Tom's blog

Santa had better be nice

It's not me who should be nice. That is Santa's responsibility. I've been doing good things all year and damn if I'm going to accept some cheap bottle of Cheap Wine for Christmas. What about you? Have you dropped any hints or are you just throwing yourself to well-intended family members who will wrap another bottle of Menage a Trois?

Buying for the family wine snob isn't easy and it may be safer to just buy the guy some golf balls or a gift card at Home Depot. But if you endeavor to step bravely into the world of wine buying, I offer 5 suggestions.

1. Don't buy just any wine There are a ton of wines -- not all of them expensive -- that say "unique." Don't go anywhere near chardonnay or merlot, but instead consider alternative grape varieties that will intrigue your gift recipient. I'm thinking godello from Sicily, muller thurgau from Austria, cabernet franc from Chinon. Think emerging wine countries: Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia.

2. Think about the talked-about wines. Duckhorn's Three Palm Vineyards Merlot was the number one wine in the world in Wine Spectator's annual challenge. It will cost you nearly $100, though. Or think of David Phinney's new blends that draw grapes from an entire country, i.e. "F" is a blend of French grapes, "E" is for Spain, etc. They will cost under $25. 

3. Think local. I dread to recommend this because there are some crazy peach wines from obscure wineries. But, still, most people ignore some of the great wines produced in states like New York, Texas and Virginia.  Chosen carefully, they will be a pleasant adventure.

4. Think outside the wine box. Most people would love a bottle of port to wile away a Sunday night around the fire. An ice wine from Canada is incredible, yet most people haven't tried it. There is also sauteurne that can be pricey, madiera, aged sherry, cognac.

5. Think bubbles. A bottle of real champagne -- not prosecco -- is a luxury and a timely gift to ring in the new year. You can now get champagne for under $50 from producers such as Pommery, Nicolas Feuillatte, Moet & Chandon and others.

If you don't want to buy wine or can't very well ship it across the country, turn a page and look at a good book. My favorite this year is "Cork Dorks" by Bianca Bosker. And there are other practical gifts: a Languiole corkscrew, a Riedel decanter, an aereator.

I have more suggestions in my column on another page. Keep checking back.

I hope this helps. Good luck!