Each holiday season I am asked what I could suggest as a gift for someone’s who is getting into wine. Of course an appropriate answer is always, “More wine!” However, in providing a close friend or relative with a gift that will aid them in their quest of mastering a new subject such as wine, will mean a lot more to them in the end. It is these gifts that they will remember and cherish for years to come. Every aspiring vinophile should be armed with an ensemble of certain accessories and such before venturing off into the world of wine on their own. In the beginning, it’s best to keep it simple. You’ll need a corkscrew, an aerator and some crystal stemware. For the upcoming holidays, or anytime for that matter, here are my top three gifts under $40 for those who have a particular interest in the ubiquitous grape:
1. Wine Aeration System
There are a number of wine gadgets out there that do absolutely nothing. This is not the case when it comes to a quality wine aeration system. For those who enjoy wine, no matter what the cost of the bottle, introducing the proper amount of oxygen to your wine through aeration can be a beautiful thing. Can’t I just swirl the wine around in my glass? Yes, but that does not expose 100% of the wine’s surface area to oxygen (only some), which consequently may not reveal all the subtle nuances of the wine that the winemaker intended for you to enjoy. Minimize your risk and use an aerator. Which one to buy? The best one currently on the market (and the one I use) is Decantus, starting at just under $40 (www.decantus.net).
2. A Solid Corkscrew
Personally, Laguiole corkscrews are my favorite corkscrews without question (www.laguiole.com). Even so, they typically cost from around $150 and up, and might not be best fit for the beginner wine aficionado. They do make quite a nice gift though (as do their Champagne Sabres for sabering off the tops of Champagne bottles!) Moving on, there is something to be said about the old school, double-levered “waiter’s style” corkscrew. You can of course remove a corkscrew from a bottle with your eyes closed using a Rabbit, but that for me takes the fun out of opening a bottle of wine. Whether a novice or a seasoned pro, executing the ritual of perfectly opening a bottle of wine is a cool feeling. At $35, Pulltap’s Malvasia Corkscrew is a fantastic gift for a solid corkscrew that won’t tear your cork to shreds (www.surlatable.com).
3. Crystal Stemware
George Riedel, the godfather of all things crystal in the wine world, has proved time and time again that it does make a difference when it comes to what type of glassware you choose to enjoy your wine in. Drinking wine out of crystal stemware enhances the overall wine experience both aesthetically, as well as from the crystal resulting in a better-crafted, seamless vessel for the wine. Sounds expensive? Target is currently offering Riedel’s Vivant Series for $30 (www.target.com), which includes 4 Bordeaux-style red wine glasses (the same glass in Riedel’s top of the line series runs at about $100 per stem).