Gift guides offer misguided advice for wine-buyers: the best gift for a wine lover is something they want to drink.
Instead of worrying overmuch about a wine’s score, rarity or value, find out what your intended recipient wants to drink and buy that.
Easier said than done. Wine is so complicated, its offerings so myriad and diverse, and the market so fractured that asking someone about their favorite wine is unlikely generate information you can act upon.
One solution? Buy them a gift card to their favorite restaurant and tell them they have to use it to buy wine.
If they frequent a restaurant with a sommelier, ask the sommelier for advice or just buy a bottle of wine and have it waiting for them the next time they go for dinner.
A personal touch is a lot more important than an impersonal score.
But you could also get them a book; you know, one of those things with pages that you turn and write notes in the margins — not a miniature computer.
There are lots of wine and spirits books worth reading and gifting. Jeff “Beachbum” Berry’s “Potions of the Caribbean” reflects the wisdom and passion that Berry has for the Tiki cocktail craft and legacy.
If you want to dive deeper into the cocktail craft, you could buy any of the brilliant, toothsome books that David Wondirch, “Imbibe or Punch,” or Dale DeGroff, “Craft of the Cocktail or The Essential Cocktail,” have authored.
Or you could go modern with Tony Conigliaro’s “The Cocktail Lab” and learn about the new techniques that are transforming life behind the stick.
There are numerous wine books you may want to consider. One of the foundational texts is in a new 25th anniversary edition: “Adventures on the Wine Route” by Kermit Lynch may remind wine lovers of the moment when passion first bloomed.
Jon Bonne’s “The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste” is a valentine to California producers who yearn to generate the same kind of ardor that Lynch engenders in his profiles of great French winemakers.
If your gift recipient wants to peer behind the winemaking curtain then go no further than Clark Smith’s “Postmodern Winemaking: Rethinking the Modern Science of an Ancient Craft.”
Wait. There’s an even geekier tome: “Wine Grapes” by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz. This is indispensable for any wine fanatic.
But if, like me, you’d rather have wine, there’s a few bottles I can suggest: Banfi’s Rosso di Montalcino 2010 is another of the remarkable examples of how Tuscan wines are amongst the most consistent wines from a region that was once dreadfully inconsistent.
Italy’s white wines are just as admirable: Scarpetta (the brainchild of Boulder, Colorado’s Frasca restaurant team) has two white wines your friends will likely find delicious. The Pinot Grigio 2011 and their Friulano Bianco 2011 have texture as well as fruit; the wines are bigger than they seem. And that’s a pretty good description of what we all want our gifts to be.
Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of master sommelier and master of wine. He contributes a monthly wine column for The Star’s Food section.