Here is a list of suggested Christmas presents for the wine lovers in your life. I always find it quite difficult to buy for men so this is particularly good for dads, husbands, sons and brothers. There are also presents to give hosts and hostesses if you are invited somewhere over the Christmas period. Escape the horrors of ‘Black Friday’, the crowds and the stress: what could be easier than simply clicking online to do your shopping?
1) Vin de Constance, 2008 Klein Constantia (50cl) 14% £39. This attractively boxed dessert wine makes a perfect present and has a fascinating history. It was Napoleon’s favourite wine, one of the oldest in South Africa. As part of his confinement by the British on the island of St Helena, an isolated island in the middle of the Atlantic between Africa and South America, he was given a case of vin of Constance every month, which must have provided some succour during his lonely exile.
2) Champagne: Coates and Seely Brut Rosé NV £25. Have you tried English champagne or as some people call it, ‘Britagne’ yet? Why not try it this Christmas? Our native wine industry is coming on leaps and bounds, particularly with this sherbety Hampshire sparkling wine. So take a bottle of this to a drink and nibbles party for something different. This year WineTrust are stocking Nyetimber Classic Cuvée at £22 (a tenner off!) and Henners Brut Reserve at £18 (£4 off the usual price).
3) But if giving as a present, why not accompany the champers with a classy ice bucket? Vintage ones are collectibles, search Amazon for them. Or go for this modern but vintage styled ice bucket at only £14. A pretty glass ice bucket can be found at Drinkstuff.com £21.99
4) A bottle of decent port. 2005 Fonseca Port 20% £14. Again this is boxed already so makes a lovely present. Perfect for the cheeseboard, to take to friends as a warming tipple, it’s the ultimate Christmassy drink – and won’t break the bank.
5) Corkscrew: as a lover of all things French and vintage my favourite corkscrew is the ZigZag which lasts a lifetime. If you visit France, you can often find these at the equivalent of car boot sales, called ‘vide-greniers’ (’empty grain attic’ which sounds a bit posher doesn’t it?). Some corkscrews can be worth a lot of money. I have a friend, an antiques dealer, who specialises in them. The most expensive he sold was worth £7,000! Expect to pay around 35 to 40 euros for an antique ZigZag. You can also buy a new one £30
6) A dessert wine: this is the time of year when it’s a bit grim outside and you are stuck indoors. On the upside you are almost required to have lengthy feasts accompanied by the relevant alcohol. A dessert wine is not something most of us indulge in throughout the year, but at Christmas you are allowed. As such dessert wine is an unusual Christmas present, one definitely appreciated by grandmas, mums, aunts and ladies of a certain age, whose tastebuds may like something a little sweeter. This is a lovely one, 2010 Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine de Cazes 15% £12, which you can have with cheese, dessert or as a little ‘apero’ as the French call the aperitif, the pre-dinner drinks. Bon santé! A Spanish equivalent is Castano Dulce 2011,16% £15. This also goes well with the Christmas pud.
7) And where to keep all that fabulous wine? I rather like this skinny wine cooler, which will fit into the smallest kitchen.
8) Always fancied becoming a wine grower? Start a vineyard in your garden. Quite a few people grow vines in their backyards, I planted one last year in my London garden and got grapes in my first year! (Global warming, bring it on!) Mini vineyard £44.
9) Isabelle Legeron’s wine book ‘Natural Wine’ £14. For those wine buffs that are interested in healthly drinking, with less sulphites and additives in wine, leading, it is claimed, to less of a hangover, do check out Isabelle Legeron’s fascinating book on natural wine. I will be writing more about the differences between natural, organic and biodynamic wine in January’s column. Isabelle, a French MW who resides in the UK, has a TV programme called ‘That crazy French woman’. If crazy means passionate then the cap fits. She is the driving force behind the popularity of natural wine which is quite a controversial subject amongst wine experts. This book is easy to read and beautifully laid out.
10) How about a classic Bordeaux? For traditionalists you can’t do better than a decent grand cru claret such as the 2009 Chateau Dufort Vivens Margaux 13% £35
11) Learning about wine: our own Nick Adams MW teaches the different levels of WSET (wine and spirits education trust) but you can also find courses by heading to their website. Courses run from £145 for level 1 to £400 for level 2 to £1,500 for level 4. You can do these courses on a Saturday, or intensive one day courses, or spread over a few weeks in the evening. I’m in the process of doing the level 2 course and I can vouch for the sheer pleasure of learning and tasting, guided by a wine expert. This is a big present, but one for which the recipient will be forever grateful. For someone you really love.
12) A damn good white wine. Possibly one for the ladies? I know so many women that won’t drink red wine because it stains their teeth and tongues. (I even know girls that drink wine through a straw so that it doesn’t damage their lipstick! Horrors!) You can’t do better than a New Zealand Marlborough such as 2014 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 13.3% £17
13) Another big present, perhaps for the boss? is a Wine Trust 100 starter case £118 You get 12 bottles across a range of recommendations.
14) Finally join our wine club. You can have different levels of membership, platinum or gold, reds or whites or mixed, delivered monthly, bimonthly or quarterly. How lovely would it be to receive a surprise case throughout the year? Treat the wine enthusiast in your life. Costing between £400 per annum to £2,400 a year depending on the type of membership you choose.