5 gifts perfect for your favorite wine lover
Choices abound for holiday gifts for wine enthusiasts. So act now while there’s still time to pick a gift to match every taste in wine. Consider the following, and then enjoy an affordable, versatile red burgundy with holiday meals:
• Casual, occasional drinkers and card-carrying connoisseurs alike will enjoy wine writer Karen MacNeil’s ”2019 A Year of Good Wine Calendar” (Workman Press; around $9.99 online). This “page-a-day” desktop calendar delivers diverse wine buying tips, fun facts about wine regions, suggestions on wine and food pairings, thought-provoking wine quotations wine and mind-teasing quizzes. Each day of the new year, the lucky enthusiast who receives this gift will think of you while enjoying a brief, but entertaining wine interlude.
• Certified wine educator Jim Laughren offers fun tips on ways to enjoy the fermented grape in “50 Ways To Love Wine More” (Crosstown Publishing; $25.00 online). Don’t be put off by his first suggestion to “Saber A Bottle of Champagne.” It’s a dangerous stunt rather than a practical skill. But as a wine educator, the author turns this esoteric party trick into a “teachable” chapter on Champagne’s history before revealing the “magic” behind the stunt. The book’s remaining vignettes offer advice on topics such as starting a tasting group, throwing a wine dinner, appreciating terroir, creating useful “wine country charts,” taking wine classes and thinking philosophically about wine. Laughren writes without a whiff of pretense, so his positive guidance becomes a convincing roadmap to enhanced appreciation for the gift of wine.
• Anthony Bourdain, the late globe-trotting chef turned author and television raconteur, helped put Montreal’s Joe Beef restaurant on the global gastronomic map. The restaurant’s reservation waiting list now extends over two months. But in reading “Joe Beef Surviving The Apocalypse—Another Cookbook of Sorts” (Knopf; $20 online), all the attention and adulation become secondary to the main interests of the restaurant co-founders Frédéric Morin and David McMillan and their co-author, Meredith Erickson.
Instead they focus on how to “shut out the noise” of social media and the chaos of modern times. They also share their own ideas on “how to build things for your yourself” and “how to make it on your own.” All the while they keep in mind the “Grateful Dead” philosophy: “Be kind.” In the authors’ case, it extends to their guests, the restaurant staff, and their readers.
The volume’s 158 recipes for mind-bending, yet pragmatic dishes include “VGE Consommé,” “Pot-au-Feu D’Hiver (Winter),” “Burnt-End Bourguignon” and “Lobster Pelmeni” — a type of lobster-filled pierogi that Pittsburgh readers doubtlessly will appreciate.
During an extended “Interlude,” McMillian discusses wine at Joe Beef and its sister restaurants, Liverpool House and Le Vin Papillon. Each place features a chalkboard with a hand-written list prominent in “natural wines,” i.e., wines made from organically grown fruit fermented and bottled with minimal intervention. French and Qu é bec wines make the lists along with bottles from lesser known terroirs in the Canary Islands, Sicily and Italy. It provides a valuable, idiosyncratic point of reference for every wine enthusiast to contemplate, perhaps while enjoying a glass or two of vino.
• In “What Makes A Wine Worth Drinking” (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt; $16.51 online), wine importer and writer Terry Theise initially tackles his profound topic with a clear, straight forward response: a worthwhile wine must be “…honest and authentic. That and nothing more.” He stays true to this clarity even while the book shares heartful, personal meanderings through Theise’s life in wine. It calls to mind jazz great Thelonious Monk’s memorable virtuosity in his 1969 solo recording of “’Round Midnight.”
After declaring the song’s haunting melody in the initial measures, Monk weaves together brilliant improvisational variations with occasional dissonant notes. The extended musical journey eventually reaches a sublime, satisfying conclusion. Theise does the same for wine. His style requires close pondering and perhaps more than one reading, but ultimately Theise’s profound arguments for seeking and enjoying the marvelous pleasures of authentic wines ring true.
• Speaking of authentic wines for holiday meals, look no further than the 2016 Domaine Chofflet Valdenaire, Givry, France (Luxury 74810; $24.99). This red burgundy comes from Pinot Noir grapes grown in the limestone and clay hillsides of the lesser known Côte Chalonnaise region. Winegrower Denis Valdenaire applies treatments to the vines only when necessary. He ferments the fruit naturally and then uses new oak sparingly in aging. The wine offers enchanting black cherry, brown spice and earthiness with refreshing acidity and elegant tannins. Highly Recommended.
Dave DeSimone is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.