Who needs to blow $1,500 for something no one needs when you have the Wine Curmudgeon holiday wine gift guide 2017?
Premiumization isn’t just about wine these days. It’s about wine gifts, too. How about $95 for a bottle of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, packaged in a gift box shaped like a lipstick, complete with bright red top? Or the $1,500 Plum wine preservation system? It’s so complicated that I can’t figure out what it does or why I need it.
Never fear. That’s why the Wine Curmudgeon is here. As always, my goal is to offer ideas that are tasteful, affordable, and enjoyable. Because who wants to get a set of beer glass wraps made of leather?
This year, my suggestions are mostly wine, but also keep in mind two must-haves for anyone who drinks wine regularly – the Rabbit wine preserver ($10), cheap and effective, and a top-notch waiter’s corkscrew from Murano ($10).
• Jon Bonne’s new book, “Thee New Wine Rules: A Genuinely Helpful Guide to Everything You Need to Know” (Ten Speed Press, $15). This effort continues the former San Francisco Chronicle wine editor’s attempt to remake how we look at wine. It’s not long, but length isn’t the issue. Rather, it’s the 89 “rules” – practical advice instead of the commandments that we have had to endure for generations. And yes, says Bonne, you can drink rose all year long.
• Ridge Lytton Springs 2015 ($40). Dollar for dollar, California’s Ridge may be the best winery in the U.S. The Lytton Springs, one of the winery’s trademark zinfandel blends, shows why – lots of jammy black fruit and sweet oak, but with black pepper, more acidity than the usual flat and flabby zinfandel, and some herbal notes toward the finish. And it’s very young – should last for a decade or more.
• Osborne Pedro Ximenez 1827 ($25): This Spanish sherry is dessert wine even for people who don’t like dessert wine – nutty, raisiny, rich and luscious, and one swallow seems to last forever. It may be difficult to find, but is more than worth the effort and more than a fair value. This is a sister product to a very rare Osborne sherry, which was easily the best I have ever tasted. And this one is almost as good.
• Jose Zuccardi Malbec 2013 ($45): Argentina’s Zuccardi may be best known for its terrific cheap wine, including some classic $10 roses. This red, which includes a little cabernet sauvignon, takes the winery in a much different direction. It’s part of a decade-long effort to do for malbec what the Italians have done for sangiovese blends – call it a Super Mendoza. It’s not for all tastes – bigger and bolder than I expected. But the winemaking is impeccable.
• Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc 2014 ($28): This California white wine is made with two grapes rarely used in the U.S., so it’s worthwhile just for that. That it comes from the talented Randall Grahm is another reason to buy it. And that it offers quality – a little pear fruit, some bright acidity – is a third reason.