It’s that time of year where wine lovers and the people in their lives start to get a little stressed out about gift giving. Friends and family members start to wonder how to decipher the secret language of wine and get the perfect gift, while wine lovers brace in anticipation for all the well meaning but truly awful gifts they will receive. Well lets put that to rest with an easy to use guide to understanding the wine lover in your life.

1) Avoid Wine Knick-Knacks and Accessories

For the most part it is best for everyone involved if you just avoid these altogether. They are a minefield and with few exceptions are just going to take up space in a drawer somewhere. Some of the most common offenders here are Bottle Stoppers, Fancy pour spouts, Aerators, Corkscrews, Wine Charms and many other similar items. Most of these are accessories that are sold but nobody ever really uses or that are so common a wine lover probably already has several. Corkscrews are a separate entity where there are exceptions but for the most part it’s probably safer to avoid these items altogether.

2) Wine

This would seem like a very logical item, but so many people get it wrong or stress unnecessarily about it. If you are buying wine as a gift for a wine lover don’t just walk in and grab the first bottle that you see or that looks cool in a big display. This is about the equivalent to showing up with a gift card, it’s not that you can’t do it, it’s more that it says “I had no clue and didn’t try.”. Almost every Liquor store or major wine boutique will have knowledgeable staff who are more than happy to help you find something unique. In Ontario the product consultants in the vintages section at the LCBO are always more than happy to help you find something cool and unusual. The step of asking for help makes it much less stressful and can make your gift truly stand out and say “I tried.”. Even if it’s not a wine they’re a huge fan of, the effort will stand out and most will appreciate it.

3) Wine Glasses and Decanters

Good glassware isn’t cheap and cheap glassware isn’t good. In general for wine lovers glassware is a highly personal item that they like to pick out, if it’s for a newer wine lover though or a wine lover who has just never bought themselves decent glassware it can be a great gift if you’re prepared to spend a little more. If you know someone likes a particular type of glass then absolutely go for it. If you want to get them their first set of decent wine glasses go with something relatively plain looking but made from thin, high quality materials. The major producers such as Riedel, Spiegelau, and Schott Zwiesel can often be found on special for decent prices if you look around and are truly great glasses. As for decanters you are best to use your judgement of the person, if they already have a ton, it’s probably best to take a miss, if they don’t have one go for it. Decanters are less specific, they come in all shapes and sizes, but unless the person really likes the style, it’s probably best to choose something not overly ornate.

4) Corkscrews and Wine openers

In most cases corkscrews and wine openers fall under the category of knick-knacks. In most cases wine lovers have more corkscrews than they know what to do with or the have a favorite corkscrew thy’re never without. In general, if in doubt don’t buy them a corkscrew. Fortunately this is a category where there is some variation in the possible options. In most cases it’s safe to say to avoid the gadgety corkscrews, they don’t tend to get used much, they’re expensive and usually bulky. The exception to this could be an electric corkscrew for someone who is having difficulty with their hands due to arthritis or other reasons. Another major exception to this rule is if they’re the person that is always losing their corkscrews, in that case it never hurts to have extras around, especially if you get them a good two step waiters corkscrew that they’ll enjoy using.

The main reason for listing corkscrews separate however, is for all of those corkscrews and openers wine lovers would never buy themselves. Like anything you use frequently you often tend to gravitate to something functional, cheap and reliable, corkscrews are no different. The truth is though wine lovers often like to admire some of the truly great corkscrews out there. Some of the higher end corkscrews are great for professionals as well made effective tools, they might be more durable, a bit more heft, maybe a better foil cutter such as those made by Le Creuset. There is also the area of premium corkscrews that border on show pieces, that special item that may or may not be used but will never be tossed in a drawer, an example of this would be the corkscrews made by Laguiole, or even Champagne sabers, they’re items that aren’t functional but have a special quality to them.

5) Wine Tours

With the obvious items out of the way, it’s time to get to the ideas that people forget about. One of the most commonly forgotten ideas is a guided wine tour. For the wine lover out there it’s always great to be able to get out, enjoy wine country and taste some great wines. Whether they go frequently, or have never been there’s always a lot to discover. People often put off going because they aren’t sure where to go, or there’s always the concern about driving. A wine tour can be a special gift for someone, it lets them have a day out doing what they love without having to think or put in any effort. Think of a wine tour as the Wine Lover’s equivalent to a spa day.

6) Wine Club Memberships

Does the wine lover in your life have a favorite winery? Maybe you’ve been to a winery that has wines you absolutely know they’d love? Why not purchase them a gift membership to a wine club? Many wineries offer a monthly or quarterly wine club where the wines are shipped directly to their door based on a theme. It’s the gift that keeps on giving every few months, and who doesn’t love a few surprise bottles of wine every so often. Wine club memberships often come with other perks such as free winery tours or member only event tickets. Take a look at what some of their favorite wineries are offering and set them up with some delicious wines.

All of these ideas should get you thinking and help you navigate the pitfalls associated with buying gifts for a wine lover. As with any gift, sometimes the most important aspect is showing that you put some thought into it. Wine doesn’t have to be complicated, and wine lovers are always happy to talk about wine and offer advice. So get out there, ask questions and see what you can find, and worst comes to worst, they will always appreciate a good wine.