COLUMN: Give the gift of wine this Christmas

Indulge wine columnist John Schreiner gives some tips and advice when it comes to buying gifts for wine lovers.

At this time of year – the holiday season – some of the most popular gifts are bottles of wine, or articles related to wine. Let me share some ideas.

Choosing a wine is easy if you know wines and if you know what the recipient likes. If not, don’t hesitate to get advice from the staff in any good wine store. For example, Everything Wine has experienced tasters on staff who can help you select good wines within your budget.

What should you spend on wine for a gift? I would suggest $15 to $25 a bottle; more if the recipient knows something about wines. Hester Creek Character wines (red or white) and Road 13’s Honest John wines (red, white and rosé) at $20 are among great values from the Okanagan.

If you want to impress with an imported red, consider a Luigi Bosca Malbec ($20) from Argentina, or D’Arenberg Footbolt McLaren Vale Shiraz ($24) from Australia.

If the recipient is a favourite relative from whom you might get an inheritance, consider splurging on Champagne, such as Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve at $70.

Recommendations like these also work as a hostess gift for a party, although I would spend less on sparkling wine. Dr. Loosen Sparkling Riesling, from Germany, at $19, is just as festive.

I don’t advise taking homemade wine as a hostess gift unless to the home of another home vintner. I know that suggestion will irritate owners of U-Brew stores, but while some amateur winemakers are very good, others are not. And the gift can come back to embarrass you. I was once a home winemaker and, early into that hobby, I took a bottle of my wine to a dinner party, where the wine was not opened. (That is usually what happens.) Several years later, at a dinner with the same host, my wine was served blind and I was challenged to comment on it. Let’s just say that the wine could have been worse.

You can always give wine accessories as a gift. Check the website of a Kerrisdale store called Call the Kettle Black. Among other items, they sell what is called “Screwpull Activ.Ball Wine Opener ($31), which extracts the cork easily while also shedding the cork from the screw. Indigo/Chapters stores also sell many wine accessories.

Stemware makes a good gift because one always needs to replace or upgrade wine glasses. Eight to 10-ounce crystal glasses in the standard Bordeaux shape are good all-round choices. If you can afford them, the top-of-the-line glasses are made by Riedel in Austria. But I have been happy with more basic stemware you can find in most houseware stores in boxes of four or six, for $20 or $30 a box.

This has not been a strong year for new wine books. However, if I may do some self-promotion, may I suggest the recently-released fifth edition of John Schreiner’s Okanagan Wine Tour Guide?

Still just $20 – and $15 at Indigo – this 430-page book profiles close to 175 wineries. It is just the thing for friends who visit the Okanagan wineries every year.

John Schreiner is one of Canada’s best-known wine writers with 15 books published since 1984. Contact John at goodgrog@shaw.ca

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