Since I have a lot of wine lovers to shop for this year - some new to the wine world, some professional - I thought I'd put together a list of shopping ideas.
I worked as a fine-dining waiter for 9 years, and this style of corkscrew is the best. It is easy to take on a picnic and thanks to the double-lever hinge it makes opening wine at home a breeze. This is for those who think the rabbit style is too bulky. Example.
The simpler the better. No base. No handle. No stopper.
Bottle Ring or Collar
A great stocking stuffer; especially for those with too many bottle stoppers! These collars make it so that wine will never again drip from the mouth of the bottle and down the side. Fun and cheap. Examples.
Wine Breather or Aerator
This is just fun: You instantly get to taste the transformation that a wine undergoes when it breathes. Instead of waiting 45 minutes, the wine is ready to drink immediately. Example 1 and Example 2.
Here are some good deals from Puglia, the region of Italy that I specialize in.
Cantele: Great wines for $10-$15 that can be found almost everywhere. I highly recommend the Salice Salentino, the Primitivo, and the Negroamaro.
Taurino: Great wines for $12-$22 that are available almost everywhere. The Salice Salentino is great for the novice, while the Notapanaro is great for everyone. This latter wine is a fine wine at a ridiculous price. Here are some tips for where to find it around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Pairing Zinfandel and Primitivo: If your wine lover particularly enjoys Zinfandel, I recommend buying a bottle of Zinfandel and a bottle of Primitivo (the Italian name for Zinfandel) so that he or she can compare the two. While the wines will feature the same grape, they are drastically different due to difference in growing conditions and local wine-making philosophies. Most Primitivos from Puglia run between $12-$25. Because their availability is rather unpredictable, I suggest asking for local wine guy for the best bottle.
Best Wine Book:
The Wine Bible, by Karen MacNeil
Though published in 2001, the book is still relevant today. MacNeil does not focus on specific vintages, but gives a very down to earth perspective on wine. She covers it all and manages to keep it interesting from page 1 to 904. Amazon's.
There are more magazines than I have time to write about, but here are some of the best:
One Year: $49.95
With a highly respected point system, Wine Spectator is a great magazine for those who like to collect wine. Articles are usually engaging and informative but can sometimes be less than entertaining.
One Year: $99
Robert Parker's magazine, the Wine Advocate is for those who share his tastes, or those who like to find up and coming, inexpensive wines, just 1.25 seconds before the rest of the world. Some great deals, but not a good magazine for those who like photographs and travel stories.
One Year: $29.95
I really like this magazine. It's articles are more entertaining, "cool," and even irreverent than most, and it also provides you with some great deals.