When considering wine gifts, you can spend as much as you will, but all you need is a good waiter’s corkscrew, a carafe and a little argon to help preserve open bottles. What’s the big fuss? We could end it here — I could say, “Happy holidays and good luck shopping.”
But even when you keep your wine accessories simple, they can still be a special gift for someone.
Let’s start with wine glasses. You need a good all-purpose glass that can be used for most types of wine — sparkling, still and dessert.
The Riedel Vinum series is great. These are lead-crystal, machine-blown, dishwasher-safe glasses and are every bit as good as the more expensive, hand-blown Riedel Sommelier series.
Their chardonnay glass works for most occasions. A pair will cost you somewhere in the $50 to $60 range. The Riedel Burgundy glass is a good complement to the chardonnay and it sells for about the same price. Get some of each and you’re set.
I use Stolzie Weinland glassware for tastings, and I have been more than happy with their performance and durability. The exact model is the 15-ounce red wine glass with the product number 100 00 01, and it is lead-free. The glasses cost about $10 a stem.
When it comes to decanters, what you want is a big mouth and durability. Wine is sent to the decanter for aeration, most of the time, so making sure it gets the proper amount of oxygen is the most important thing.
If you are looking for one with a great shape, Riedel’s Flirt ($200) is pretty sexy. From a purely functional point of view, I like Erlenmeyer’s Flask Lab Decanter ($60). It brings me back to high school science class, and it even has the measurements printed on the side so you can figure out how much you are, or are not, drinking.
Wine aerators have become very popular, and I must admit I am a fan. You can go with something very simple like the Nuance Wine Finer ($30) or something more fancy like the Vinturi Red Wine Aerator ($40). The Menu Wine Breather Carafe ($50) is somewhere between a decanter and an aerator, and it also does the trick. These work like decanters in that they expose the wine to oxygen at a more rapid rate than letting it breathe in the bottle.
Electric wine openers are helpful for people who have wrist and hand issues. Oster makes good products, as does Ozeri. They range from about $25 to $75.
Decanter brushes ($10 on average), Champagne stoppers and wine keys make great stocking stuffers and are always useful.
The one gift I’d be happy to get is a folding decanter and wine glass dryer. They run about $40 and function much like a dish rack, but with dimensions customized for wine glasses.
Many stores — such as Williams Sonoma, Target, wine shops, et al. — carry the aforementioned items, but if you don’t want to deal with the masses, nearly everything is available online.
Pamela S. Busch is a wine writer and educator who has owned several wine bars in San Francisco, including Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen.