From books to bottles: gifts for wine lovers

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      As I was researching great gifts for wine enthusiasts, I’d pretty much assembled things I’d love to receive myself. I guess that, yes, wine fans would truly enjoy receiving the following holiday cheer, ’cause you’re reading the words of one right now.


      I Taste Red: The Science of Tasting Wine, by Jamie Goode

      Let’s start out with a book for the geekiest of wine geeks on your list, those who are sponges for knowledge and fascinated by every unique aspect of wine. Jamie Goode, the London-based, globally respected wine writer and speaker, looks at wine through a scientific and academic lens in his latest book.

      There are, of course, many ways we examine, enjoy, and articulate the flavour and style of various wines, and he delves deep into many of the components that affect our senses as we taste. How we perceive a wine is the result of numerous factors, from the power of suggestion (“Do you get notes of Granny Smith apples in this one?”) to personal history and opinion of certain grape varieties to how our hydration level affects the astringency of wine on the palate.

      All of this is woven together in a fresh examination of our relationship with the good stuff.


      Master sommelier John Szabo shares his expertise in Volcanic Wines.

      Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power, by John Szabo

      Whether or not one knows much about wine, I think the cool factor of wine made from grapes grown on the slopes of active or dormant volcanoes is pretty obvious, yeah?

      In his latest book, Toronto-based John Szabo, MS (Canada’s first master sommelier), covers a category of wine of which he has long been a fan. Whether we’re talking about the wines made from indigenous grapes of Mount Etna in Sicily or the Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrahs grown in the Red Mountain AVA (American viticultural area) just south of us in Washington state, there’s an obvious fascination here.

      The jury is still out on many aspects of planting vines on volcanic soils: how they drain, how the biological composition of the soil affects ripening, and the long-term business aspect of knowingly planting in an area prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.

      Szabo travels the world, talking to winemakers, growers, and more, presenting his findings with wide-eyed curiosity and some stunning photography, too. Although the subject is somewhat niche, as with Jamie Goode’s I Taste Red (noted above), it’s simply another lens through which to look when reading about wine. You needn’t don a tweed jacket and bifocals to crack it.

      “When it comes right down to it,” Szabo told me by phone, “this is a book written by a wine lover for wine lovers.”

      Perusing the pages certainly transports the reader to wine country, and any book that does that is worth curling up with over a couple of rainy or snowy days. With a glass of wine, of course. Always with a glass of wine.


      Riedel Glassware

      (Available online and local retail stores)

      The glassware manufacturer is known for its varietal-specific series of wineglasses, an assortment of shapes ideally suited for expressing the character of several grape varieties (balloon-shaped Pinot Noir glasses versus narrow, taller Riesling glasses, for example).

      Due to space and budget constraints, I’ve always been a fan of the simple 12-pack it offers: four glasses for white wines, four larger ones for red wines, and four that are taller and slimmer for sparkling. Those, or even their “O”-series stemless glasses, do the trick just fine and look mighty smart on the table.

      No matter the shape or style, the glasses offer enough room for a good swirl and for you to get your nose in there. If those you’re shopping for don’t have decent glassware, they’ll be stoked to receive any of these, and for those who like to keep some on hand, I can almost guarantee extras are always appreciated because of that whole thing of drinking plenty of wine (occasionally a bit more than intended) and floors being hard surfaces.

      I usually get mine at Welk’s General Store (3511 Main Street); they almost always have some sort of deal or discount happening.


      Pierre Paillard Les Parcelles Bouzy Grand Cru NV

      (Champagne, France; $119.99/1.5 litre at B.C. Liquor Stores)

      Any wine lover you know will be happy to receive Champagne for Christmas (or their birthday, or on a Wednesday), and there are many reasons this should be the one for them.

      This is a grower’s Champagne from grand cru parcels of land, farmed and crafted by the Paillard family, who have been doing this since 1768. Second, it’s an incredibly toasty, citrusy, nougaty, and delicious blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

      And third, this is a killer deal, particularly because it’s a 1.5-litre magnum, twice the size of a regular bottle. It doesn’t get much more fun than that.

      Now all that has to happen is for someone to please forward this column to my wife...