I have this theory you can tell how bad a gift is by the length of the response given by the recipient as he or she stalls to: A) figure out what the heck it is and B) avoid eye contact and try to come up with the correct words as to not hurt the gift giver's feelings. For example: a bedazzled holiday sweater made from recycled tires and scratchy felt will most likely result in a, "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, wooooooooooow, geeeeeeeeeee this is reeeeeally grreeaaaaatttt!" Conversely, a really fabulous gift will result in a quick, short and often one word response: "Wow, cool, whoah, awesome!" Wine gifts often fall into the long response category. Believe me. I have an amazing collection of bad wine gifts that have been given to me over the years: all kinds of things made from corks, elaborate wine openers that can easily double as torture devices, wine scented scratch and sniff stationary, tacky silk scarves with horses and grapes on them and so forth. Don't get me wrong, I firmly believe that it's not the gift but the thought that counts but if you are going to go through the effort then why not give something that will truly be enjoyed and more importantly used. Here are my selections for great holiday presents for the wine lover in your life that are sure to be greeted with a short response!
Wine & Stemware Tote - $15 at International Wine Accessories
I'm a big fan of BYOB restaurants but I HATE the glassware they provide. This wine and stemware tote is the perfect solution. It easily fits and transports two bottles and four wine glasses (up to 8" tall). Ergonomic handle makes the bags easy to carry. Made of black canvas, polyester lining and PVC backing. 17 1/4"H x 16 3/4"W x 3 1/2"D. You will never have to drink out of jelly jars ever again!
Luigi Bormioli Atelier Series Stemware - $6-$7 each
Glassware is always a great gift for any wine lover as you can never have enough because they always break. There are many choices when it comes to stemware and it can get very costly and confusing. I found this affordable series at Bloomingdale's and just love the feel and shape of them - especially for the price. Yes, there are those seminars given by a certain glassware company that prove wine will taste better if you drink out of their stemware but frankly if I put you in a quiet room under bright lights and tell you to pay attention you are bound to notice the difference. The truth is, this is not how we enjoy wine in a real world setting when you have distractions like screaming children, barking dogs and burning soup on the stove. Now I'm not saying any old glass will do - proper stemware is key but you don't have to buy the top of the line stuff to experience the benefits. Available at Bloomingdale's Home and Furniture Store & Macy's.
DecanterA decanter is a must have for any wine lover. It can be used to aerate and soften younger wines or remove sediment from older selections. I will often serve inexpensive wines out of a decanter to add a little glitz and glam to an otherwise mundane bottle. There are many options to select from but when choosing a decanter keep in mind a shape that will allow for sheeting action. The one featured here is the Mikasa Cheers Decanter available at Macy's for $29 but other selections are available at International Wine Accessories in all price points. You can also add a funnel with a mesh screen for around $19.
Wine Cradle $35
This cradle is an elegant way to display wines at the dinner table. The New York International Gift Fair, featuring top designers from more than 2700 companies honored WMF with the "Best Collection" award this year. Available at Bloomingdale's Home and Furniture Store.
Fancy Screw Pull Wine Saver Set $30
Believe it or not but sometimes I can't always finish a full bottle of wine. If you push the cork back in, the wine will last up to two more days and then eventually start tasting like vinegar. With whites there is a little more leeway. Oxygen is the enemy for an opened bottle of wine so if you remove the air then you can get a little more shelf life out of the selection. The Screw Pull wine saver is designed to remove oxygen in conjunction with rubber stoppers. Normally the pump is made from white plastic but I love this fancy metal one. I use it at home on the rare occasion there is anything left in the bottle. It comes in an easy to wrap gift box. Available at Bloomingdale's Home and Furniture Store.
Winerd Wine Trivia and Blind Tasting Board Game - $36You don't have to be a total wine geek to have fun with this board game. Just as Monopoly teaches you how to become a real estate tycoon, Winerd can make learning about wine fun without the pretension. Using a minimum of at least three bottles of similar wine, you'll test your knowledge of fermented grapes by answering the most trivia questions and passing the most blind taste tests. For everyone from experts to novices, this game only gets better with age. Includes game board, 300 trivia questions, 12 challenge cards, four game pieces (that can be swapped for corks) and a blind taste test notepad. Wine not included. Available at Binny's Beverage Depot or an online retailer.
Waring Professional Cordless Wine Opener $40
Opening wine is hard enough but it is downright impossible if you have arthritis. My mother has a mild case of it in her hands and she recently confessed to me that she doesn't enjoy wine as much as she used to because it is too hard for her to open. I'm sending her this electrical wine opener this year to help make things easier for her. It's a cordless device where the you plug the base unit into the wall like a can opener. With a touch of a button, the screw inserts into the cork and then a reverse switch pulls it out. Of course, this doesn't work for screw caps! Available at Bloomingdale's Home and Furniture Store.
Alessi Wine Openers $54
Ok at $54, these are a bit of a splurge but they are from Alessi and they look like Parrots - who could resist? Aside from being adorable, they are double hinged which makes removing even the toughest corks a snap! Available at Bloomingdale's Home and Furniture Store.
The Grateful Palate Bacon of the Month Club $190 for six months (includes shipping and handling)
I know bacon is not wine but who besides vegetarians would not love this gift? I spent my first Christmas in Chicago with fellow Master Sommelier Joseph Spellman and his family. At the time, Joe was a member of the bacon of the month club and on Christmas day we fried up some peppered bacon and paired it with an old, smoky Cote Rotie (Syrah from France) and listened to Truman Capote on NPR. It's one of my most fond Christmas memories ever. The $190 is steep but it includes shipping and handling and it comes with all kinds of cool stuff including a, bacon tee shirt, recipes, information on each bacon and a rubber pig nose! Available from The Grateful Palate.