For most wine geeks, the only thing better than drinking wine is reading about it. If your loved one already has a subscription to Wine Spectatorand The Wine Advocate, buy them something else to read during the cold months ahead.
A new edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine ($65) just came out; it's the most comprehensive collection of wine knowledge you can buy. Edited in a deceptively breezy, often opinionated style by renowned wine expert Jancis Robinson, this tome includes thousands of entries over more than 800 pages on even the most obscure wine-related topics (e.g., secateurs: "specialized winter pruning scissors"). In my life as a wine writer and consultant, I've never looked for an answer in this book and not found it.
Another encyclopedic collection of specialized wine knowledge is Vino Italiano ($20), a comprehensive guide to the regional wines of Italy from Joe Bastianich, a co-owner, with Mario Batali, of many top Italian restaurants. Along with in-depth discussions of winemaking styles and traditions, it includes pairing suggestions for recipes hailing from Puglia to Veneto. Educational and amusing, it's engaging enough to read cover to cover, but also makes a handy reference guide.
If no one at home shares your loved one's passion for wine, give them a Hand-Held Wine Preserver Kit, which tops off open bottles with argon gas, slowing oxidation so the rest of the bottle can be consumed later with practically no deterioration in quality. More effective than the ubiquitous vacuum pump, this system allows you to open a good bottle every night without worrying about wasting the remainder. The attractively packaged system is just $50 from Hammacher Schlemmer at www.hammacher.com; additional cartridges and stoppers are $15/set.
Finally, you can't go wrong with a bottle of wine, but try to find something unfamiliar and intriguing. For instance, my Oxford Companion to Wine notes that Glühwein is "German for 'glow wine,' an apt name for the mulled wine that has cheered many an alpine skier." Jungle Jim's is selling St. Lorenz Christkindl Glühwein from Nürnberg for just $7/bottle. Heated, it fills the room with the familiar, homey scents of any winter holiday -- clove, cinnamon, citrus. What a wonderful way to share your holiday spirit!
CONTACT MICHAEL SCHIAPARELLI: Michael@(at)CincinnatusWine.com