Gift Ideas for Wine Lovers
Peyton Mays, Senior Editor, MSN Shopping
The gift of wine or a useful wine accessory is a great idea, but by no means a new one. Historians now think people started cultivating grapes to make wine during the Neolithic period (9000 – 4000 BCE) in what is now Armenia and northern Iran. It’s safe to assume that’s also when the first wine vessels and accoutrements appeared on the market and it certainly follows that these, along with the wine itself, were at least occasionally given as gifts, to honor a VIP, seal a deal or celebrate a holiday.
As tried and true as this sort of gift might be, choosing just the right thing can get tricky. Obviously, a tastevin will gather dust on the average wine drinker’s shelf and a primer on appellations would puzzle if not insult a connoisseur, but your options are seldom that clear or extreme. With that in mind, we’ve divided wine lovers into three general levels of expertise and offer a few recommendations for each. Admittedly, this system isn’t foolproof, but it should at least help you narrow your choices a bit.
For the Beginner
I was introduced to wine in the ‘70s through a variety of dubious, fruit-flavored screwtops. As my tastes matured, I graduated to fine “date wines” like Matueus (the bottles made elegant candleholders in my dorm room). For our purposes here, however, we’ll call that level “The Idiot.” Our Beginner, on the other hand, is someone who is just learning to appreciate the joys of wine and is eager to learn and experiment. Mercifully free of pretensions, in many ways this recipient is the ideal type to shop for.
Wine guides – Increase their shelf esteem with any number of lively and informative introductions to the grape. You can find books devoted to wine history, to specific regions and to food pairings, as well as encyclopedias that offer all that and more.
Glasses – At this stage, most of us have a single set of wine glasses. Help them discover the benefits of the different shapes of bowl and opening sizes and expand their collection in new directions.
Decanter – While essential for allowing certain reds to breathe, don’t overspend at this level. You’ll find perfectly suitable decanters for between $20 and $50.
Wine rack – The Beginner isn’t ready to build a cellar, but a small-to-medium sized rack will handle a nascent collection nicely.
For the Enthusiast
The Enthusiast has mastered the basics, enjoys visiting wineries, is possibly a member of a wine club and has more than a few favorite bottles tucked away for the right moments. They read wine reviews and love browsing in a good wine shop. There’s nothing stuffy about their love of wine – it’s just a part of the good life. Here are some suggestions from cheap to steep.
Wine opener – While it can be convincingly argued that the basic corkscrew is all you need to open a bottle, there must be a reason so many other, more complex and elegant tools are selling so well. Take things up a notch and give them a corkscrew with a college education.
Wine tote – Your favorite Enthusiast is just the type to pack a bottle or two for a weekend getaway or for a picnic in some sylvan setting. Wine totes come in everything from canvas to fine leather and protect their liquid assets.
Stemware rack – The nice thing about these is that they keep your wineglasses within easy reach without taking up shelf space. And hanging them upside down lets them dry more easily without spotting. If they have a lot of wine glasses, one of these makes a great gift.
Wine rack – The Enthusiast, being a more serious collector, needs a little extra room for her wines to rest. At this level, the rack becomes more furniture than countertop accessory, with prices to match.
For the Expert
Unless you’re at least a sommelier, if not a winemaker, this is the last sort of person for whom you’d presume to buy a gift of actual wine. Chances are it would only amuse or annoy them. Their love of wine borders on obsession. They relish the subtlest of nuances and can (and will) describe them until your eyes glaze over. They can easily spend half an hour absorbing the contents of a good restaurant wine list.
Chiller – This handy appliance will help them indulge their whims when it comes to whites. From one-bottle models to refrigerator-sized units, they can cool a wine from room to drinking temperature in minutes or keep a case at precisely the right temperature.
Thermometer – They know the proper serving temperature of every wine you can name and are loathe to vary that by even a few degrees. Technology makes it easy. From cork probes to point-and-shoot laser devices, all guesswork has been eliminated.
Preservation devices — Much as the spirit may be willing, it’s sadly not always possible to drink every bottle down to the dregs. Once the cork is out, however, wine begins to rapidly go downhill. Replacing the cork might work for most of us, but the true aficionado requires sterner measures. Methods vary, but wine preservation systems have got things down to a science.
Wine cabinet – Chances are good they have a fairly extensive cellar somewhere on the premises, but it’s nice not to have to trot down to the catacombs every time you’d like a rare bottle of Amontillado. The wine cabinet is the sort of specialized furniture few of us mortals would need, but is the epitome of convenience for our Expert friends.
It’s often been said that it’s more blessed to give than to receive — but that seldom applies when it comes to wine.
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