owner and wine director
Flight Wine Bar, Washington, D.C.
Best of Award of Excellence

A dry Riesling with the delicious notes of white pepper, apple and a mineral finish. Something like the Dönnhoff Estate Riesling Trocken would be a great wine for a beginner. For someone who might prefer a red wine, I would start with Pinot Noir with lovely berry notes and soft tannins. Domaine Pellé’s Les Cris from Menetou-Salon comes to mind. These are wines with great fruit flavors, backed by acidity. They are not overly fruit-forward and neither are they driven by earth notes or tannins, so they are approachable yet serious wines for beginners.

Sandy Block

Vice president of beverage operations
Legal Sea Foods
Award of Excellence

Although we automatically associate Oregon’s Willamette Valley with Pinot Noir, its Chardonnay is also outstanding, and quite restrained and Burgundian in style. So a gift of Domaine Serene Clos de Lune Dundee Hills Chardonnay, from a vineyard with volcanic clay–rich soils fits the bill with floral, tea-like aromas: Crisp, chalky and understated, as well as capable of several years’ bottle maturation.


Truly useful gadgets for the person who has every wine

Richard Hanauer

Wine director
RPM Restaurants
Best of Award of Excellence

I have fought off using any kind of gadget my entire career. I have always believed that a bottle, glass and corkscrew is the perfect triad for a great wine experience. Today, I eat those former words and use my Durand [wine opener] with pride. Wow, what a gadget! It has yet to fail … and I really wanted it to fail. (thedurand.com, $125)

Amy Racine

On the more gimmicky, lighthearted and fun side, there’s a wineglass holder for the shower, just something to laugh about, playing on the “shower beer” thing. And something I use all the time, especially in the restaurants, is called Wine Away; it’s a spray bottle for any sort of red or white wine stain. It’s magical in terms of getting wine stains out of tablecloths and any sort of linens whenever a glass is knocked over, which happens all the time. (www.wineaway.com, $17 for two 12-ounce bottles)

Another good gift is stemware. I think coupes are a great way to go because they can work for anything from martinis, if somebody’s a spirits drinker, to Champagne. Riedel does a great one, the Veritas coupe. You can get a pair for 70 bucks. (riedel.com, $69)

My favorite cocktail is an Old-Fashioned, and the best [drinks gift] that I’ve ever received was an Old-Fashioned kit—but it wasn’t prepackaged. Somebody went out and got the ingredients and everything and put it together. I think that’s a little bit more thoughtful of a gift than just handing somebody a bottle.

Daniel Tucker Jr.

Wine director
Elements, Princeton, NJ
Best of Award of Excellence

I’m not into gimmicks, personally, and I can’t say I utilize many tools outside my wine key. I do own a Coravin and have one at my restaurant as well. (coravin.com, $99–$300)

Parind Vora

Wine Director, chef and owner
Lockhart Bistro, Lockhart, Texas
Award of Excellence

Cork Pops CO2 wine opener. The cheesiest, but most risk-free, way to open an old DRC. (corkpops.com, $20–$30)

Gabriel Di Bella

A new corkscrew. (We sommeliers, do we ever have enough bottle openers?) Specifically, the Le Sommelier from the Atelier Perceval in Thiers, France. (perceval-knives.co.uk, starting at 190 euros)

More 2020 Gift Guide

See More

Bottles to Uncork, Bottles to Unwrap

Dec 15, 2020

Wines to Give … Your Most Special Someone

Dec 15, 2020

A Corkscrew Obsession

Dec 11, 2020

2020 Gift Guide: Cheese

Nov 30, 2020

2020 Gift Guide: Coffee

Nov 30, 2020

2020 Gift Guide Sommelier Holiday Picks Red Wines White Wines Gifts and New Products Chardonnay Nebbiolo Pinot Noir Riesling Barolo Burgundy France Germany Italy Oregon United States

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