Christmas gifts for the wine lover

Need gift inspiration for the wine aficionado in your life? Helen Coburn serves up some tempting ideas!



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17 December 2015

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Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book 2016 (Mitchell Beazley €15). Still one of the world’s best selling wine books, both for its handy size and the huge amount of information packed into it. This year there’s a special colour supplement on Riesling.

Breakfast in Burgundy by Raymond Blake (Skyhorse €12). This appeared last year but it’s still available from bookstores, Amazon and Kindle. It’s one of the few wine books written by an Irishman but that’s not the only reason to read it. Blake is a Burgundy wine enthusiast willing – literally – to put his money where his palate is and buy a holiday home in his favourite region. The vicissitudes of house restoration form an entertaining backdrop to a lively romp through the food and wine styles of Burgundy.

Complete Bordeaux by Stephen Brook (Mitchell Beazley €55). This is a fine reference work for wine enthusiasts and anyone contemplating an investment in fine wine. With no less than 13,000 wineries covered, it’s an opportunity for the reader to become acquainted with lesser known estates, many of which offer better value for money than the great classed growths. The book has been newly revised and updated for this edition.

Jancis Robinson’s Wine Tasting Workbook (Mitchell Beazley €20). This came out a few years ago but it’s worth hunting out online. Divided into theory and practice sections, the book guides you through the tasting of all the main grape varieties and styles, as well as helping you match food and wine. There are tasting exercises based around readily available bottles and it can be fascinating to do these alongside other people and compare notes after.

Barolo and Barbaresco: King and Queen of Italian Wine by Kerin O’Keefe (University of California €55). This preaches to the converted but in a personal and lively way. It assumes some knowledge of Italian wines and uses the space saved both to inform and challenge. A sure hit with any lover of Italian wine.

If you know someone interested in the business of wine, then Thirsty Dragon by Suzanne Mustacich (Holt €25) could be just the gift. It traces the development of wine in China before exploring Chinese demand in the current fine wine market. It includes some controversial background stories along the way; not many people know, for example, that several top Bordeaux estates were hit by a wave of cancelled orders from China between 2009 and 2012. A fascinating look at an economic player which, regardless of its short term ups and downs, is certain to continue as a formidable presence in the wine trade. The book is available in hardback and Kindle editions.

Want to learn about winemaking in a cool climate? Then consider Wine Growing in Great Britain by Stephen Skelton (€50). This would be a great gift for any student studying the technical side of wine production, made all the more valuable by its insights into a wine region which grows more interesting by the day.


Some festive vintage glasses

Some festive vintage glasses

Thinking of giving wine glasses and unsure what to choose? It’s true that some wine buffs agonise over selecting the perfect glass, but to be honest, as long as it’s big enough, not over filled, and has a moderate curve, wine aromas should blossom nicely in almost any glass. Even the despised apple shape is tolerable, provided that the glass is not too small and, again, not over filled. For giftware glasses, it’s hard to beat crystal, and Waterford now has a beautiful range, which combines plain glass with deep colours. The red glass is festive and elegant but if you want something really striking, try serving your bubblies in their deep blue flute glasses.

And speaking of flutes, it’s almost heresy nowadays to suggest that it’s okay to serve sparkling wine in the old fashioned saucer shaped glasses. Well: it is! The bubbles may not last as well as in a flute, but how long is it going to stay in the glass anyway? And meantime, saucer glasses have a lovely retro festive look. Again, Waterford has a range in plain glass and colours but when it comes to saucers, I think it’s worth looking out for vintage glasses. The old branded Babycham glasses have become quite sought after – though prices for sets have risen lately – while you can get good quality, Victorian and Edwardian engraved examples for just a few euro each. They’re easy to find at auctions, antique shops or even charity shops. Matched sets will cost more, but it’s also fun just to build a set from similar finds; put them in a box with a bottle of prosecco or champagne and you’ll have an unusual and pretty gift. And don’t forget decanters; early 20th century ones are readily found and are perfect for giving with a bottle of fine wine or port.

SUBHEAD: DVDs and movies

For those who want to study wine seriously but don’t have the time for an evening course, Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course is still an excellent resource. The book and DVDs can be found at  The Wine & Spirit Trust has DVDs aimed at certificate students, as well as a DVD Guide to the Wines of Chile by Tim Atkin MW. Details of these and other possible wine related gifts can be found at

Wine-related movies make perfect viewing over Christmas. If the wine buff in your life has never seen Sideways, get hold of it now; others to consider are Bottleshock, The Secret of Santa Vittoria, or, although it’s not entirely successful, A Good Year. If you can live with a streak of the supernatural, A Heavenly Vintage, is worth a look, and if you don’t mind French with subtitles, You Will Be My Son, about a despotic vineyard owner in St Emilion, offers some gripping family drama.

For a thought provoking wine documentary, go for Mondovino or, if your buff has a serious interest in California, From Ground to Glass may hit the spot. If technical tasting is their thing, consider Somm, a documentary focused upon the entrance exam for the Court of Master Sommeliers, and four candidates who are frantic to pass it. And for a hot topic, try Red Obsession, which takes a look at the relationship between Bordeaux and the new, often obsessive, Chinese buyers of wine’s most prestigious AC.

An online trawl will turn up most of these movies and some others as well; in fact, you will probably be surprised at the number of wine movies that have been made.



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