Tips for picking the welcome gift of wine

By Jo Burzynska

A lovely bottle of something special is always a welcome gift — Viva picks some of our best buys

Wine - the age-old gift choice. Photos / Supplied, Babiche Martens
Wine - the age-old gift choice. Photos / Supplied, Babiche Martens

BOTTLES

Don't be daunted when buying wine for a buff. If you're unsure, find out what styles they're particularly partial to and solicit the advice of an expert in your local specialist wine store who should be able to find something to suit your budget. For something really special, look for limited releases or larger format, which they are less likely to own, such as these great bottles:

Hunter's Limited Release Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 - $25.90

Spot on for a sauvignon blanc fan, this limited edition from Hunter's was released to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the winery winning Wine of the Show at the prestigious Sunday Times Wine Fair in London. The champion cuvee was its "Fume Blanc", an oak-aged sauvignon blanc which this new release pays homage to in both its label - which is a recreation of the original - and its style, which features some subtle oak that adds spice, toastiness and weight to its elegant palate of gooseberry, lime and mineral.

(From Hunter's cellar door or wine club: hunters.co.nz.)

Squawking Magpie SQM Platinum Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Syrah 2007 - $69

Syrah is one of the most exciting grapes being grown in our vineyards and this is a stunning limited release created to celebrate both 30 years of Squawking Magpie in the Gimblett Gravels sub-region of Hawke's Bay and a decade of working with the variety. Presented in a stylish metallic magpie-adorned bottle, it's a wonderfully aromatic wine, with elegant, supple plum fruit joined by notes of black pepper, leather and liquorice spice. (From Caro's, Scenic Cellars.)

Rockburn "The Art" Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 - $95

Perfect for the lover of local pinot noir on your present list, "The Art" is a one-off release from a great vintage by one of the country's top producers of the variety. A complex, concentrated wine, this superlative pinot from a single hillside vineyard site possesses rich and fresh black cherry fruit combined with notes of peppery spice, hints of thyme and a deep savoury undercurrent. (From Glengarry.)

Mudbrick Vineyard "Velvet" Waiheke Island 2010 - $110

This flagship Waiheke blend of cabernet sauvignon/merlot/syrah is velvet by name and velvet by nature with the voluptuously textured palate of dense dark berry fruits infused with notes of exotic spice and sandalwood framed by ripe tannins. (From Al Dente Wines, Artisan Wines, Prince's Wharf Wines & Spirits, First Glass, Greenhithe Liquor Centre, Waiheke Wine Centre, First Stop Liquor.)


BUBBLES

Champagne Dom Perignon David Lynch Edition 2003 - $199

Wishing you a very eerie Xmas with this limited edition of Moet & Chandon's prestige cuvee whose packaging has been designed by dark film-maker extraordinaire and Twin Peaks director David Lynch. A curtain on the interior of the box housing this top Champagne is raised by a silk ribbon to reveal Lynchian chiaroscuro silhouettes and the iconic Dom Perignon bottle reclad in a marbled metallic livery. Just as delicious in its classic packaging for the more conservatively inclined or when stocks run out. (From Glengarry.)

Veuve Clicquot "Ponsardine" - $79.99

This year Veuve Cliquot has released its Brut NV Yellow Label Champagne in a quirky sardine-style tin accented with undulations down its sides reminiscent of the sea. Its inspiration was taken from the somewhat satirical family symbol of Madame Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin's family coat of arms, which featured a bridge ("pont" in French) beneath a sardine: PON(t)SARDIN(e). Though the packaging might be playful, what's in the bottle is a seriously good drop. (From Glengarry.)

Champagne Bollinger 002 for 007 - $286.50

For the secret agent in your life, there's this dashing James Bond-themed presentation box containing Bollinger's fabulous prestige Grande Annee cuvee from an exceptional vintage. Launched to celebrate the 50th anniversary of 007's appearance on screen and the Bollinger/James Bond partnership, the box is in the shape of a Walther PPK silencer with a lock that opens by aligning the three figures "007" and clicking on the gun logo button. Pow! (From Glengarry, Caro's, New World Victoria Park, New World Remuera, The Fine Wine Delivery Company, La Barrique, Liquor King Ponsonby, First Glass, Liquorland Forrest Hill, Liquorland Newmarket.)

No1 Family Estate Adele Cuvee 2009 - $125

One of the most glamorous new launches of 2012 is this Swarovski Elements-encrusted new vintage cuvee from No1 Family Estate. Made by Marlborough-based sparkling supremo Daniel Le Brun - whose family has been making French Champagne for 12 generations - in honour of his wife Adele, it's a fresh, dry and refined methode traditionelle, with notes of white peach, lemon, biscuit and nut. (From Glengarry.)


BOOKS

The Juice: Vinous Veritas by Jay McInerney - $39.99

When it comes to wine books, this is one of the most entertaining of the year, written by novelist and wine lover Jay McInerney. The essays in this collection range from a reluctant paean to what we call pinot gris in "Oh no! Not pinot grigio!" to hanging out backstage with the "The rock stars of pinot noir". There's even a chapter on our own Craggy Range. Though fiction sometimes triumphs over factual accuracy - for example, the summary of our industry's past may cause a wine historian to shudder - I forgave McInerney his occasional lapse for his numerous acutely observed and often hilarious narratives that make the wines and characters they cover come so wonderfully alive.

Vinacular: A Wine Lover's A-Z by John Kennedy and John Saker - $25

Penned by local wine scribe John Saker and illustrated by artist, Scott Kennedy, Vinacular is a light-hearted trip through the language of wine. Saker's witty and sometimes poetic aphorisms are given humorous visual form by Kennedy. These start with the "Angels' Share" and end with "Zzzzzzz", the latter which can be induced by a glass of wine according to Saker, but not by this lively little stocking filler.

Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and Jose Vouillamoz - $134-$234

A weighty tome in terms of the gravitas of its authors, its meticulously researched content and the sheer size of the volume, which covers a staggering 1368 grape varieties. It's a fascinating reference book for the committed oenophile, covering the varieties' characteristics, where they originated, are currently grown and the web of relationships between them using the latest DNA evidence.

The Winemaker: George Fistonich and the Villa Maria Story by Kerry R Tyack - $45

Just over 50 years ago George Fistonich took over his tiny family winery, Villa Maria, and transformed it into one of the country's largest wine companies. Fistonich remains very much at the helm of the business he still owns and The Winemaker tells his story from the marriage of his parents as new migrants from Dalmatia to the present day. Despite being a book commissioned by the company, it doesn't flinch from covering some of the lows, such as when Villa Maria went into receivership in the mid-80s. A good read for anyone interested in the history of the New Zealand wine industry or the business of wine. (Random House.)


BOXES

Invivo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 box - $29.99

The latest ultra-vibrant sauvignon blanc release from Invivo, with its notes of succulent gooseberry fruit, punchy herb, jalapeno and zesty lime augmented for the Christmas market by its release in a striking limited edition, hand-painted wooden box. (From Glengarry.)

Spy Valley Museum Release Envoy Riesling 6-pack - $175

Riesling is an intriguing wine to watch age, with the opportunity to do just that provided by this mini-vertical of Spy Valley's impressive sweeter low-alcohol style reserve "Envoy" riesling. The pack includes two bottles each of the 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages, with the 2008 starting to develop mature riesling's classic toasty notes, while the 2010 still exhibits its fresh fruity and floral characters. (Freight free from spyvalleywine.co.nz.)

Red Wine Lovers Box - $75

A well-put together wine and food hamper that pairs a bottle of Lake Hayes Pinot Noir, with Inspired Parmesan Biscuits and Pear and Apply Chutney; Lowry Peaks Quince Paste and Te Mata Fig and Almond Salami. Its recipient just has to add their own cheese. (From Farro Fresh.)

Red Wine Party Glasses - $40

Austrian glassmaker Riedel's "Magnum" glass is designed to maximise the appreciation of the wine it contains. One of the best all-purpose pieces of stemware, it's now used for judging in numerous wine shows, making this special two-pack a great gift for a wine enthusiast. (From Glengarry.)


BEYOND WINE

Ardbeg Glass Pack - $89.99

An earthy smoky single malt for those with a penchant for the peaty style of Islay whisky. This 10-year-old from the highly respected Ardberg distillery comes boxed with a branded Ardberg whisky glass. (From leading whisky specialists such as House of Whiskey, The Whisky Shop, Whisky Galore.)

Three Boys Gift Box - $25

New Zealand's dynamic craft beer scene is starting to make waves even beyond our shores. This delicious duo plus glass from Christchurch's excellent Three Boys Brewery just has to cross the Cook Strait to transport drinkers to beervana. You can choose which two beers go in the pack: my picks are the richly flavoured Oyster Stout - brewed with real Bluff oysters - and its punchy hop-driven IPA. (From threeboysbrewery.co.nz.)

- NZ Herald

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