As a writer who works for a wine importer and moonlights pouring bottles at a natural wine bar in Brooklyn (hello, freelance life), I try dozens of wines a week, and often several in a single day. I know what grapes and producers I like, and I buy bottles for myself with reckless abandon (read: with my tips). While I love when friends bring over a special bottle for us to share around the holidays, I already have plenty to go around. Or at least I would, if I could ever find a wine key in my crowded kitchen.
It never occurs to me to buy all the accoutrements that would greatly enhance my wine drinking: my glassware is a chaotic amalgam of shapes and sizes, mostly pocketed—er, collected—from my favorite wine bars, and given that I don’t have enough room in my fridge to store my bottles, I’m guilty of occasionally cooling down my wine with ice. I last did this while working a wine harvest in Alsace, France, and when the winemaker caught me I swore I’d never commit the crime again.
And yet, I still haven’t bought myself a set of wine stones.
Most wine lovers I know are the same way, splurging on bottles instead of proper storage or other practical wine accessories. If you love someone who loves wine, know that the best gifts are things they won’t buy for themselves: Top-notch stemware, books that go deep on pioneering producers, and a centerpiece-worthy decanter are great places to start. For those deeply moved by the giving spirit, a subscription to The Vines—a luxury wine club that whisks members away on intimate, far-flung wine adventures for a casual $25,000 initiation fee—would surely be appreciated by your oenophile pals.I you’re looking for new friends, come by Frog Wine Bar to say hi. Until then, read on to see some of the best gifts for wine lovers you can buy this year.
A Nerdy Wine Book
Having worked on a few vineyards, I can confidently say that wine tastes better when you know the person who makes it. Longtime Food & Wine editor Ray Isle has spent the past several years doing exactly that. His debut book paints intimate portraits of sustainably-minded winemakers from around the world, spanning pioneers of natural wine in Austria to longtime family-run vineyards in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s a tome that will introduce you to your new favorite wines, which of course pair beautifully with the book.
A Luxe Wine Key
The wine lover in your life probably already has a corkscrew or two, but as someone who loses one in their tote bag on a weekly basis, I promise there’s no such thing as having too many wine openers. This wine key—which differs from a bulky, tedious two-armed corkscrew—is compact, elegant, and crafted from durable stainless steel and laminated wood. It’s made by the iconic French brand Château Laguiole, and comes with a chic leather holster for convenient carrying.
A Curated Wine Bundle
Part subscription service, part retailer, buying from The Waves is like having your own natural wine concierge. If you’re unsure which bottles to gift a friend, they’ll make sure it’s not just the thought that counts, but the taste, too. Founded by award-winning somms, the site offers expertly-curated bundles of wines that are free from chemicals and additives. My favorite three-pack is The Wild Bunch, which includes a pét-nat, an orange wine, and a chilled red—a.k.a. the holy trinity of fun, easy-drinking wines. For a gift that keeps on giving, consider springing for their two-, six-, or twelve-bottle monthly subscription.
A Gadget That Keeps Open Wine Fresh For Weeks
If you’re looking to open a bottle of wine but don’t think you’ll finish it, I’d say a) invite me over or b) invest in a Coravin. This revolutionary device keeps wines tasting fresh for up to four weeks, meaning you can serve yourself by-the-glass or even host an at-home tasting with a flight of your favorite wines (again, invite me over!). It’s super straightforward to use: Simply replace the cork or cap with the included Pivot Stopper. When you’re ready to revisit the bottle, insert the Pivot Device, tip the bottle, press the button, and marvel at how good the wine tastes weeks later.
A Customized Wine Tote
If your friend is always the one lugging wine to the party or park picnic, the least you can do is thank them with a tote that will make their life easier. This monogrammed canvas bag fits up to four bottles, and helps to keep them from knocking about thanks to the interior lining. You can personalize the monogram as well as the strap color.
A Custom Wine Label
Corny? Yes. Charming? Also yes. A custom wine label is whatever you want it to be: an earnest celebration of an engagement, a cheeky snapshot of your lover, or a silly selfie of you and your BFF after one too many bottles.
A Wine Fridge
I may not have an age-worthy collection of Bordeaux wines, but I do have a child-sized fridge in my Brooklyn apartment, and playing Tetris with all my groceries and wine bottles was a headache. Springing for a wine cooler has offered me so much space to store my wines, and the split zone makes it easy to set the top and bottom section to different temperatures to suit a variety of wines. Since my kitchen is compact, I use the top of the cooler as extra counter space, decorating it with potted plants and books. Plus, if I ever get desperate or run out of wine (one in the same, I suppose), I could always use it for shoe storage, à la Carrie Bradshaw.
Some Nice Wine Glasses
When it comes to gifting glassware, there are two options: a branded glass from your friend’s favorite wine bar, or this set of elegant tulip glasses from Riedel. Forgo bulbous or ultra-delicate stemware, which takes up too much space and often feels too precious to use. Instead, go for a pretty and practical option that can be used for both red and white wines. I like these because they’re dishwasher-safe, and feel sturdy enough to use with frequency. They’re sleek, but not pretentious.
An Artsy Decanter
Decanters do a great job of separating out sediment from wines while also looking sexy on a dining room table. I like the coiled design of this borosilicate glass one from Wine Enthusiast, which looks like a middle school science experiment gone right. Even friends who don’t enjoy wine will get a kick out of watching grape juice twirl through the double spirals, which serve to decant the wine while oxygenating it, resulting in fuller flavors and aromas.
Look, I’m not going to judge you if you put ice in your wine, but inevitably someone else will. To give your glass that freshly-chilled feeling without risking the side-eye from a French winemaker, opt for a set of stainless steel stones. They cool wine quickly without diluting it or imparting any unwanted flavors.