Monday, November 24, 2014

Wine Gifts to Buy Online

I do most of my Christmas shopping online, because I don't have time to hunt through stores. If you have friends or family interested in wine, here are some suggestions to make your shopping easier. I have owned or used most of these items and have been impressed with them. Everything is listed according to category:  books, glassware/serving/entertaining, movies, etc. Enjoy!

BOOKS




For the novice wine enthusiast...  This is a cute, fun, and engaging book that also gets a lot of information across. It has good visuals, plus the scratch-n-sniff wine aromas. It would be great to keep on your coffee table as a conversation starter. I wrote a full review of it here.





For the beginning to intermediate wine enthusiast...  I just came across this book in past few weeks, and I love it. It covers lots of topics related to wine (how to taste, how to describe what you like, how wine is made, how to read labels, storing, serving, important wine regions, etc.) and answers all the "why" questions that I always want to know about. Even better, it's packed with infographics on nearly every page to illustrate the information. Look at the cute little yeasts! Later in the book, when the yeasts have died, they have Xs over their eyes.  It's awesome.






Also for the beginning to intermediate wine enthusiast...  Great Wine Made Simple is one of my favorite books for learning about wine on your own at home. It explains all the basics of wine in a clear and straightforward way, with a focus on learning to identify and describe the wine characteristics you like. To this end, it gives very specific instructions on how to set up your own wine tastings to learn about each characteristic. It lacks the fantastic infographics of Wine: A Tasting Course, but it recommends more tastings and goes into more detail about setting them up. For this reason, it's also a great resource for planning wine parties.





For the serious wine student...  This really covers all your bases.  There's not much you can't look up in this gigantic tome.





For the ultra-serious wine snob geek...  I haven't yet purchased a copy of this, but it's on my list.  If you know someone who always has to order the wine made from grapes you've never heard of, and you like her enough to spend over $100, this is what you need.





If you can't spend $100+ on your favorite wine geek, this poster is a great, less expensive choice.  A giant periodic table of wine grapes, organized according to detailed information about each of their characteristics?  Be still my infographic-loving heart!  Makes a great addition to any wine geek's office, kitchen, or preferred tasting area.



GLASSWARE / SERVING / ENTERTAINING



These are the glasses I use at home.  Because I plan wine tastings for groups, I need lots of glasses that conform to the standard tasting shape and don't cost much per stem.  These fit the bill, and I buy them by the case.  For more on choosing glassware, check out "Wine Glasses: What Kind, Why, and Where to Get Them."



  

I first saw this tequila tasting set for sale in the Museum of Fine Arts Houston gift shop.  I'm not sure what it had to do with the art on display, but I fell in love with it.  Except I don't drink much tequila... And then some great friends got it for me as a birthday present, and I've had fun experimenting with ways to use it.  My favorite way is to serve Port in the glasses and put chocolates or brownies on the tray.  Or you could serve Sauternes with foie gras or cheese as either an appetizer or dessert, and feel very European.  Not only does this serving set look great, but the glasses and tray come off the stand and can go through the dishwasher.  Hooray for easy clean-up!

**The price of the 6-shot set seems to fluctuate between $100 and $300.  If the price above looks high, check here.







I've never tried these before, but they look cool.  I've written before about why wine glasses should have a stem, but these are designed to travel, so I'm giving them a pass on that feature.  If you (or your intended gift recipient) like to take wine to any of the wonderful, outdoor Houston venues where glass is not allowed (like Miller Outdoor Theater or a Galveston beach), these would be a great way to upgrade your wine experience from that red plastic cup.





I own one of these and have been very pleased with it. The price has even come down quite a bit from when it was first released. Some people never decant or aerate their wines, others always do.  I fall into the "occasional" category. (For more on that topic, check out "Should you let the wine breathe?") But if you want to aerate, I think this is the best choice of the many options on the market. Some people like the Vinturi, but it takes 2 hands to use and spills if your aim is slightly off. This Nuance model fits into the neck of the wine bottle and provides a perfect non-drop spout.





If you have an open bottle you aren't going to finish, Private Preserve (or a similar system) is the best way to keep the wine fresh until you're ready to drink it. The can sprays inert, harmless gasses into the partially empty wine bottle, and the gasses, which are heavier than air, create a protective blanket on top of the wine, so it won't oxidize as quickly. Then you just stick the cork back in the top. For me, just one of these cans will last more than a year. For more on how to preserve wine, check out "Saving Your Leftovers (or, how Bear Dalton convinced me I'd been preserving my wine wrong for years!)."





Chalkboard table runners are fun to use at dinner parties or wine tastings. Write information about the wine, or which foods to pair with which wines, or let your guests write (or draw?) their impressions. As a bonus, the runner also protects the table from wine or food drips and spills. You need chalkboard markers to write on them. The markers go on wet (kind of like a paint pen, if you remember those), and need a few seconds to dry. Then the writing won't smudge. At the end of the night, wipe the chalkboard runner down with a damp paper towel (you may need to wipe a few times), and use it again and again. (You  can also see the aforementioned glasses in the pictures below.)

  





A fun and useful addition to any wine tasting party is the Wine Aroma Wheel.  It helps people identify what they're smelling in the wine.  It's fun at parties, but also for the serious wine student who wants to improve his ability to identify aromas.  An all-around great tool.







MOVIES



I enjoyed watching this film when it first came out, back when I was interested in wine but knew almost nothing about it.  I enjoyed it even more a few years later, after I had taken lots of wine classes.  It's entertaining, educational, and engages with one of the central issues of winemaking as the wine business becomes ever more globalized.





This film is also entertaining and interesting whether or not you know much about wine.  I wrote a full review of it here.



Happy shopping!

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