Let's get this out of the way. If someone on your list is a wine lover, he does not want a tie with a picture of wine on it for Christmas. She does not want a tshirt with a picture of a corkscrew. And neither of them really want a cute six-bottle wine rack with curlicues on each end. They mostly want help doing what they love: finding wine, buying wine, storing wine, learning about wine, and drinking wine. If you're looking for gifts for wine lovers, here's our guide to doing it right.
Birth Year Wine
No matter what style of wine they're into, most wine lovers are excited to drink wines from their birth year—no matter what kind of vintage it was. How to track down a birth year wine? Your local wine shop might not have any, but you can use tools like Winesearcher, typing in the vintage and any other stipulations (such as grape or region of the wine, plus the state where you need the gift mailed.) This is more efficient than searching the websites of individual shops, though not every wine store is in the database.
Can't afford birth-year wine? Any aged bottle from a producer they enjoy is likely to please.
Wine Shop Gift Certificates
The hunt for great bottles is part of the fun, so figure out your giftee's favorite wine shop, or poke around to find the best wine shop in their area (or a great non-local wine shop that ships to their state) and purchase a gift certificate so they can do the shopping. No amount is too little; they can always pool certificates or contribute their own money to the purchase. Want help figuring out which shops are good where your loved one lives? Shout it out in the comments below and we'll get an answer for you!
While we're talking gift certificates, most wine lovers are food lovers too, so a dinner on you at a favorite restaurant is another good way to go. Or go with a gift certificate to the best local cheese shop or butcher.
Chambers Street Wine Club
Not all wine clubs are created equal, but we can easily recommend one from Chambers Street Wines in New York. They offer three and six-month subscriptions to four different wine clubs. One focuses on natural wines, perfect for those exploring the world of less-interventionist, unfiltered and low-sulfur wines, some of which are biodynamically farmed. There's another an 'obscure varieties' club for exploring lesser-known grapes like pelaverga and piedirosso, and a grower Champagne club that will feature the smaller producers of Champagne (and give the recipent plenty of reasons to celebrate.) There's also a 'Grand Cru' club featuring great terroirs and some older bottles. You can trust these guys to pick out good stuff.
Of all of the wedding presents my husband and I received four years ago, the sturdy Schott Zwiesel Forte wineglasses we received definitely receive the most use, and very few of them have broken, even though we wash them in the dishwasher. I recommend these glasses to anyone looking for a pretty-elegant but not insanely expensive set of stemware, especially if you hate washing wine glasses by hand. (We have a few different shapes: the 21-ounce Claret goblets and the 18.3 ounce Burgundy bowls for reds, plus the 13.6-ounce 'red wine' glasses for whites.)
The Schott Zwiesel glasses mentioned above are my everyday go-tos, but if you're looking to really treat your favorite wine lover to a great wine experience, there's a new wine glass that should be on your radar: the Gabriel-Glas Mouth Blown Gold Edition universal glass.
This Austrian handblown stem just comes in one shape, and so far, it's enhanced every wine I've tried in it, from Champagne to Rioja. It works well to expose a small pour of wine to the air, and its sharp curve seems to funnel aroma directly to your nose, focusing it in a way that seems to make scents more vivid. It's a delicate, elegant, beautiful glass, with a super-fine tall stem and very slim rim, which makes it a joy to drink from (though I wouldn't necessarily bring them outside for a backyard barbecue.) These are pricey glasses, but a little cheaper than Zaltos, which are another excellent choice. I received one sample glass to test, and I'm definitely hoping that Santa picked up a full set for me to use for dinner parties next year.
Note: Gabriel-Glas also makes a machine-molded glass called the Stand-Art that's about half the price. It's a nice glass, though not nearly as exquisite as the handblown one.
The New California Wine
This book brings to life the people and places of California's current wine scene: the innovators, the experimenters, and risk-takers who are making some of the most exciting wines in the country today. Jon Bonné (the San Francisco Chronicle wine critic) profiles each of the state's major growing regions, pointing out producers who are pushing the boundaries, farming super old, low-yield vineyards, or planting new sites on the edges, where grapes need to struggle to reach ripeness. Pair a copy with a bottle of Massican 'Annia' or Littorai Pinot Noir or Donkey and Goat Sluice Box.
Guild of Sommeliers Membership
Even if your loved one isn't actually a professional sommelier, anyone who is interested in reading, learning, and chatting about wine would get a ton out of a one-year membership to the Guild of Sommeliers. Membership gets you into the guild website, which is full of handy study guides, discussion boards, updates on wine-related news, and more. This is the perfect gift for the wine lover who has already read all the books and collected all the gear they need.
Buy Now: $100-150 for the year.
There's no point in collecting wine if you can't store it safely. Does your favorite wine lover need a new 45-bottle wine cooler for the house? Or a contribution to the cost of a temperature-controlled offsite storage locker? Donate a little to the storage cause, and maybe they'll break out a specially aged bottle for you down the line.
Totes and Chillers
Wine lovers love to BYOB....or, you know, BYOW. Get 'em the stuff they need to carry those bottles around safely, plus a handy freezer sleeve to keep a bottle cool once it's out of the fridge.
Wine Barrel Sunglasses
Ok, I know I said your wine-obsessed friend didn't want gimmicky gifts, but just in case you're looking for something fun, these sunglasses are made from used wine barrels.