Few people are more difficult to shop for than a wine snob.
For the nonsnob, it’s almost impossible to choose the perfect bottle. You probably have no clue what they like to drink — or you do, and can’t afford it.
Trust me: Don’t buy wine for a wine snob. You can’t win.
And it’s a lost cause to find useful gadgets. Wine snobs already own every wineopening device on the market, and they have one old favorite that they use all the time anyway.
Then there’s "wine junk" that looks so tempting and clever when it’s on display, but it’s bound for the re-gifting pile. When I asked a wineloving friend of mine for wine gift ideas, she wrote to tell me what not to buy: "Please, no more of those cute little wine charms! I never use them and have received many sets. Also, no more of those adorable little balance things — you know, it miraculously holds a wine bottle suspended in perfect balance for no good reason. No refrigerator magnets. No bottle stoppers. No welcome mats asking if you brought fine wine."
Face it: There’s a large margin of error when trying to impress a wine snob.
But I’m going to brave the potential backlash and give some suggestions for what I think hardcore wine enthusiasts might be thrilled to find under the tree.
• Glassware: Wine fanatics love to collect fine glasses, and you can’t go wrong with Riedel crystal. They make dozens of glasses in various shapes and sizes, all to maximize the hedonistic pleasure inherent in each specific kind of wine and other alcoholic beverages. There are glasses strictly for Grüner Veltliner, single-malt whiskey or Brunello di Montalcino, among many others. Get them at independent wine stores, some AJ’s Fine Foods locations, gourmetware stores such as Williams-Sonoma and Sur la Table, upscale retailers like Neiman Marcus and online. Go to www.riedelcrystal.com to peruse the styles. Prices vary, depending on the quality of the glass and where you buy it.
• Riedel glass carrying cases: If you’re sure your wine snob has all the Riedel he’ll ever need, find out if he has a carrying case. It looks sort of like a laptop case, and it’s padded to protect the fragile cargo. It holds four of any Riedel glass; $75 at Sun Devil Liquors, 235 N. Country Club Drive, Mesa.
• Insulated wine carrying bags: Wine salespeople carry their wares in these, and every wine snob wants one. They come in handy on car trips and even around town, particularly in the summer. Make sure to get one that’s good quality — not the kind that look like an oversized beer can holder, because they tear easily.
Bacchus Wine Made Simple, 7122 E. Greenway Parkway, Phoenix, carries a leather insulated case for $26. Epicurean Wine Service, 7101 E. Thunderbird Road, Phoenix, and Red Kangaroo Wine, 3305 West Chandler Blvd., Suite 7, Chandler, sell Neoprene carriers for $16. There’s also a good selection at www.wineaccessory.com (prices start at $30 and go up, depending on size and construction). Many local stores can also do special orders, so call around.
• Online wine site subscriptions: Any wine freak would love a subscription to www.eRobertParker.com ($29 for three months; $99 a year) or www.winespectator.com ($14.95 for three months; $49.95 annually).
• "The Wine Bible" by Karen MacNeil: It’s probably the most useful and complete wine book I’ve ever come across, and her writing style is fun to read and easy to understand. $19.95 suggested retail; order through bookstores or online.
• Cheese of the month club: What better to accompany your wine snob’s favorite beverage than a specialty cheese? Sign her up for a cheese of the month club through www.iGourmet.com for $20.95 per month. (Get a few friends or family members to go in on it.) The quality and selection of iGourmet cheeses is superb. They send a pound to a poundand-a-half of featured cheese each month, and each package is air-shipped to ensure freshness. Check the site for the "Connoisseur’s Club" as well, which includes a monthly shipment of various gourmet goodies.
• Champagne bucket: Pottery Barn sells monogrammed champagne buckets (solid brass with silver plating) for $39 online (www.potterybarn.com) and through its catalog. It looks like you spent a lot more (unless your recipients read this). Decorative serving trays are always appreciated, too.