Serious Eats: Drinks
Ask a Sommelier: The Best Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers
Sure, there are terrible cheesy gifts out there for golfers and gardeners and barbecue fanatics, but it seems like wine lovers get the worst of the bunch. How many guitar-shaped wine racks does one person need? How many ties that say 'NAPA ROCKS' will one sommelier wear? None. The answer is none.
But what should you buy your favorite wine lover this holiday season? We asked sommeliers from around the country for their advice.
Here's what they had to say.
"I have received all sorts of wine paraphernalia over the years from wine glass charms to a pink baseball cap with "Wine Diva" bedazzled on it. Please don't do this to someone you love! Buy them a bottle of your favorite wine, or go to a wine store and ask for a recommendation. You cannot go wrong with Champagne or even a gift certificate to a local wine savvy restaurant, just please no candles in the scents of 'Grapevine and Oak' or 'Napa Valley Sun.'"—Chris Baggetta (Quince)
"If you have a wine geek in your life, look no further than Jancis Robison's tome Wine Grapes. It's packed with 1280 pages of the latest genetic research into the history and origins of nearly every known variety. If someone in your life has ever pondered whether Gruner Veltliner and Roter Veltliner are truly related or just share a name, there's no better place to turn. Or maybe they want to trace the history of Zinfandel through Puglia, Italy and to its roots in Czech Republic. Either way, expect dinnertime wine discourses to reach a whole new level."—Steve Bowman (Fairsted Kitchen)
"My favorite wine tool to give right now is the Ah-So, a German-made wine opener used for removing fragile corks."—Pedro Goncalves (Oceana)
"The two hottest items out in the market right now (I want one for myself) are a book called The Essential Scratch N' Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert by Richard Betts, MS. It's a genius concept that make it easy and fun to learn about wine. The other is a wine preservation system called Coravin. It's a gadget that seems to come straight out of a James Bond movie. The way it works is you put the Coravin in place as you would with a corkscrew and punch a thin needle through the cork, the bottle is pressurized with argon gas and the wine flows through the needle. Once you finish pouring you pull out the needle and the cork reseals itself. The remaining wine will last for months."—Bank Atcharawan (Chada Thai & Wine)
"A subscription to a wine magazine is always great. In the fun side, wine charms can be useful for someone who entertains a lot—something handmade from Etsy maybe."—Swati Bose (Flight Wine Bar)
"I love to get new wine books every year. There are so many great wine books out there these days. For example: The New California Wine by Jon Bonne. A great new book about the changing wine scene in California. Focuses on young new producers who are making wines in a new and exciting way. Also: Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch. One of my favorite importers talks about his experiences in France. He sources some of the best wines from small producers who are making some very unique wines."—Joshua Pauley (BlackSalt)
"As far as tools, I personally don't care for the most prestigious wine key or any gadgets like the aerator whatever it's called that sprays the wine to oxygenate it. But a very nice crystal decanter is a great idea. It looks great in the living room and is really useful. If you can afford it, the wine cave or wine fridge is brilliant. Different sizes are available. In general, I think a gift certificate in a restaurant can be nice. If you're a wine lover, you're also a food lover so the restaurant is the best place to have fun. Of course, pick a place where the wine list is interesting."—Edouard Bourgeois (Cafe Boulud)
"A gift certificate to buy wine books on Amazon. A year subscription to the Guild of Sommeliers website. For something more personal, if you know their taste, I would check on Wine Commune, where I can normally find rare bottles at good pricing.—Brent Kroll (Iron Gate)
"When it comes to gifts for the wine lovers in the family, you cannot go wrong with books that focus on regional specifics, such as Vino Italiano by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch or Sherry, Manzanilla, and Montilla by Peter Liem and Jesus Barquin. The more we learn about wine in general, the more we realize there is endless variety out there."—Kristen Capella (TBD)
"I think the best gifts for wine lovers are ones that they will use over and over. A nice decanter for them to use at home or Champagne saber are great to show off to their friends, have a great story, and are memorable. Every time they have guests over they will use the saber you gave them, and tell the story of who gave it to them."—Jeff Kellogg (Maialino)
"Bottles. Always bottles. Once you buy a book, or tools, etc, you have it forever. But wine only lasts until you drink it, and then...you need another! Other ideas that could be very fun are small side projects from some of the more famous producers. For example, Arianna Occhipinti in Sicily makes olive oil. Araujo in Napa Valley makes soap. Jean-Marc Roulot in Meursault makes apricot liqueur and pear brandy."—Joe Camper (DB Bistro Moderne)
"A surefire gift for a wine lover is a framed map. Find a beautiful detailed wine map of a region you know they love and frame it. I don't know of a single wine lover that doesn't love a really nice map. It's a reminder of the terroir, the tie in to from bottle to place."—Jeremy Dennis (Dio Deka)
"My new favorite gift to give my wine-loving friends is a three-bottle gift box from The Bounty Hunter. The Bounty Hunter has been finding incredible wines for years, and has a unique selection of wines and great customer service. I would avoid getting a wine lover any new wine glasses. Most wine lovers are very particular about the glass they use, and likely have a TON of glasses at home already.—Angela Roman Aspito (The Signature Room at the 95th)
"For someone who is seriously into wine, I think a temperature-controlled fridge is essential—otherwise, how can you safely store your goodies? You can get a reasonably-priced 12-bottle fridge at a whole host of places these days (I got my first one at Target!), and for those in tiny apartments, there are compact models made to fit into tight spaces. If the wine lover in question is into the academic side of wine as well, Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson just released the 7th Edition of the World Atlas of Wine; it is one of the most essential texts for any serious student."—Mia Van de Water (North End Grill)
"Wine lovers really want wine. But more so, I think they'd love a membership in a wine club—the gift that gives all year round! Lots of people look to wineries for this, but don't overlook retailers. With a specialty retailer the wine lover can receive a range of wines, in a range of prices, from a range of places. Monthly, quarterly, twice-annually. CorksCru offers 6 different clubs to suit a range of budgets and desires."—Dan Beekley (Remedy Wine Bar)
"Glass decanters. The simple kind; nothing sideways and nothing with metal attached to it. Beautiful glassware from the likes of Riedel and Schott Zwiesel is your best bet. To find it, head to high-end design stores or museum stores. I love Cooper Hewitt or the MOMA. As a rule of thumb, don't buy plastic things. Stick with glass for drinking and decanting gifts."—Liz Vilardi (Belly, Central Bottle, The Blue Room)