by The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr
Enjoying wine was once a simple experience of uncorking a bottle and pouring it into a goblet that mysteriously seemed to work fine no matter what its shape. But as wine became more popular, there have been clever people inventing a better mousetrap. A glass for every grape variety, battery-powered corkscrews, carafes to let the wine breathe, aerators, preservation systems and coolers – there is always one more accessory you have to have.
Last week, we offered suggestions of wines to bring to a party, buy for a host or to put underneath the Christmas tree for the wine enthusiast in the family. Unlike ties and sweaters, wine is a good fit for most people. But not every gift has to be an expensive wine.
Here are some alternatives to a bottle of wine:
Our favorite gift to give this year is the Huski Wine Cooler ($70). Not only is it attractive, but it doesn’t need to be first chilled in the refrigerator. It won’t cool wines but it will hold their temperatures for six hours. Take a bottle out of the refrig or wine cellar and you won’t have to worry about the wine warming up. We’ve bought several these as gifts. Available on Amazon.
If someone in the family or friend circle has old wines in his cellar, he will cherish the Durand wine opener ($145). It’s an improvement to the ah so wine opener that forces two blades down the side of the cork. The Durand is a no-fail, two-part system that removes the most fragile corks. We’ve seen it in use on several 40-year-old bottles and never did it break a cork.
“Wine Lover’s Bucket List” by Simon Woolf ($37). The author has 1,000 adventures he wants to share for people looking to hit the wine trail. From festivals to biking tours in Europe, Woolf entertains and informs.
“Wine Folly: Magnum Edition” by Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack ($20) is a perfect “next step” for people looking to learn more about wine. Very easy to understand and insightful.
“On California – From Napa to Nebbiolo...Wine Tales from the Golden State” (Academie du Vin Library, $45) by the late Steven Spurrier. This collection of best works by one of the world’s most respected wine writers, “On California” showcases past, present and future stories of California wine told by international wine writers. Elaine Chukan Brown writes about drought and fire. Clare Tooley explains why there would be no winemaking in California without the Pacific Ocean. Elin McCoy explains the difference between Napa and Sonoma County. We have thoroughly enjoyed this book in the last week.
If you’re into games and wine, consider “Sommify,” a board game invented by sommeliers in training for their Level II exam. Players bring a bottle of wine from an approved list and the other players guess the grape and country of origin.
The Tribella wine aerator ($40), an attractive device that fits into the neck of the bottle and deposits the wine into a glass through three stainless-steel tubes. Made by a small family-owned business in Portland, Oregon, the device is drip-free and easy to clean. It’s available on Amazon or at William and Sonoma.
The Repour Wine Saver ($10 for a 4-pack) was invented by a scientist. Unlike other preservation devices, the Repour does not displace the air trapped in an open bottle. The Repour eliminates oxygen through material inside the stopper – metals that sacrificially rust from oxygen and thus spare the wine.
You can get multiple uses from one of these, but there is no warning when they are exhausted. Never leave one out of a bottle after it is used because it will just suck the oxygen out of your room until it dies.
RePear is supposedly a scientific drink mix, including dihydromyricetin, that helps the body recover from hangovers. It’s available for $5 a pack or $35 for a box of eight packs at www.RepearDrink.com.
An option is not to drink so much.
For 12 years Gerard Bertrand worked alongside his father, Georges, at the Villemajou Estate in Corbieres. His father died in an accident and Gerard retired from his rugby career to take over the reins. From his father he learned the art of blending, a common practice in this part of France, and today Bertrand has 16 estates in Languedoc-Roussillon.
We recently tasted several of his wines during a Zoom program with Andreas Larsson, judged to be the 2007 Best Sommelier by the Association de la Sommellerie Internationale.
Domaine de l’Aigle Chardonnay Limoux 2020 ($35). You get a lot of Burgundy for the price in this impressive bottle of chardonnay. With chalky soils and cool nights, the wine has a mineral component and fresh acidity with apricot and white peach notes. A nice hint of hazelnut and toasted coconut too.
Chateau L’Hospitalet Grand Vin Red La Clape 2018 ($45). Generous tropical fruit aromas with pear and apple notes, hints of flint and citrus.
Cigalus White Pays d’Oc 2018 ($45). Chardonnay is blended with viognier for the aromas and sauvignon blanc for the acidity in this unique wine. Ripe grapefruit and peach flavors, silky finish.
Domaine de l’Aigle Pinot Noir Haute Valee de l’Aude 2019 ($35). Cloaked in a burgundian style, this pinot noir is driven by new oak and has aging potential. Cherry and raspberry flavors with a hint of spice and clove.
Cigalus Red Pays d’Oc 2018 ($50). It’s hard to categorize this wine because of its variety of grapes: cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, syrah, grenache, caladoc and carignan. The result, though, is a delicious wine dark fruit flavors, soft and fine tannins and dried herbal aromas.
Chateau L’Hospitalet Grand Vin Red La Clape 2018 ($50). Grenache, syrah and mourvedre go into this bold and versatile wine influenced by the nearby Mediterranean Sea. Ripe strawberry and raspberry flavors abound. Full bodied, it can last decades or be enjoyed now.
Pierre Cabernet Franc Cite de Carcassonne 2020 ($15). We really enjoyed this unique wine from a beautiful United Heritage Site in France’s Languedoc region. Matured in concrete tanks, it has fresh but rich red berry flavors, a lingering finish and sumptuous mouthfeel.
Alma Rosa Sta. Rita Hills 2018 ($30). We like the chardonnays from this cool microclimate region of Santa Barbara County. The fog-drenched mornings cool the grapes and provide good acidity. Melon and tropical fruit dominate the aromas with citrus flavors and long finish.