Some wine-related gift suggestions for this holiday season.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers December 17, 2008
A grape-bunch patterned tie or a Santa shaped bottle stopper may not be the best choice for the wine lovers on this year’s gift list. Here are some alternatives.
A bottle of Port is always appreciated. The finest, and most expensive, are the Vintage Ports from Portugal’s Douro Valley. Upon release, these big, muscular brutes can require up to 20 years of additional aging to reach their peak. More immediately accessible and far less expensive are the Late Bottle Vintage (LBV) Ports. They have basically the same rich structure as the Vintage Ports, but are softer in style because of several more years of barrel aging. Excellent examples are raspberry-scented Taylor Fladgate LBV Port 2001 ($24) and the blackberry- and dark cherry-flavored Fonseca LBV Port 2001 ($23).
California’s Prager Winery and Port Works, a family owned affair, has been creating its version of fortified wines since 1980. It produces several different types including a White Port from Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon-based Tawny Port. Prager also makes a more traditional Port from estate-grown Portuguese varietals, but its flagship wine, Royal Escort Paladini Vineyard Port 2004 ($65) is made from 100 percent Petite Sirah. Well balanced and not as sweet as its European cousins, it has nicely-integrated cooked black cherry, currant and earthy plum flavors that allow it to be enjoyed immediately.
The grapes grown in France’s Charente region do not make very good wine. But when double-distilled in the region’s traditional copper alembic still, the resulting “eaux de vie” is blended into the intensely aromatic Cognac. There are numerous Cognac producers, each with its own house style and multiple different brands. The youngest, designated VS, are aged for two years in limousine oak barrels, while the VSOP are aged for at least four years. An XO Cognac has at least six years of barrel age; some of these bottles can cost several hundred dollars. Many XO Cognacs are excessively woody and hot, but not the floral George Roullet XO Cognac ($65). It is remarkably smooth with delicate vanilla, caramel and spicy oak flavors along with a lingering warm finish.
For the gadget lover, consider the Vinturi Wine Aerator ($40), a clear plastic, teardrop-shaped device that softens tannins and enhances flavors by pulling air into wine as it is poured. It works much faster than a decanter and cleans easily. Another nifty device is the Champagne Xpress bottle opener ($11) that allows removal of the foil, cage and cork from a sparkling wine bottle with one easy motion. The Intelliscanner Wine Collector 300 ($199) is a mini barcode reader that scans the retail bar code to record such data as the name, varietal and vintage. The accompanying software keeps track of the bottles and even suggests the best times to drink the wine. The Vazu ($9) is an expandable colorful plastic sleeve that comes flat but expands to 11 by 6 inches. Designed to be an easy-to-store vase for flowers, the Vazu is also large enough to hold an appropriately sized wine bottle that accompanies a bouquet of flowers for the holiday party hostess.
A gift for a wine lover who also loves to cook is “The Science of Good Food” by David Joachim and Andrew Schloss ($38). Divided into “What It Is,” “What It Does” and “How It Works” sections, the authors provide easily readable explanations of why cooking works the way it does. It is a fine addition to any cook’s library.