Looking for an impressive, big-ticket bottle of wine that is cooler than the well-knowns? [Read more…]
Wine Gift: Heidsieck Champagne
Heidsieck & Co Monopole Blue Top Premiers Crus
When you’re stumped — and pressed for time— about what to get as a gift for the wine lover in your life, the best idea is a bottle of Champagne. Champagne is the epitome of celebration, the exclamation point of a joyous occasion — and therefore a perfect gift.
However, don’t just go out and get any Champagne — get something different, special, rare, memorable. Any fool can walk in and buy a bottle of Dom Perignon … so go out of your way to choose something lesser-known yet highly regarded. A bottle you can’t find just anywhere. A bottle with a story. A bottle like Heidsieck & Co. Blue Top.
This Champagne has nothing to do with Charles Heidsieck, nor Piper-Heidsieck — Heidsieck & Monopole is a completely separate, individual Champagne house, and in fact, has been around since 1785. There’s your story: it’s not what you think it is … but it could be better. Oh, want another bit of trivia to add to the story? Just this year, a bottle of 1907 Heidsieck Monopole was sold for $4200 at the Hart Davis Hart Auction in Chicago. You got that right — forty-two-hundred, for one bottle — the most paid in 2006 for one 750ml bottle of bubbly.
There’s another way to keep this Champagne separated in your mind from the others: its appearance. This “Blue Top” sparkler comes in a striking and distinctive, Corvette-yellow bottle with — you guessed it — a blue top.
But why go to the trouble of finding this particular bottle? Aren’t there plenty of other Champagnes and sparkling wines to choose from, also with good stories? Well, there are. And many are very good. Some are better. But not all are distinctively packaged, and thus you may find yourself staring at a full shelf of lookalike bottles with unpronounceable French names, wondering which one was the bottle recommended by your favorite wine magazine or blogger. Sure, you can’t judge a wine by its bottle any more than a book by its cover, but there’s something to be said for shopping efficiency during the holiday season, and in this case, the screaming yellow bottle contains an appropriately worthwhile wine inside.
This is a dry style of Champagne, so if your gift recipient is into the sweeter sparklers, stay away. Otherwise, dive right in. You will be excited with anticipation the moment the wine is poured into the glass, as it will become charged with an abundance of aggressive, tiny bubbles that develop an immediate, full foam (or mousse, as the French call it). Take a moment to stick your nose in the glass, and you will be rewarded with a clean, citrusy, slightly toasted aroma that also has a hint of mineral. In the mouth, you get very similar flavors as were on the nose, along with a touch of honey and pear, all tightly wound by a stiffly acidic wrapper. It has excellent structure, yet remains elegant and has the perception of being lighter than it really is.
If you always drink sparkling wines alone, you might not understand the acidity — until you start popping hors d’oeuvres in your mouth. The Blue Top is wonderful for the table top, as it pairs perfectly with a variety of appetizers, can match with most fish and white meats, and will temper the heat of a hot and spicy dish. Champagne is not enjoyed with food often enough, and this bottle is as good an excuse as any to break that trend.
I originally discovered this sparkler at a Champagne tasting a few months ago, and found it to be the best of a very competitive bunch — to me it was more enjoyable than several better known, much more expensive Champagnes against which I tasted head-to-head (including two of James Bonds’ favorites). Tasting it again, alone, and with food, it’s still impressive and becoming one of my favorite sparklers.
It may be hard to find, but is well worth the search. Consider it your little secret, and as a gift for the holidays. The recipient will not be disappointed.
Find this wine at a local retailer through Wine-Searcher or Vinquire
Wine Gift: Electric Bottle Opener
This — along with the gas-filled types — is a great gift for a person who enjoys wine but who has a hard time getting the cork out of bottles. Being too weak or coordinated to get a cork out of a bottle is nothing to be ashamed of, and shouldn’t relegate a person to screwtop wines. This nifty electric opener does all the work for you, opening up to 30 bottles in one charge (yes, it’s rechargeable). The fact that it is rechargeable, and therefore does not require the future purchase of gas cartridges, gives it a slight edge over the equally efficient gas-charged openers.
Wine Gift: Wine Record and Label Book
Some folks don’t have their own wine blog, so they write down their wine notes every time they open a great bottle. If you know someone who jots down their wine notes in a regular notebook, then this gift is the ultimate upgrade. It looks fancy, has room for all the details for the wine, and includes a page for pasting in the label. Of course, you’ll want to get a few packs of label savers to throw into the gift box.
Wine Gift: The Original Screwpull
The Rabbit and other me-too’s have been more popular recently, but it all started with the original leverpull by Screwpull. I’ve owned one and been quite happy for almost ten years of rigorous use — it has been through several tastings that required the opening of 200 bottles or more (in one day). I think it is the easiest to use cork extractor on the market, with the only caveat being that every once in a while it will refuse to pull out a cork (sometimes it just takes a second or third jab, once in a while it won’t grab it at all). This particular kit is more giftworthy than the Screwpull on its own, as it comes with a small assortment of useful wine gadgets and is packaged in a nice gift box.