My friend Kazuma, whom I met in my NYU wine class last year, gave me a gift of two furoshiki recently. They are traditional, decorative cloths used for wrapping and carrying. They’re popular now in Japan since they are reusable and give you the chance to say goodbye to plastic bags. In fact, the environmental minister made one from fiber of recycled soda bottles to boost awareness of furoshiki. The Ministry even has graphics of suggested foldings!
Kazuma says they can serve as a handy wine tote for two bottles. He sent along this video of him showing how to tie one on, furoshiki style. (If you’re reading this in a feed reader, click here to view.)
Last year at this time, I wrote a post called “Give the gift of big red,” which suggested giving wines big in flavor profile and in heavy bottles. However, since my research into the carbon footprint of wine, I’m reformed. Now I know that magnums (1.5 liters) produce less carbon dioxide emissions per ounce of wine than regular bottles because of the more favorable wine-to-glass ratio.
So this year, here’s a list of impressive magnums that will impress your friends and relatives–and even with the bigger bottle, they’ve got a smaller carbon footprint. Providing they drink it all, of course.
While there are many magnums that are ridiculously priced since they are a favorite of collectors, these are in the realm of reasonable, under $100. All prices are for magnums.
Pierre Peters champagne, $90 (find this wine). This champagne is a “grower champagne,” made by the people who grew the grapes (unlike the big houses who buy grapes from the 10,000 growers in the region). It’s from Mesnil, the home to big names such as Krug and Salon, so the vineyard site is excellent. So is the resulting Champange, a blanc de blancs, which I have served many times this year to guests and once from magnum to a class. Great bling at a fraction of bling price! Magnums are particularly good for aging so feel free to keep it for a few years.
Pepiere, “Granite de Clisson,” Muscadet 2005, $40 (find this wine). This producer is a leading quality in the area where the Loire river meets the sea. The wine is his richest and smoothest thanks to two years of aging but it still has good, zippy acidity to compliment seafood such as oysters. It’s also a doubly green wine because the grapes are hand harvested from an organic vineyard.
Schloss Lieser, Riesling Spatlese, Mosel, 2004, $68 (find this wine). I stumbled on this bottle in a wine shop and couldn’t resist it. The Riesling magnum is long and fluted and towers above other magnums. I served it at a party last weekend and the crowd loved it and had fun pouring from such a long neck. The wine has a whiff of flintiness on the nose but had a beautiful balance of light sweetness and acidity on the palate.
Dard & Ribo, Saint-Joseph, 2005, $68 (find this wine). I almost didn’t get a chance to taste this wine because I served it at a party and the revelers almost finished it off before I got to it. But fortunately I did since the wine inside the magnum is terrific with a great balance of red berry fruit, tannin and acidity. This is also a “double green” wine since it is totally natural and this producer is a staple in the trendy natural wine bars of Paris. It makes an especially good gift for someone named Joseph as I found out at the party where a friend named Joe tried to run away with the bottle.
Niepoort, 1997 vintage port, $65 (find this wine). Vintage port is generally very expensive with recent vintages pushing $100 a bottle. Magnums, however, get a significant discount presumably because nobody can drink that much sweet wine in one sitting. Tip: have a party and serve it at the end with some Stilton and it will be an amazing farewell. Another tip: drink as much as you are able and decant it into a regular sized bottle and recork where it will stay good for a good while longer. Whatever you do with it, the stout bottle is an impressive gift.
Choose your Christmas magnum wisely.
Wine is always a good gift for a wine lover–more on that next week–but so is wine paraphernalia! With almost every catalog now offering some sort of wine accessories, it’s not hard to find stuff. But some of them are cheesy and some of them are expensive. Here are some links to good value gifts.
Brown bagging the hooch! OK, no brown bag, but handsome velvet bags. Have blind tastings at home! May sound uber geeky but it is actually a fun way to sharpen your perceptions of grape varieties or regions. [$19.95 for a set of 5, Amazon]
Have screwpulls: An excellent, super-easy corkscrew that beats many at 10x the price. Go crazy and throw in the $8 foil cutter as well. [$15 or $22.98 with the foil cutter, Amazon]
Kicking glass: well, you probably can’t kick this glass and have it survive, but these “impact resistant” crystal stems from Schott Zwiesel do seem to have nine lives. [$10 each, Amazon]
I can decant: Decanting can help improve some wines, particularly young tannic monsters. But you don’t need to break the bank on a decanter. Although I haven’t tried this specific decanter, I picked up a similar one with clean lines at a wine store earlier this year for $24.95. [$19.99 via Amazon]
Tag it so nobody snags it: “Wine Lines Waterproof Colorful Drink Tag Markers for Parties, Euphemisms for Drunkiness” – come on, with a product name like that on Amazon, what’s not to love?!? Keeping track of your glass at a party can be confusing and the more well known dangling trinkets can be annoying while actually drinking as they clink and slid along the stem. [$6, Amazon]
Tag it again “From the cellar of…” stickers. OK, this could be a little pompous. But throw in some wit and no bottle that you bring to a party will be forgotten whether it is consumed then or by your hosts later. [$0.14 each with an order of 500, victorystore.com]
Take note: The only thing more important than tasting is writing! Oh wait, I guess tasting is still more important. But writing notes is crucial so you can remember where your category “wine” in Quicken went. Steve De Long has a new and original tasting notebook including a “guided” tasting note to get you started down the road of scribbling. [$6.95, De Long Wine]
Savor saver: Can’t finish the bottle in one sitting? Give it more life with a pump from the Vacu Vin stopper. And toss it in the fridge too. [Amazon]
Drinking game: Play Wine Smarts with friends and you will likely bore them or alienate them. But it’s a fun bunch of (sometimes hard) questions that you can use for yourself (wine solitaire?) or your nearest and dearest sommelier friend. Memorize the questions before giving then you will look all the smarter! [$19 via Amazon]
Book it: Oldman’s Guide to Outsmarting Wine has great nuggets of wine info interspersed with–get this–humor! [$12, Amazon]
Georg Riedel, 10th generation Austrian glass-blower, invented the delicate crystal glass designed for each grape variety.
Many wine lovers around the world have cabinets stuffed with complete sets by each varietal. But Riedel continues unabated, subdividing grapes with his just released Oregon pinot noir glass–mere grape no longer suffices as now terroir is overlaid on grape. The logically possible amount of stemware just increased exponentially.
Daniel Zwerdling burst into the wine world like a bull in a decanter shop. His story, “Shattered Myths,” in Gourmet (August 2004 and very, very unfortunately not available online), asserted that Georg was pulling the wool over discerning drinkers eyes: the reason wine in Riedel stems tastes better is not because of a tongue map–it simply tastes better because we believe it should.
So, as we contemplate adding more crystal to our collections and to give as gifts this holiday season, have your say in the latest poll!
poll now closed
I was chatting with a friend over the weekend and he said that one of his co-workers was leaving the company to return home to Sweden. My friend wanted to give his co-worker a gift of three “iconic, American wines,” so he gave him a bottle of Schramsberg reserve 2000, Caymus Special Selection 2004, and Far Niente Chardonnay 2005. A very thoughtful gift, indeed!
Which three wines would you give if you were giving away three-packs of iconic American wines?
With Father’s Day closing in this Sunday, inquiring minds might want to know: what do wine geek dads want as gifts? I polled three wine bloggers who are celebrating their first Father’s Day.
Josh of Pinotblogger: “One thing I’d like to receive for father’s day would be a couple more Riedel wine glasses. I break far more than my fair share. ” [Hmm, maybe Josh should try the impact resistant glasses? -Dr. V]
Lenn of Lenndevours: “My dream present would be: Sherwood House Vineyards a 36-acre vineyard in Mattituck. Cost: a cool $4.1 million. The realistic one: An afternoon in wine country with my wife and son…along with a lunch from Village Cheese Shop and local wines.”
Ah, sounds nice especially since I’ll be in Bordeaux this Sunday away from Mrs. Vino and our son. But if they still wanted to get me some wine related paraphernalia…I’d love a corkscrew that the TSA wouldn’t take away from me when I forget it in my carry-on. But in the event that is not available, I’d settle for the Chateau Laguiole with a handle of red stamina wood (about $129). But I wouldn’t want to sacrifice THAT one to the TSA!
I’m finishing my Ph.D. and my committee advisor has just been appointed the new Dean of Liberal Arts at [name withheld]. I’d like to get him a nice bottle of wine (he loves Spanish wines normally, he travels to Latin America frequently, and is an American history buff) that can be afforded on a grad student budget (~$30). What would you recommend?
Hi Amy, Read more…
It’s not often I retrieve a box from UPS on the doorstep, open it, and dump the contents in the sink. But that’s what I did the other day.
Fortunately it wasn’t wine. Instead it was crystal. Eegad–had I lost all sense with too much Sancerre? No, I was actually trying out some glasses that I purchased called Tritan Forte made by Schott Zwiesel. They claim to be unbreakable, or at least “impact-resistant.”
Granted, I didn’t want to have crystal shards flying around the kitchen so I somewhat wimped out and let one glass fall two or three inches–a height that would have shattered many stems. But this Forte was indeed tres forte and it didn’t even crack thanks to a lead-free crystal that has titanium in it. The best news may have been the price–eight stems for $60 from Wine Enthusiast catalogue (via Amazon has a wider selection). A deep bowl and tapered top makes it sleek, elegant as well as functional.
We decided to put several stems to the test. Heck, now that even Target has a line of Riedel crystal stemware, high quality wine glasses appear poised to be the hot gift for the holidays this year. So we lined up some other contenders for the Forte: Riedel O, Riedel Vinum, and Bottega del Vino. Here at the Dr. Vino world headquarters, we enjoyed the excellent Chateau Cesseras, AOC Minervois La Liviniere, 2001. I’m not sure of the price since it was a gift from a friend who brought it back from the south of France but the wine has an excellent balance, with wonderful aromatics and southern French jamminess.
Starting with the biggest glass, I recently received a press sample of the Bottega del Vino Rosso Burgunder ($48 per stem). Wow. It is the Cadillac Escalade of wine glasses, sparkling and towering over the others. One friend who is 6’7″ loved it christening it “le chalice.”
While I would definitely agree that it is impressive to look at and puts whoever holds it way at the top in the game of ostentatious one-upmanship, I’m not convinced that it’s the best vessel, particularly for everyday use. I found that the aromas dissipated too easily, thanks to the flared rim on the glass. And it looks so brittle that an enthusiastic clinking of glasses during a toast might bring more than good wishes raining down on your companion.
The squat Riedel “O” glass ($19 for 2) looks like a Weeble Wobble for grown-ups. The aromas were better concentrated in this glass than in the Bottega. But without a stem, I got goobery fingerprints all over the bowl and the wine started to warm up in the glass since there was no stem to hold. This glass is not good for cocktail parties therefore–try it while seated at the table if at all to avoid warming up the wine.
The Riedel Vinum Zin/Riesling glass that I use as a frequent red-white crossover vessel in this case provided the excellent results and was the runner up. Not as big a bowl as the other three but it captured the aromas and was goober-free. At $38 for 4 on Amazon, the price was comparable to the Tritan Forte. However, since I have (dangerously) broken many a Riedel stem while hand washing, the Tritan Forte edges it out for apparent durability. It’s an excellent glass for everyday use around the house that doubles as a great gift. I’ll drink to that.