By Todd Ashline. from The Honolulu Advertiser, Raise a Glass, December 16, 2009
Just before the holidays, guests at Chef Mavro start to ask me for gift advice for wine lovers. Of course, a solid idea is always a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant with a personal note recalling a wine pairing you enjoyed.
Here are some of my best ideas for the food and wine lovers in your life.
First, books. Most of them aren’t too expensive, and they will get tons of use. Wine books are perfect for the inquisitive and the experimental types. Some of my favorites are: “The New Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia” “Red, White and Drunk All Over,” and “The Oxford Companion to Wine.” Pocket wine guides can be a good gift too.
Wine paraphernalia and accessories are always welcome gifts, and there are numerous choices: tags to mark individual glasses at parties and wine tastings; aerators to help a wine open up faster; boards, coasters, and trivets made from corks; wine refrigerators; electric corkscrews; wine buckets — the list is endless. Wine preserver systems, pumps and sprays are nice for those who like to save a little wine for another day.
Wine glasses are another great gift idea for the wine enthusiast. You can buy different types of glasses for just about every different type of wine. Then, of course, there are glasses for beer, martinis, sake, scotch and bourbon, and snifters for brandy. Some wine glasses are even supposed to help the wine breathe and open up faster, too. Wine glasses range from those that hold a few ounces to some that will hold more than a full-size bottle if you are really thirsty.
Decanters make nice gifts, and you can get a wine basket or cradle to accompany it. Decanters are used to separate the wine from its sediment, and also to help a wine aerate and open up faster. They are generally used for big red wines, old red wines, or tight, full-bodied whites. They can also be used to display a nice cognac or scotch. They range in style from simple square boxes to little roundish vases to elaborate “duck” decanters. With any decanter, a good cleaning kit would be a nice addition as well.
Then there is the ever-handy wine bag or wine carrier. Some come with insulation to keep those precious bottles at the right temperature when you are transporting them, and wheels to save your back and arms carrying heavy bottles. You can find them in single-bottle totes and multi-bottle pull-behinds, and most are under $100.
This leads us to maybe the best gift yet: wine. How can you go wrong with a bottle of wine or spirits for those special friends and family members? Pick up their favorite wine or spirits in a local retail store, or ask the professionals there for some advice on introducing your loved ones to something new and exciting. During the holidays, I usually leave the everyday bottle on the shelf and opt for something a little different or more special. You can never go wrong with a little bubbly around the holidays, either.
A few wines I’ve seen around town are:
• Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau 2009. This wine is seasonal, released in mid-November. The grapes are picked, fermented, bottled, and shipped within a few months so the wine is extremely fresh and fruity, with juicy berries, a nice wine for brunches or earlier in the day, and it’s under $15 a bottle.
• Charles Heidsieck Brut Non Vintage Champagne. This is a fuller-bodied style of champagne , with green apple, toast, lemon and minerality for about $60. For a splurge, try a vintage “Champagne Charlie” from Charles Heidsieck.
• Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac. It’s aged 10 years and a great cognac for the money, smooth with nice floral notes, orange and citrus flavors and finishes with vanilla. It retails for around $50 a bottle.
Todd Ashline is director/sommelier of Chef Mavro restaurant. www.chefmavro.com; 944-4714.