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Joy to the World, My Wine Has Come: Holiday Drinking Gift Guide

Barrels at City Winery in New York. The venue offers wine classes and custom winemaking, as well as food and live music. Photographer: Alex Baldwin/City Winery via Bloomberg
Barrels at City Winery in New York. The venue offers wine classes and custom winemaking, as well as food and live music. Photographer: Alex Baldwin/City Winery via Bloomberg

Dec. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Booze-related presents are fun. From books to bottles, here are a few selections that can satisfy even last minute gift-giving needs for everyone on your list.

Whisky Snob: “The World Atlas of Whisky” (Mitchell Beazley/Octopus Books, $34.99). The book breaks up each of the 350 whiskies into flavor camps like ‘fragrant and floral’ or ‘smoky and peaty’. Written by award-winning author Dave Broom, lush color photos, detailed regional maps and flow charts tell you everything you’d ever want to know.

While this book is certainly a stellar stand-alone gift, a bottle of the ‘water of life’ would be appropriate for sipping while perusing.

I have a relationship with the Isle of Skye in Scotland so Talisker 10-year old is my go-to whisky. Who doesn’t love bonfires and pork rind on the nose with a dry, peppery finish! ($59.99, available worldwide. Prices vary depending on location.)

Riedel, the Austrian company that pioneered wine-specific glassware, makes a sexy, hand-blown, lead-crystal whisky glass on a short stem. It was created with input from master Scottish distillers and the $74 glass will probably please a single malt snob. (Available worldwide on, and Williams-Sonoma in the United States.)

Cost-Conscious Drinker: “The Wine Trials 2011” ($14.95), billed as “the world’s bestselling guide to inexpensive wines,” offers 175 wines at less than $15. The list was created by blind taste tests, pitting bottles costing $50 and more against cheaper selections.

Instructions for setting up your own tastings are given in “Chapter 9: Drinking Games for Adults.” The comparison that comes up most often in the book is Domaine Ste. Michelle Cuvee Brut ($12) and Dom Perignon ($150, even with the Andy Warhol special-edition packaging). A couple of brown lunch bags to hide the goodies and you’ve got a party, no matter which bubbly comes out on top.

Aspirational Drinker: Speaking of comparisons, City Winery in Manhattan offers a five-session class on Old World vs. New World wines. The next course starts January 28 and each class includes tastings of four wines and a family-style dinner with two more wines. ($55 for one class, $225 for all five classes.)

The term ‘barrel ownership’ has a certain je ne sais quoi. Imagine the excitement your loved one will feel when 21 cases of custom-made wine lands at the door 18 months after crushing, de-stemming, pressing, fermenting and bottling. Joy to the world!

Prices for winemaking at City Winery range from $6,500 for sauvignon blanc to $8,500 for a pinot noir Bacigalupi grape from Russian River Valley. Wine made from prime cabernet sauvignon grapes from Napa Valley cost about $12,000 per barrel.

A seated position probably makes a big difference when tasting your opus. Barrelly Made It has created a barstool made from reused wine barrels ($450). Each hand-made stool is signed and numbered and can be shipped anywhere in the U.S.

Techie: Medea Vodka makes a $39.95 bottle with a programmable LED on the label. The ticker display is so bright my pal at the office said, “You can even see this bottle under the bed!”

Six lines with 255 characters each show scrollable messages like “keep your grubby paws off my booze.”

Understandably, this year Medea won a Double Gold Award for packaging at the San Francisco World Spirits competition.

Couch Potato: Dom Joly’s Happy Hour ($31, in PAL format only) follows Brit comedian Joly and his best mate Pete traveling the world to research attitudes to alcohol. In the video, first released in 2007, the crazy duo gets tanked in places like New Orleans, Prague, and Mumbai. The camerawork is beautiful and montages are hilarious.

(Catherine Smith writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer on the story: Catherine Smith in New York

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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