As if the pressures of entertaining guests and cooking for family weren't enough to keep you busy each December, the holiday season also means shopping--'tis the season for giving, but what to give isn't always obvious. The wine lover in the family can be particularly hard to shop for, so this year, Wine Spectator Online is providing this handy guide to gifts for every type of enophile in the family. Of course, the very fact that you're reading this probably means you're a wine lover yourself, so don't feel bad about sneaking a few of these into that extra stocking in the cellar this year.
All of us were new to wine at some point, and it's no secret that the wine world can be an intimidating one. While some people view gifts that teach with skepticism, this one is a perfect example of how learning can be fun (and unlike a copy of Wine for Dummies, this won't imply that the recipient is, well, a dummy).
|Figure out what you smell in your glass without raiding the kitchen.|
Though some connoisseurs may prefer to buy a case of wine for the price of this tabletop-sized chest (17 inches by 12 inches by 9.5 inches), you might think of Agresti's La Cantinetta as an investment in education.
Other Le Nez du Vin Wine Aroma kits ($40—$400) are available at www.winearomas.com.—Kristiana Kahakauwila
Some people just don't like to be wrong, so they try to become experts on any topic that might come up. These types are particularly prevalent among wine lovers and foodies. And fortunately for you, no one knows everything when it comes to wine and food. These board games prove it.
Viti Vini ($20), www.vitivini.com While none of these wine-related games is going to replace Monopoly, they do offer a fun change of pace for the enologically inclined. The best new wine game we came across this year is Viti Vini. The directions and object are simple enough to grasp yet there is a small amount of strategy required, as well as some luck (beware the Wild Cards), plus, there's coins involved, and everyone likes playing with money. Most importantly, the game has its facts straight and every turn allows the player to choose a difficulty level for the questions, making it accessible for novices and experts alike.
Eat My Trivia ($30), www.eatmytrivia.com Another good game for learning about food and wine is Eat My Trivia, a straightforward and somewhat simple variation of Trivial Pursuit. The trivia cards are full of fun facts, although the wine questions are somewhat weak—many of the answers to wine questions are simplified to the point of being incomplete. The cards can be fun though, and would do well just sitting out at a party, waiting to catch the eye of a would-be foodie.
Bouquet: The Wine Game ($45), www.wineentertainment.com The most complex wine-related board game available this season is Bouquet: The Wine Game. This is the game for the connoisseur who thinks he knows everything. Virtually everyone is on equal footing with this game: The questions are multiple choice, but many of them are so obscure that it comes down to a coin flip. If watching a know-it-all get increasingly frustrated by losing to a lucky novice is your idea of fun, Bouquet is the game for you.
|May your serving temperature never be questioned again.|
Taylor Connoisseur Wine Thermometer ($20), www.williams-sonoma.com For more than 150 years, Taylor Precision Products (no relation to the author) has been making thermometers. And if their altimeters are good enough for fighter jets, their Connoisseur Wine Thermometer should suffice for your vino. The thermometer features a digital display, and the neck is fitted with a bottle stopper, so the gauge can be left in the bottle as it chills, allowing the temperature to be constantly monitored. The thermometer's sleeve even has a handy guide to serving temperatures for various varietals.
From outdoors enthusiasts to soccer moms, some people are always going somewhere. And for the busy body who loves wine, that usually means lugging bottles around in a backpack or plain old plastic bag, or hoping they'll find something to their liking when they arrive at their destination. Neither method is recommended.
|Carry your wine about town in style.|
BuiltNY Drip Collar ($13 per pair), www.builtny.com As for protecting those fancy neoprene totes, not to mention picnic blankets, expensive tablecloths and keepsake labels, BuiltNY also makes a neoprene drip collar that fits around the neck of a wine bottle and absorbs any stray drips that haven't quite made it from bottle to glass. If you knock over your bottle of Chardonnay, this little gadget isn't going to help, but if you haven't quite mastered that nifty twirl of the bottle as you finish off a pour that all those hip sommeliers seem to have, a drip collar is the next best thing. Dripper be ware, however—the neoprene does absorb the orphaned droplets, and could potentially get a bit … funky after a few months' use. Fortunately, its creators at BuiltNY considered this along the design process and offer a novel solution: machine wash, cold.
When I last visited my parents, I spotted Dad on the fairway with what looked like Desert Storm Army surplus equipment. It was his new laser-equipped range finder, because, you know, golf is war. One more thing I didn't know existed that Dad already had. Here's something the Man Who Has Everything almost surely won't have yet … especially if he doesn't live near any major fault lines.
|QuakeGuardian secures wine bottles through major temblors.|
So he invented QuakeGuardian, which looks like a novice magic trick. A metal ring, available in black or gold, is looped around the neck of each wine bottle. Connected to each ring is a steel securing pin, which can be pushed into any standard wood rack with a pair of pliers. Even when the racking is rocking, the rings prevents the bottles from falling to the floor and breaking.
To test QuakeGuardian, Schmidt called on Anco Engineers in Colorado, which used its seismic test lab to simulate a magnitude 8 earthquake. In a series of four 30-second tests, according to Schmidt, the QuakeGuardian held strong, and none of the bottles were cracked or broken.—Kristiana Kahakauwila
|The new LM-400 from Screwpull makes wine service easier than ever.|
Screwpull LM-400 ($150), www.williams-sonoma.com Most people already own a corkscrew of some kind. And let's face it--the corkscrew has evolved into hundreds of different forms over hundreds of years, but the physics of the matter have never really changed: Insert worm, apply force. Of course, someone is always building a better mousetrap, and the newest innovation to appear comes from Screwpull, a branch of Le Creuset, the enameled cast-iron manufacturer. The latest model rolling off the line is the LM-400, a variation of Screwpull's classic lever model, that features a more upright design. The lever action is even smoother than it was in the classic model, though the LM-400 is considerably heavier. All things considered, it's a pretty fun and easy way to open a bottle that will no doubt spark some conversations when entertaining.
|Wine at the push of a button.|
|This new book makes a fine addition to any wine lover's library.|
Keys to the Cellar: Strategies and Secrets of Wine Collecting, by Peter D. Meltzer (John Wiley & Sons, 258 pages, $29.95) Most wine lovers keep a few bottles around for some special occasion in the future. Yet when you begin to buy wines strategically and store them carefully, you become a true collector. In Keys to the Cellar, Peter D. Meltzer, who has written about wine collecting and auctions for Wine Spectator since 1981, offers expert guidance that can help you become a better collector.
Meltzer outlines four cellar prototypes that correspond to styles of collecting: balanced, instant gratification, teaching and investment. Acknowledging that most collectors must reconcile ambition with budget, he recommends key wines for each type at an array of price points. Meltzer uses the Wine Spectator Auction Index to demonstrate the potential—and the potential pitfalls—of investing in wine. He rounds out his instruction with information on the nuts and bolts of cellar design and construction.
Profiles of seasoned collectors and their cellars provide inspiration and hard-earned advice. They testify to the fact that even the most elaborate wine collections are inspired by the simple pleasures of sharing a good bottle with friends. —Jennifer Fiedler
One last suggestion for anyone still left on your list: A subscription to Wine Spectator, the gift that keeps on giving--16 times a year!