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Holiday Gift Guide For Wine Lovers

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Got a wine lover, wine aficionado or a wine geek in your life? You are in luck, as finding the right gift for someone who enjoys wine is easy, and I would dare to say it gets easier every year.

Looking at a big picture, your three big gift categories for the wine lovers are wine, wine accessories and wine education and experience.

Let’s start with wine. Don’t dread it – giving someone a bottle of wine she or he will enjoy is not as difficult as it seems. You should start with a good wine store – it can be neighborhood store or an online store (at the end of this post there is a listing of my favorite wine stores). Now, based on what you know about wine preferences for the gift recipient, there are few possible approaches for selecting the wine. If you only know the type of wine the other person likes (let’s say California Pinot Noir), the easiest bet is to get the wine at the actual “brick and mortar” wine store, where you can ask for the advice. If you know particular wines and/or wineries the other person likes (let’s say Catena Zapata Malbec or Peter Michael Chardonnay), it is equally simple to buy the wine in the store or online, as long as you can find it at the price you are willing to pay.

Now, in case you are unsure about the wine preferences, you can try a different approach. Do you know of any dates which are special in other person’s life? Birthday, anniversary, children birthdays, buying the first house – as long as you know the year of that special event, you can look for wine, port, scotch or champagne made in that specific year. Think it will be too expensive? Not necessarily – check Benchmark Wine Company’s selection of the older wines, and you might be pleasantly surprised. You can also ask your trusted wine retailer – many back vintages are still available, and often are quite affordable. Try it – I’m sure you will make someone very happy.

I’m not going to give you any particular wine recommendations (it really depends on the preferences as we discussed above and your price range), but I would like to suggest what not to get the wine lovers – stay away from the wine clubs. There are many wine clubs offered by various newspapers and “thingy of the month” establishments – the wines in such club selections usually don’t have a good value (you get a case of wine which looks inexpensive as a case – problem is that the person might enjoy only one or two bottles from the whole case, which immediately makes it a bad value). You can give a winery club as a present – if you know that the other person would enjoy the wines from that particular winery. However, if you still set on the wine club idea, the only clubs which I can wholeheartedly recommend are the ones run by D&M ( please see reference below) – their scotch, cognac and champagne clubs are amazing and represent a real value.

Let’s move on to the wine accessories. All wine lovers appreciate good accessories which make wine drinking more enjoyable. Everything goes – glasses, decanters, bottle openers, pourers, glass charms, bottle stopper, wine preservers, bottle holders – the list goes on and on. However, you need to keep in mind two things:

  1. it would help immensely to know what the other person might need/want, or at least doesn’t have already. Glasses and decanters take space, and nobody needs three estate wine openers.
  2. keep it simple. If the accessory is super fancy, like electronic bottle chiller, there is a good chance that it will be used only once or never. Wine accessory should be simple to use and “obviously” useful for the person to actually enjoy it. If someone is going to spend lots of time thinking “what am I going to do with this and where am I going to put it”, I wouldn’t call it a good gift.

The easiest way to buy wine accessories is through the catalogs (few recommendations are at bottom of the post), but don’t forget to check Home Goods stores – they offer a lot of different wine accessories at the great prices.

Last but not least category – wine education and experience. You don’t need to know anything about the wine in order to enjoy it – however, knowing something about the wine you are drinking greatly adds up to that enjoyment. When it comes to the wine education, there are many resources. First, there are books and magazines. Many wine books are truly enjoyable and educational at the same time – try the books by Matt Kramer, for instance. Some of the books contain a tremendous wealth of information – for instance, the books by Jancis Robinson. Any of these books would make a great present for your wine loving friends (Important! Try to make sure they don’t yet have the book you intend to give!).

Another great educational resource is wine schools and classes. One of my favorite wine schools is Windows on the World Wine School (link below). During each class, you learn about different wine regions and taste different wines – all hand selected by Kevin Zraly, who teaches the classes for more than 20 years. You don’t have to buy the whole series – you can get gift certificates good for individual classes.

As far as wine experiences are concerned, the sky is the limit. Wine travel, wine cruises, wine master classes,  wine appreciation dinners, winemaker dinners – there are endless possibilities for anyone who wants to know more about the art of wine. Okay, let me leave this topic for you to explore – if in doubt, start with Google, it always works for me.

I think this was the longest post in this blog ever (at least as far as the word count is concerned). I hope I was able to give you some ideas, and so I would like to wish you and yours Happy Holidays! Cheers!

Holiday wine gift giving Resource Guide:


Benchmark Wine Company – great source of old vintage, rare and unique wines from all over the world – all at very fair prices. Benchmark Wine buys collections, and then sell the wines at a fair market price, no auction. Don’t forget to check their Clearance Bin!

Bottle King – Chain of discount wine and liquor stores in New Jersey. Offers excellent values and great selection, some of the wines being unique just for the chain. Selection of California, France, Italy and Portuguese wines worth specific mentioning. If you are in the area of any of the stores, make sure to stop by.

Cost Less Wines and Liquors – if you live in the area of Stamford, CT or visiting the town, make sure to stop by Cost Less Wines – there are many great values in stock every day for any discriminating wine lover. Just worth mentioning that store was voted “Best in Stamford” a number of times. There are great wines from all over the world, but the portfolio of wines from California, France, Israel, Italy and Spain worth specific mentioning, plus the selection of Scotch and Bourbon is outstanding.

D&M – great wine store in San Francisco. The biggest selection of Scotch, Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Champagne, Mezcal (you got the idea, right?) of any store that I know of. D&M also has a number of clubs for all the different spirits – well worth the money, as all the shipments are rare and unique.

PJ Wine – One of the best wine stores in New York. Selection of Spanish wines is truly amazing (may be best in the country), French and Italian wines are also well represented. Lots of unique wines, particularly biodynamic and organic. PJ Wine also provides great educational opportunities such as seminars, wine tastings and so on.

Pop’s Wine & Spirits – I have never been to the store personally, however, some of my friends swear by it, and I have seen great values acquired there, therefore I believe the store is worth mentioning here. The store is located on Long Island, but you can also buy the wines online.

WTSO.com – I talked about Wine Till Sold Out many times in the past. Great source of value wines, very simple model (only one wine is offered at a time, free shipping if you buy recommended quantity, ranging from 1 to 4). Might be a challenge to get a specific wine for a specific occasion but well deserves an e-mail subscription in any case.

Last Bottle – another source for amazing “value wines”. Operates similarly to WTSO, periodically offering amazing wines at amazing prices, with the minimum number of bottles to buy (typically 4 – 6, can be less, depending on the type of wine/price) to get free shipping. Selection is amazing, up to and including Petrus, DRC and Screaming Eagle. Last Bottle also runs referral program – sign up a friend, friend gets $10 discount on the first purchase, you get $30 discount after friend’s first purchase. If you are not a subscriber yet, I will be glad to sign you up – use this link.

Wine Accessories:

IWA Wine – offers a full range of wine accessories, from glasses to wine cellars and wine cellar piece parts to wine memorabilia and even wines.

Wine Enthusiast – same as above, offers a full range of wine accessories for all needs and occasions.

Home Goods stores – on any given day, there is a great selection of various wine gadgets and accessories in the store – be sure to check it out, and keep in mind that inventories are changing daily.

Amazon – No question everything can be found on Amazon today, so yes, don’t forget to shop there!

Wine Education:

Windows on the World Wins School – an excellent source of wine education. Taught by Kevin Zraly for more than 20 years, the school offers a series of classes which are very informative, educational and enjoyable. I can’t recommend it high enough.

Wine Spectator Magazine – magazine contains lots of interesting articles, wine ratings, restaurant reviews and chef recipes. I’m subscribing it for the past ten years, and still very excited with each issue. There is also an online version, which requires its own subscription.

  1. Brian
    January 22, 2012 at 9:36 am

    The state of Connecticut sets minimum prices on wine, so there is no such thing as a wine shop in CT that is a bargain. I live in Stamford, so NY is close enough to make it worthwhile. Try Rye Brook Wine & Spirit Shop. I’ve been really happy with both price and service. You can order online and pick up or have the deliver. That’s my vote if you live in LFC.

    • talkavino
      January 22, 2012 at 11:20 am


      thank you very much for your comment. There are two points I would suggest to take into account:
      1. There are always closeouts on the wine, where minimum prices are set much lower than the standard prices. Good retailers do pass savings to consumers (I know that from experience).
      2. Governor Malloy has a proposal currently on the table which should change that whole situation with the minimum prices and three tier wine distribution system.

  1. December 10, 2012 at 9:30 pm
  2. December 21, 2016 at 11:29 pm

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