How to impress a wine lover
November 27, 2007 7:42 AM   Subscribe

What bottle of wine is perfect for my first Christmas with a wine lover?

My boyfriend is a wine connoisseur, and I am basically an uncultured slob in comparison -- I love wine to drink but I don't know nearly as much about it or appreciate it as much as he does. We are coming up on our first Christmas together, and I would like to get him a bottle of wine, and have it engraved.

My question here is twofold: what bottle to get, and what to engrave on it. I want the wine itself to be a Christmas gift (he has quite an extensive (and expensive..) wine collection), not something to actually drink on Christmas, so I am looking for a wine that would make a good gift and be worth drinking on a special occasion years down the road. He prefers whites, specifically rieslings, but appreciates a red as well.

Secondly, what would be an appropriate engraving for a Christmas gift? I don't necessarily want it to be something about him and myself -- if we ever broke up, I would want him to still be able to enjoy this wine some day. I would like it to have more than just his name on it, but I'm at a loss for what would be appropriate and heart-warming. Thus, I turn to you, Hivemind. Thanks in advance for all your help!
posted by srrh to Food & Drink (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't answer the wine question, but I'd urge you to NOT get whatever bottle you choose engraved. I understand why you're thinking about the engraving, and why it seems like a nice idea, but I tend to think that part of giving a gift is allowing the gifted person to dispose of it how they would like. Of course the hope is that they'll simply treasure it, but they may already have what you've chosen, they may choose to pass it on in some way to someone else, etc. I'm always vaguely (but only vaguely since I recognize the beautiful sentiment) peeved when someone inscribes a book that they've chosen for me. I don't put bookplates in my books, and I would prefer that no one else did it for me.

A nice bottle of wine is a great present without any engraving.
posted by OmieWise at 7:48 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Secondly, what would be an appropriate engraving for a Christmas gift?

“Shake well before using. Refrigerate after opening.”

Also, I agree with Omniwise. Might be better to buy him a nice decanter and have that engraved.
posted by bondcliff at 7:50 AM on November 27, 2007

A gift certificate -- or better yet, a surprise outing to a wine shop with carte blanche purchasing up to $X -- would be better. Most wine affs have a pretty good idea of what they'd like to fill their cellars with, and the money to do so would be very appreciated.

Don't put a good bottle of wine through the torture of the engraving process. It shouldn't even be handled unduly.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:55 AM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: I would get him a nice bottle of Ice Wine. It's a fairly uncommon variety of wine (and rather expensive in comparison to more typical wines). It is sweeter than a Riesling, but if he like the latter he should like the former.
posted by oddman at 8:06 AM on November 27, 2007

Oops. almost forgot, you can get Ice Wine made with Riesling grapes. That should be pretty cool treat for a Riesling fan.
posted by oddman at 8:07 AM on November 27, 2007

Why not choose a good bottle (can't help you there), write something on the label then you can use label savers to keep it?
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:09 AM on November 27, 2007

By choosing to give wine to a connoisseur without having deep knowledge in the area yourself, you're setting both of you up for different types of disappointment. The memory of his flinch when he opens the present will linger, and he may resent being stuck with that damn bottle that he can't get rid of without hurting your feelings.

Honor the intent, let go of your first plan, and find something related to give him, such as an engraved set of crystal wine glasses.
posted by dws at 8:15 AM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: Nobody has offered a specific suggestion for a bottle, so I will do so. I can't speak for whites, but if he can appreciate a fine red, I can suggest a few cabernets that will knock the socks off of anybody who truly appreciates wines. These are "legacy" or classic wines, so they aren't exactly obscure, but that's part of the idea: they are famous for their quality, and knowable by name, so giving him one of these will tell him that you did some research before picking one out. They're all in the upper end of the price spectrum, but all are in the typical gift-able range. One of them will fit your budget.

Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon
Duck Horn Vinyards Cabernet Sauvignon
Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon
Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon

A few notes on these wines:
I love cabernet, and these are classy wines. The Jordan and Caymus are huge names in California wine, and you can't go wrong with them on a special occasion. Duck Horn and Stag's Leap are excellent and famous wines. In fact, Stag's Leap is somewhat famous because it is regarded as the wine that put American grapes on the map. In the 1970's an American ex-pat living in France was trying to get the French to take notice of some of the amazing American wines being produced in California, without much success. Knowing that these wines could show up their French counterparts, he devised a brilliant idea: a blind taste test, panelled by some of the most famous wine critics in France, pitting California against France in a head-to-head cabernet match-up. The highest scoring wine on the test: Stag's Leap Cabernet. The French, and the wine world, were/was shocked, and Californian cabernets have been given the respect they deserve ever since.

Another suggestion that doesn't have the legacy reputation, but is comparative in quality, is the Dynamite Cabernet. If you want to get something slightly more obscure but on the same level of quality, go with this one. None of these wines will disappoint or fail to be enjoyed with savor.
posted by baphomet at 8:26 AM on November 27, 2007

Just wanted to chime in -- the ice wine is a terrific idea.
posted by Atom12 at 8:41 AM on November 27, 2007

I agree with most comments above. A nice decanter engraved would be a wonderful gift, or glasses.

If you're dead set on wine however, find a really nice Barolo (you may have to look a bit and they aint cheap) and serve up a good Italian-style meal (not pizza) at the same time. Barolo's are not "table" wines (nor are most Italian wines) so make sure there's some food involved.

Perhaps start with a Dolcetto d'Alba (or d'Asti) and antipasto (or some kind of fatty appetizer) and move to the main course with the Barolo.

Talk to a knowledgable wine merchant and he/she can point you in the right direction. To reiterate, these wines, especially the Barolo, are not cheap. Expect to spend a $100 or so total on wine.
posted by elendil71 at 8:43 AM on November 27, 2007

Penfold's Grange, if you can find it.
posted by grateful at 8:44 AM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Baphomet's suggestions are all great. They're all well made wines and at the top of their category. But they're also fairly common; if you're looking for something more unique, something he is less likely to have in his collection, you need to do slightly more digging. Likewise for the Penfold's Grange. Having sampled several vintages of Grange, I'd say its overpriced, especially the current release.

I can't offer much advice on white wines, but Cayuse makes the best wines in Washington. You won't find any in the store, but has some. They're reasonably priced and will bottle age for the next 5-7 years (or more, depending on the wine).

As for romantic red wines, nothing says "I love you" like Bordeaux.

One piece of information you didn't give us was what sort of price range you're looking in. That may help... Grange is nearly $300 / bottle and the ones Baphomet suggested are all in the $50 to $120 range.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:15 AM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: I think getting the bottle engraved is kind of...gimmicky, sorry. A nice bottle and an engraved decanter would be a lovely gift, though.
posted by desuetude at 9:17 AM on November 27, 2007

It's very very difficult to buy a wine lover wine.

For instance, I've tried a fairly old Penfold's Grange mention above, and didn't think much of it at all, so blowing $300 on a bottle would not be the best gift if I were planning on drinking it, on the other hand, simply owning one would be nice all the same. (I had it at a wine tasting, I didn't buy a full bottle btw!)

The best bet is to find your local independent wine merchant and chat with them, have a look for things like museum release editions of wine, or wine from small vineyards where there are only a few thousand cases available - stuff that is hard to get hold of.

Or, as has been mentioned already, a better option is to get a gift voucher and go shopping together, or even better to a wine tasting event with a promise to buy him a certain amount. - I've never known any of my wine drinking friends (Or myself) to be disappointed with wine vouchers.
posted by paulfreeman at 9:24 AM on November 27, 2007

Some whites I can recommend are Chardonnay from either Chateau Montelena or Cakebread. Rochioli Savignon Blanc is great at about $40.

If you want impressive reislings, go to the wine shop and ask for something from Germany. They make the best ones. American ones are too sweet. I don't drink the stuff, so I can't really recommend a maker.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:26 AM on November 27, 2007

I will say that I second buying a wine and engraving something else. If you happen to go to a tasting and get a bottle signed by the winemaker, that's different.

Furthermore, I disagree about gift certificates. The only time I frown on wine as a gift is when it's cheap grocery store crap. If you're just going to go buy an $11 bottle of mass produced shit, then skip it. If you're going to go buy something nice, paulfreeman's advice about looking for limited availablity wines is good advice.

Zanzibar's Sandra is another one I'd recommend.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:31 AM on November 27, 2007

If you're looking for a white that ages well, your choices will be limited as most varieties of white should be drunk within 5 years or less. For age-worthy, what springs to mind are Champagne, Tokaji Aszú and Savennières.

I have no specific recommendations for particular brands though.
posted by cardboard at 10:11 AM on November 27, 2007

If you are looking for a white, I would recommend Dolce by Far Niente . It's a great late harvest wine. They also have a very expensive Dolce St. Nicholas edition. I wouldn't engrave the bottle because I would be concerned about the bottle being kept at the right temperature while the work was being done. Perhaps the glasses or a really great wine tool.
posted by colt45 at 10:32 AM on November 27, 2007

I'd like to throw my hat in the ring and say that Ice Wine is awful, and no serious wine drinker I've ever talked to enjoys it. An anecdote, however, does not make a trend...

I'd recommend an 05 Bordeaux from any major vineyard. 2005 was a very good year for Bordeaux, and it's a classic lay-it-down style. Prices vary from $50 up to mortgages.

Do go with a nice decanter, however - something crystal with his initials on it is classic and classy.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 11:00 AM on November 27, 2007

Response by poster: OK, I have read what everyone here has to say and I agree with the idea of a bottle of good wine and an engraved decanter -- I'm so glad I came here and had it recommended because I never would have thought of it on my own! As for price range, I am looking for something around $70-100 or so, and I should have said so in my opening question.

As a major wine novice (Yellowtail is my kind of wine, haha), I did not realize that whites generally did not age. He does love reds, especially ports, and has some that are quite old, almost overwhelmingly so when I think about it too much. Decanters are generally used with older red wines, right? I would not want to commit some kind of horrible wine faux pas!

Thank you for all the advice, and please keep it coming!
posted by srrh at 11:11 AM on November 27, 2007

Yes, decanters are used with older wines which need to breathe (which pretty much means just red wines).
But, I don't see any reason why you couldn't give him a bottle of white wine to enjoy and a decanter for his red wines.

I love port wine and the two times I've had Ice Wine I liked it quite a lot. So, I think that bodes well, for my earlier advice. (Glad you liked it.)
posted by oddman at 12:07 PM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: Ports of note:

Justin Obtuse ($30)
Penfold's The Grandfather ($80)
Penfold's The Great Grandfather ($200+)
Yalumba 50 year ($100)
Porto Rocha Three Centuries Port ($100)

The Three Centuries Port makes a good gift. It's expensive enough that most people wouldn't buy it for themselves. It's unique: it's a blend of port from the 1800s, 1900s and 2000s. It's been well reviewed, comes in a wood box and has a unique shape.

I've had the Yalumba and the Three Century and I, personally, like Three Century better. Either would make a fine gift.
posted by jeffamaphone at 12:17 PM on November 27, 2007

I'd like to throw my hat in the ring and say that Ice Wine is awful, and no serious wine drinker I've ever talked to enjoys it. An anecdote, however, does not make a trend...

Seconded. I could enjoy a sorbet made out of it, or having it poured over a sorbet...but that's about it
posted by juv3nal at 12:30 PM on November 27, 2007

Here's an idea for a white wine accoutrement similar to a decanter... I don't know where you'd find it or even what it's called, but its a hollow marble cylinder with a closed bottom into which you insert the bottle. Before that, though, you chill it in a refrigerator. The marble will stay cold for a long time, keeping your wine cold.
posted by muscat at 2:36 PM on November 27, 2007

muscat- It's name is quite pedestrian, these are usually called a wine chiller. It's a less messy alternative to the traditional bucket of ice. These are typically not recommended for champagne, so if he likes to drink a lot of the bubbly stuff I'd skip it, but a nice marble wine chiller is a great idea as a gift to a white lover.

Personally I think that "white wine afficionado" is sort of like "Camel Menthol Light afficionado", but I might just be a cab snob.
posted by baphomet at 3:00 PM on November 27, 2007

A Riesling icewine will keep well (link) and is in your price range. It wouldn't be too hard to find something relatively obscure, that he won't have.
posted by Melinika at 3:06 PM on November 27, 2007

Many serious wine drinkers do indeed love ice-wine, and a great white wine is every bit as interesting as a great red; it's just harder to find.

If your bf likes good German Reislings, he'd probably love a good ice-wine. Just to describe it: it is intensly sweet with a strong floral bouquet. You drink it ice cold as a dessert. I think it's something every good wine-lover should try once in his life. Does he like sweets or liquer?

If he really prefers whites and you want to get something drier, I would suggest a fine white Burgundy. It's very expensive and quite rare, often in the $50-100 range. They tend to have a grassy, mineral flavour that reminds me of a great pear. I absolutely love it.

If you don't want to go middle of the road sweet, Alsatian wines are typically sweet and fruity, but not in a yucky blue-nun way. They're beautifully balanced and absolutely delicious. I prefer dry wines myself, but Alsatian wine can be a real treat.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:06 PM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: As for a good thing to engrave on a glass or decanter:

Goethe wrote: "Das Leben ist zu kurz um schlechten Wein zu trinken"-- life's too short to drink bad wine.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:11 PM on November 27, 2007

"In Vino Veritas"
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:41 PM on November 27, 2007

Best answer: I will second Ice wine, Eiswein, Trockenbeerenauslese, Sauternes or Monbazillac or perhaps Tokaj from Hungary. All wines that can be found in your price range. They are definitely wine drinkers delight and those who think wine has to be red, has not had enough pleasure in their lives (yet). It should be drunk cold and only as dessert wine together with cheese after a good red wine.

A red suggestion could be Calon-Ségur as the label is very romantic. The bottle will age well and most probably be in the suggested price range.
posted by KimG at 8:45 AM on November 28, 2007

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