Books and bottles of wine are popular Christmas gifts, equally appropriate for beloved friends and totally unfamiliar office mates. But there's no reason gift-givers should have to choose between the two categories: A few recently released wine books make even better presents when packaged with wines that reflect the authors' theses.
"The Wine Curmudgeon's Guide to Cheap Wine." By Jeff Siegel. Vintage Noir. 121 pages. $12.95.
A Dallas-based wine writer and longtime champion of drinking local wine, Jeff Siegel sets out to reassure and inspire anxious drinkers with a concise statement of his wine philosophy, which has more to do with pleasure than penny-pinching. He writes, "It's about tasting wine, remembering what you tasted and then tasting more wine" - a process facilitated by affordable wine. Siegel explains how wine prices are determined, why cost isn't always a good indicator of quality and how drinkers can find the best cheap bottle in a wine shop.
So what pairs well with a discussion of wine economics and appreciation? Siegel suggests the following:
Segura Viudas, cavas
Bogle, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc ("A grocery store wine that has never let me down," Siegel adds.)
Falesco Vitiano Umbria, Italian red blend
"The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That." By Richard Betts. Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 22 pages. $19.99.
Richard Betts recently swung through Charleston to promote his new board book, which was designed to help wine neophytes get used to using their noses. Beyond the wine world (and sometimes within it), wine descriptors are a source of never-ending amusement: How can anyone replicate the smells of jelly doughnuts and burned carrots by putting grape juice in a wooden barrel? Betts, the ninth person to pass the Court of Master Sommeliers exam on the first try, partially validates the skepticism by reducing wine aromas to fruit, wood, earth and others. But he also combats it by getting readers to smell deeply.
Although Betts wasn't available to select wines for gift packaging, he surely wouldn't mind if you bought a bottle of his wine: Reviewers have described My Essential Red Wine, a cabernet blend, as "aromatic." Surprise!
"The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste." By Jon Bonne. Ten Speed Press. 304 pages. $35.
If you were in an especially generous mood, you might pair San Francisco Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonne's book with tickets to his Perfectly Paired dinner at the 2014 BB&T Charleston Wine + Food Festival: Bonne is selecting the wines for a $175 Peninsula Grill dinner featuring food by Graham Dailey and Frank Stitt. But he's also scheduled to appear at FIG restaurant with three of the producers featured in his book, which chronicles the upstarts who have successfully challenged California's recently acquired (but deeply entrenched) reputation as a source of big, overripe, industrial wines with lots of alcohol. Bonne is attracted to character and soul, whether in the glass or behind the wheel of a vineyard tractor.
Bonne's book is crammed with names of impressive wines from avant-garde producers, but he recommends gift-givers seek out the following labels:
2011 Matthiasson Napa Valley White, for a wine to match rich Lowcountry seafood.
2011 Copain Tous Ensemble Syrah, as a dense red for the holiday meal.
Arnot-Roberts North Coast Trousseau, as a great light red for next-day brunch, or anytime.
Reach Hanna Raskin at 937-5560.