Not too many years ago, I had what is still referred to in my family as the "Christmas of the Rack" -- an entire holiday season where I inexplicably received a ton of very odd wine storage units. There were racks shaped like stars and guitars, racks meant for hanging and stacking, racks so bizarre and forcibly whimsical they could only have been created for the SkyMall catalog. Each gift-giver meant well, of course, but the Parade of Strange Racks taught me one thing: People love to give wine geeks some very weird gear.
In honor of the gnarliest shopping day of the year, we've gathered some of the worst wine-related gifts, and have balanced them out with some never-fail replacements. If you're a Black Friday gladiator, headed to bed before sunset so you can get in line before sunrise, take note -- with this list, you can find the right gifts (and avoid the wrong ones) for every wine lover in your life. Bonus: You can snag most of these items in the kitchen and housewares departments while your fellow hardcore shoppers throw down over the last of the discounted televisions.
Better yet, all of these gifts can be sourced online. Break out the remaining turkey and get a jump on your Christmas chores without risking a fistfight in the parking lot of a Bed, Bath & Beyond.
The only way to make a tie -– the iconic lame gift –- even worse is to find one that has wine bottles or labels on it. Steer clear of polyester shirts plastered with grapevines and corkscrews, too.
The Wine Bra
A different sort of wine-related clothing, the wine bra is best as a funny link to pass along to wine drinkers. As a gift, it’s a reminder that you’re the friend who takes gags too far. If you’ve honestly got a loved one with an interest in smuggling booze against their body, consider a flask.
Funny-Shaped Wine Racks
If a wine lover has “wine rack” on their Christmas list, they aren’t talking about one shaped like … anything other than a rack.
Everybody from Ed Hardy to Jeff Dunham has a line of wines targeted to their fans. That makes these gifts appropriate for their fans (judgment withheld), not fans of wine in general. Also: Just say no to Marilyn Merlot.
A wine journal is a great smaller ticket item for someone just getting into wine. Moleskine makes a terrific one in the style of its classic notebooks, complete with tagged sections for different wine categories, and plenty of space for tasting notes.
An easy, go-to wine accessory. There are lovely decanters at every price point; they’re lovely to look at, simple to acquire, and useful at every level of wine geekery. Serious wine collectors typically have a few (and can stand a few more), and those just getting their feet wet will dig having an item that encourages them to take their obsession to new heights.
Cheese boards, cheese knives, a subscription to Culture magazine -- it’s hard to miss when giving a wine lover something cheese-related.
There's a general terror that accompanies the idea of buying a bottle for someone who’s serious about wine. Move past it. You’ll find plenty of advice here, and don’t be afraid to head to your local wine store and discuss your needs -– and desired price point -– with the staff.