“The spirit in which a thing is given
Determines that in which the debt is acknowledged;
It’s the intention, not the face value of the gift, that’s weighed.”
Seneca, Letter to Lucilius
The holiday season is fast approaching so you had better start thinking about what to give your friends and family. Fortunately, presents for wine lovers or potential wine lovers are easy to find. Consider giving a gift of wine, a book about wine, a subscription to a publication devoted to wine or a wine accessory. All these categories share the same advantages. They contain gifts that can fit within any budget, and they will never have to be returned because they are not the right size or the right style and almost all are gender neutral. You can let your fingers do the walking by going online or you can shop in our local stores.
Wine undoubtedly makes the best gift. One big advantage is that there is no problem with duplication. Browse our local wine shops. Choosing large format bottles such as magnums or double magnums make for an impressive gift. On the other end of the size scale, choosing a selection of half bottles is a great choice for a single person or a couple who will rarely finish a bottle at one meal. When finished, an empty half bottle can also serve double duty as a container to store left over wine because it has less air space. If you want to go online to shop for wine there are a cornucopia of sites to choose from. There are even some that focus on a specific region, such as that provided by the Napa Valley Vintners at NapaVintners.com. You can select from 339 wineries and check out what wines are available for sale. If you are not sure what wine to choose you can opt for a sampler kit of six curated Napa Valley Wines in 50ml bottles from TastingRoom.com.
One gift that periodically reminds the recipient of your generosity is a membership in a wine club at a winery. Depending on the winery, your recipient might receive wine monthly or quarterly. Look for wineries that produce wines that are only available to club members, which have a certain cachet. Other gifts that provide a periodic reminder of your thoughtfulness are one-year subscriptions to a wine newsletter or magazine. Good choices are Wine Spectator, P. O. Box 37367, Boone, IA 50037-0367 ($49.95), Wine & Spirits, 2 West 32nd Street, Suite 601, New York, NY 10001 ($29.95) and Wine Advocate, P.O. Box 311, Monkton, MD 21111 ($75). The latter is particularly suitable for connoisseurs. Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate also have separate web-version subscriptions available at winespectator.com ($49.95) and erobertparker.com ($99). There are also specialized newsletters available. One such for the Burgundy fanatic is burghound.com. A one-year subscription of four quarterly electronic issues is $125, which also includes unlimited access to the database for the same period.
Wine books make great gifts. There is one wine book that was published this year that is unlike any other, certainly in its format. The book is The Drops of God 1, by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto (Vertical, $14.95). It’s a famous Japanese comic strip, complete with drawings and balloon texts, recently translated into English and put in book form. A wine’s mention in the comic is enough to drive the sales of the wine skyward in Japan. The book tells the story of a famous wine critic’s will that leads to a contest for ownership of his cellar between his son and a renowned young wine critic. Their task is to find a dozen top wines, the Twelve Apostles plus The Drops of God, by blind tasting. It’s a fun read and educational too.
Gerald Asher, who was the wine editor of Gourmet magazine for 30 years, has long been one of my favorite wine writers. In A Vineyard in My Glass (University of California, $21.95) the reader is treated to a collection of essays from Gourmet and elsewhere. Asher is a master story teller and his expertise about wine and the industry serves him well in explaining the pleasure and meaning of wine. Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines, by Natalie MacLean (Perigee, $24) is an entertaining romp in search of what the title describes. When MacLean says bargain she means a low price for good quality. Her recommendations and tips are sure to enhance your drinking pleasure.
Last but far from least, be sure to give yourself a gift. You deserve it!
If you have questions or comments about wine write to me at The Two River Times or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pick of the Bunch
2004 Piper-Heidsieck Brut, Champagne ($74)
2006 Louis Roederer Brut Rosé, Champagne ($75)
2004 Veuve Clicquot Brut Rosé, Champagne ($90)
NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige, Napa Valley ($28)
NV Delamotte Brut, Champagne ($40)
NV Billecart Salmon Brut Réserve, Champagne ($45)