Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
The simplest answer to the eternal question of what to get your wine-loving best pal for a gift is, of course, a bottle of something. But where’s the originality there? No, the real trick is to find some supremely nifty, never-before-seen, wine-related doodad, so that the recipient will be filled with warm, generous feelings in return - and will immediately open bottle after bottle of grotesquely expensive grand cru Burgundy for you. After all, what’s the holiday season about if not shameless emotional manipulation?
On the other hand, you could splurge on the Spot Not ($13), a flexible tool with a replaceable cloth sleeve that cleans wine glasses - even ultra-fragile ones - quite effectively (we use it in the F&W tasting room). Is it sexy? Not so much. Is it super useful? You bet.
Similarly useful is the Cuisipro Magnetic Spot Scrubber ($12), an excellent tool for cleaning wine decanters, which are, by and large, a pain to clean. One piece goes inside the decanter; the other piece, with a handle, holds it from the outside by means of a strong magnet; and the scrubber’s soft rubber surfaces won’t scratch the glass. (If the object of your affection happens to be decanter-less, then buy them one: The Zalto Mystique ($134) decanter is gorgeous, and particularly good for big, winter-friendly reds.)
Admittedly, all that scrubbing might take a little of the magic out of the wine experience. To reacquaint your loved one with why wine is so alluring, try getting him or her the 25th anniversary edition of the legendary wine importer Kermit Lynch’s "Adventures on the Wine Route" ($28). It’s one of the best wine books out there, part travelogue, part Lynchian opinions on wine, part portraits of great wine producers, and entirely enjoyable. In fact, it’s been something of a banner season for wine books, so why not make your gift a wine book trifecta? Jon Bonné’s "The New California Wine" ($35) is a smart, opinionated look at some of the winemakers challenging what he refers to as the “big flavor” style of California wine, and "The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert" ($18) by Richard Betts may be the best wine-beginner stocking stuffer ever created (plus, it’s very smartly done and really quite informative).
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