There’s no shortage of unnecessary wine gifts out there.
You know, the kind that end up in a drawer or on a shelf after a single use, never to be taken out again.
Sticking to the basics like glasses, decanters, books and special bottles is your best bet. Today, we look at some of the basic requirements for any aspiring wine drinker.
We begin with the most important tool required to enjoy wine: the wine glass. There are some musts to be considered: It should have decent length stem (to hold onto) and a generous size bowl (to swirl your wine in), say 10-14 ounces. The rim should be smaller in circumference then the mid-section of the glass (to funnel the bouquet) and, crucially, it needs to be thin enough to allow the wine to interact with your palate quickly and efficiently.
The Riedel Ouverture 12-ounce Red Wine Glass ($6 to $13) is my all-purpose choice. It’s all you need in an everyday red or white glass and it is sturdy. It performs best about a third full. Shop around because prices can vary significantly per stem.
If you are looking for major gift for a committed wine drinker you may want to consider the Zalto Universal Wine Glass ($70, pictured above). This glass is all elegance. It’s so light you think it will snap in your hand, but is strong and, more important, works well with a number of other liquids besides wine, including beer and water. Marquis Wine Cellars at Davie near Burrard carries the line, as does Vessel Liquor Store in Victoria.
Decanters have always been a useful vessel for old wines, allowing you to remove any unwanted sediment but screw caps and reductive winemaking, where the wine is protected from any oxygen, have brought the home decanter back into play. Almost any young wine will improve with a quick splash into a decanter before serving, and decanters are gifts that should last for a lifetime. A simple, clear glass design that pours without dribbling is a great start. Our pick is the Riedel Merlot or Syrah Decanter ($30-$35).
Wine books can be a thoughtful gift for the wine drinker and I’m a big fan of gifting a book plus a wine that relates to the book. One of the best new books to come out this year is on Argentina, a country that really needed one to tell travellers where to go, what to taste and where to stay. Exploring Wine Regions: Argentina by Michael C. Higgins ($45) is half guide book, half coffee table book, with information gathered through extensive time spent with top industry insiders. The book focuses on Mendoza, Salta and Patagonia and everything is vetted by the author. Books are available online and major book stores and wine shops across the country. The wine match is Zuccardi Tito Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($42.99), an amazing blend of 66 per cent Malbec, 12 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 per cent Ancellotta and 10 per cent Caladoc.
Whether you go with glasses, books or decanters make sure you add a canister or two of Private Preserve ($11-$15) — a pressurized, practically weightless aluminum bottle of neutral gas that allows you preserve unfinished open bottles of wine, for days if not weeks. There is no complicated system to learn — you simply spray a puff or two of the gas into any open bottle, cork it or put the screw cap back on and store it in the fridge. I have been using the product for 20 years and it’s the single best way to preserve any open wine bottle. One canister will last for about 75 bottles. At Liberty Wine Merchants in West Vancouver and at Vessel Liquor Store in Victoria.
Read my tips on stress-free holiday shopping, along with wine suggestions, here.
This article originally ran in The Vancouver Sun.