Some of you may remember last year's disastrous foray into gift ideas for wine geeks. As you'll see, I've learned to at least check prices this time. Without further ado:
I bought this for myself, because Amazon had it for $110.25. They still do. Anything this big (1,200 pages) will have flaws; there's an amazing three-panel chart of the pinot grape pedigree, but a big part in the middle can't be seen because of the binding. And listing zinfandel under "Tribidrag" seems willfully obscure. Still, there is a lifetime's worth of study in this book, and any wine geek worthy of the name would be thrilled to receive it. Learn more here.
Here's another geek magnet: Jacqueline Friedrich has visited every Sauvignon Blanc producer in the Loire Valley. The results of her travels come in the form of a diary, rather than a series of encyclopedia entries. She bills herself as a "wine humanist" rather than as a researcher. I happen to enjoy her anecdotal approach. You can buy it directly from her here. $34.50 and well worth it.
Families of the Vine, by Michael Sanders, is about a season in Cahors with three different families of vignerons: The Jouffreau-Hermann family of Clos de Gamot; The Baldés family of Clos Triguedina; and Philippe Bernède of Clos la Coutale. Having spent a little time in Cahors myself, I can only marvel at Sanders' ability to get the Cahors vibe across on the printed page. The subject matter may seem geeky, but the book is such a great read that even non-geeks will find it rewarding. You can get it cheap at Amazon, and I'd urge you to do it soon; there aren't a lot of copies left, and I fear it will go out of print.
I like to read about wine, and I greatly prefer the company of writers who write about wine, as opposed to wine writers. Chris Kissack, Andrew Jefford, Paul Strang, and Eric Asimov are among my favorites. This is worth getting just to read his takedown on wine notes. Available from Amazon for a mere $14.98.
I remember the first time a customer came to me asking for a corkscrew that could be used by her mother, who loved wine but whose hands had been weakened by disease. There are hundreds of devices for separating a cork from a wine bottle, but few as easy to use as this. You stick the needle in the cork, and compressed air does the rest. The device itself goes for around $20; compressed air refills are packed two to a box and usually sell for less than $10. Your local wine shop will have them, or you can get one online here.
When you go to dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant, especially if the restaurant is not just French but in France, odds are the sommelier will have one of these. I hope someday to attain sufficient gravitas to actually own a real, hand-made Laguiole corkscrew. Depending on the kind of handle, it will run around $140. That will seem like a lot for a corkscrew, until you hold it in your hand and realize it is an ergonomically correct tool of unsurpassed quality, and maybe even a work of art.
This is Peter Liem. He knows more about Champagne than you do. Were it not for Terry Theise, I'd never have known about Chartogne-Taillet “Fiacre.” Were it not for Peter Liem, I would never have known about Vouette et Sorbée. A subscription to his website costs $89 a year. If you have someone on your list who can afford to be a Champagne connoisseur, this ought to get you invited over a few times for something nice from the 2004 vintage, at very least.
Here's what I want for Christmas: A return visit to Fish La Boissonnerie (69 rue de Seine, 6th). I like it there because they speak English, which makes it easier for me to chat with the barman about Gerard Gauby. They have an astounding list of wines from the Languedoc and Roussillon. And while I'm there, I want to visit their wine shop, too.
Almost forgot: Wine shop gift certificates are a great idea. Ask at your local shop.