Gifts for wine enthusiasts from newbies to pros

As a budding sommelier, I loved receiving wine-tchotchke gifts. Now, with enough grape-shaped earrings to last a lifetime, I'm happy to receive practical gifts that I use regularly. Maybe your wine lover - from entry-level enthusiasts to certified cork dorks - will enjoy using these gifts as much as I do!

Wine preservation

After cutting open an apple, most folks wrap up the uneaten portion and toss it into the fridge. Treat your open bottles the same way with this wine preservation spray, which floats an inert gas over the wine like a layer of plastic wrap, preventing oxidation. Whether you nurse one bottle over time or have several wines open for tasting, this preserver extends wine freshness for as much as two weeks. Look for Vineyard Fresh or Private Preserve online for about $9.99. To support a South Elgin business, visit ArT Wine Preserver.


How to Bluff Your Way through Wine is my most popular seminar that's a fun and informative introduction for wine newbies and a solid review for seasoned fans. It's held from 6-7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, at The Chopping Block, 4747 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The seminar includes a tasting of five international wines and complementary noshes. $95 per person. To register, visit How to Bluff Your Way Through Wine at

Of course, enjoyment of wine - especially wine with food - is key to wine expertise, so practice, practice, practice! To ring out the Old and welcome the New Year, The Chopping Block and I offer Bubbles & Bites: A Celebratory Food and Wine Pairing, with four of the world's great sparkling styles and a classique Champagne cocktail paired with generous tasting portions. From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday Dec. 29. For complete menu and to register ($95 per person), visit: Bubbles and Bites: A Celebratory Food and Wine Pairing at

Grapes and wines

Nero d'Avola: For a unique stocking stuffer, party gift or your own quiet evening at home, get to know this humble southern Italy grape, equally at home dwelling on a grocery bottom shelf as on a fine Italian restaurant's wine list. Decent versions begin at about $12, but for a few dollars more, look for:

Nero d'Avola, Morgante (Sicily), with velveteen texture and waves of ripe berry, powdered cocoa and exotic spice flavors. Serve with meats, rich pasta and pizza. Both 2020 and 2021 vintages are available at major wine and spirits chains for under $20.

Bordeaux: France's southwest Bordeaux region has piloted the wine world in quality and quantity for centuries, with vineyard notes dating from 4 A.D., world market domination from the 12th to the 20th centuries and modern-day leadership in response to climate change. To taste the original cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc wines that inspired winemakers around the globe, ask your merchant for Bordeaux, including the subregion Pessac-Leognan, which carved a place for itself in this ancient region as recently as 1987. Note that most producers offer red (rouge) and white (blanc) wines; check labels.

Chateau Latour-Martillac Rouge, 2020 (Pessac-Leognan): Saturated flavors of black currants and cherries, licorice and spice accents and pleasingly mouth-gripping tannin, the wine is fleshy and dense. Serve as the classic accompaniment to lamb and other fine red meats. At shops and major chains for about $35.

Chateau Haut-Vigneau Blanc, 2020 (Pessac-Leognan): Direct and vibrant herbality with dynamic mineral accents that define the region's unique flavors. Serve as the classic aperitif and complement to oysters and lighter dishes prepared with herbs. At shops and major chains for about $20.


"The Oxford Companion to Wine, 5th Edition" is an essential tool for serious wine enthusiasts. I passed my Master Sommelier Theory Exam by reading the First Edition's 1,000 pages, from abboccato (medium sweet) to Zweigelt (Austria's red grape). Early editions are available, but hot off the presses, the fifth edition benefits from 100 new contributors and 300 new entries. While comprehensive, the well-written and often fun entries have made "The Oxford Companion to Wine" the favored go-to for students of wine since 1994. About $65.

And for the gift that keeps on giving, find yourself a qualified wine merchant whose job (and most often enjoyment) is to guide you toward the perfect wine to suit your palate and pocketbook. Widely available in our Chicagoland market for free.

• Mary Ross is an Advanced Sommelier (Court of Master Sommeliers), a Certified Wine Educator (Society of Wine Educators) and recipient of the Wine Spectator's "Grand Award of Excellence." Write to her at

Serve Chateau Haut-Vigneau Blanc, 2020 (Pessac-Leognan), as the classic aperitif and complement to oysters and lighter dishes prepared with herbs. Courtesy of William Gladstone Imports
Chateau Latour-Martillac Rouge, 2020 (Pessac-Leognan) is fleshy and dense. Serve it as the classic accompaniment to lamb and other fine red meats. Courtesy of Southern Glazer's Wine & Spirits
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