Top-tier holiday gift ideas — in a bottle.
The easiest and possibly most powerful gift you can give this holiday season is in liquid form. Featured are bubbles for celebrating a special occasion, a glass of port for a cold winter’s night or chocolate-flavored vodka for a sweet treat. By adding food items, you can easily complement your purchases of wines or spirits and create an assortment of gift baskets.
For instance, how about crafting an Italian gift basket? A bottle of Antinori’s Villa Toscana red wine from Tuscany can be combined with a wedge of taleggio or Parmesan cheese from LaDonna’s Fancy Foods, a log of hard salami from the grocery store or any gourmet food shop and an upscale screwpull wine opener from Williams-Sonoma.
Any bottle of wine can be matched with an assortment of cheeses, crackers and bread.
- Champagne comes only from the Champagne region of France. Made anywhere else, it is called sparkling wine. You pay more for real champagne; however, the recipient will know he or she has received the real McCoy and treasure it even more. To me, rosé champagne is more festive around the holidays. It is made by either adding a little red wine to already-made champagne (or sparkling wine) or letting the juice from freshly picked Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier grapes soak with their skins to extract natural pink color into the juice (called the Saignee method).
- Tawny port with a 10-, 20-, 30- or 40-year designation is much more special than simple tawny port. A 10-year-old tawny port means that it is a blend of different vintages, with the blend’s average years “in wood” (oak barrels) stated on the label. Port goes well with chocolate, nut and caramel desserts (and blue cheese), and has a place in any home to which you gift it.
- Finally, chocolate-flavored vodka. So good, you can drink it straight, on the rocks or mixed in a cocktail, such as a chocotini (chocolate martini). According to my friend Tom Williams at Three Palms Wine and Spirits, people who try the 360 Double Chocolate Vodka say it’s “totally awesome.”
*Wine columnist Randa Warren is a Certified Master Sommelier; Certified Wine Educator; has earned a Diploma of Wine and Spirits, granted through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust in England; and is a Certified Specialist of Spirits.
Three Olives Chocolate Vodka — $19.99
This chocolate-decadence-meets-vodka treat is made with vodka from England infused with creamy chocolate flavors. Whether you drink this straight up, mix it with Baileys or Tia Maria, or blend it with vanilla ice cream and Kahlua, you will have a new addiction in your life.
Santa’s favorite nightcap
Taylor Fladgate 10-year-old Tawny Porto, Portugal — $31.99
This tawny port is easy to drink and will make any dessert laced with chocolate a hundred times better. Try it with a few bites of Bavarian blue cheese or Irish Cashel blue cheese and you’ll be shocked at how the port and cheese balance each other. A wonderful gift would be a bottle of port, a wedge of blue cheese and a dark chocolate candy bar with sea salt and almonds.
Don’t burst this bubble
Nicolas Feuillatte Rosé Champagne, France — $42.99
This is one of the most reasonably priced rosé champagnes in our market and rivals the taste of more expensive selections. It is dry, refreshing and loaded with juicy flavors of raspberries, strawberries and cranberries. The common yeasty character found in champagnes is prevalent. The only problem? One bottle is not enough.