Magnifique: A trip that includes the Champagne region. Photo: AFP
For my taste, a bottle of top champagne is just dandy under the tree on Christmas Day. The festivities can only get better after that. But if you're after something more unusual or hard to get, possibly strange but fun, perhaps a rare one-off experience, look no further:
$20 and under
The wine decanter fulfils a basic purpose, to aerate a wine, so do you really have to pay big bucks? No. Dan Murphy stores carry a perfectly workable, rather smart-looking 1.5-litre Bar Station glass decanter for $17.90. danmurphys.com.au.
Well matched: Melburnian Clare Burder runs wine and cheese nights for singles.
There are plenty of wine chillers about, but for something fun and simple to use, how about the Corkcicle wine-cooler insert? Just freeze and insert into a bottle of wine. These come in packets of four ($29.95) in vibrant colours. They're kind of silly but fun. Match with a set of four rabbit wine stoppers ($19.95). Available from Matchbox stores.
Wine apps make handy and cheap Kris Kringles. For the wine novice, try Wine101 ($4.49); for the Francophile, check out Wine Encyclopedia France ($6.49); for the more knowledgeable, try The Wine Quiz Book ($1.99); and for a general overview, the AG Wine Guide ($2.99).
The Essential Wine Tasting Guide ($9.95) is a small product with a big world of wine knowledge inside. The ultimate wine primer, the guide was devised by Australian winemaker Glen Green. Available at wine stores or essentialwinetastingguide.com.
A Corkcicle wine-cooler insert.
$50 and under
'Tis the season for bubbles - when is it not? - so the perfect gift for bubbly people is Tyson Stelzer's The Champagne Guide 2014-2015 (Hardie Grant, $39.95). A comprehensive work, the guide provides detailed tasting notes for more than 400 champagnes from 95 houses, from Agrapart to Vilmart. Available from bookstores and tysonstelzer.com.
Not sure how that old bottle of Grange at the back of the wardrobe is doing? Fortunately, the latest edition of Penfolds' The Rewards of Patience ($39.95, Hardie Grant) is now out. This guide looks at the tasting performance of Penfolds' premium whites and reds, including Grange, from the first 1952 vintage onwards. The book details the findings of a series of group tastings headed by Penfolds' senior winemaker, Peter Gago. This is one for the cellar manager or the daydreamer. Available in hardback (or e-book) from bookstores and penfolds.com.
The Champagne Guide 2014-2015.
Show your love of wine proudly and openly by buying a wine T-shirt. ''Fairly Mature'', ''Balanced'', ''Earthy'' and ''Well Red'' are some of the quirky wine messages to be found on United States website mywineshirt.spreadshirt.com. T-shirt prices start at $US28 ($31) plus shipping and handling of about $US12.99 for standard postage to Australia. Or you can have your own wine message printed by uploading your design.
$200 and under
One of the more expensive wine apps going is Jancis Robinson's Complete Wine Course ($109.99), but rest assured you are in good hands with Robinson, the consummate wine professional. The course covers a lot of territory, from wine tasting and grape varieties to winemaking.
Some say that an annual subscription to The World of Fine Wine is a better investment than most wine books. The topics are broader, the stories are beautifully written and the writers are numerous and of stellar quality. Subscriptions start with the printed quarterly magazine for $US169. There are also subscriptions for iPad. worldoffinewine.com
A personal wine course is also a fantastic present. Peter Bourne, aka The Wine Man, runs courses out of a funky warehouse, bar and restaurant space in Danks St, Waterloo, Sydney. Courses for 2014 begin in mid-February and kick off with a two-night wine introductory course for $195. There are also food and wine-matching sessions with four courses by Luke Mangan for $99. peterbourne.com, 9552 2366.
$300 and under
Bubbly Melburnian Clare Burder runs wine-appreciation classes over one night or four weeks, as well as, hot off the presses, a three-week whisky introduction course. She even goes in for a bit of matchmaking with wine and cheese nights for singles. Gift vouchers from thehumbletumbler.com.au
$400 and under
You've got the cellar, but you don't know where everything is or whether it's any good. Help is at hand. Melbourne wine consultant Luke Campbell offers a wine-cellar appraisal that includes an electronic catalogue of your wines with recommendations to drink now, hold on to or liquidate, a written appraisal on the condition of your cellar, a review of storage conditions and more. A two-hour consultancy for up to 350 wines costs $375. Phone Luke Campbell, 0428 540 474, or go to vinified.com.au.
Price is no object
For someone who loves pinot noir, this is the ultimate gift. The Heartbreak Grape winemaking course puts you in the winemaker's seat, taking you through the wine year from pruning your vines to making wine. Melbourne wine educator and former retailer Peter Mitchell heads the course and his students have produced some seriously good pinot noir wines, some going on to win awards. All work is performed on Mornington Peninsula vineyards at selected weekends. The introductory course costs $990 a person. For more information, phone Peter Mitchell, 0419 523 194.
OK, this is big, but I foresee some clever Christmas haggling between partners whereby a joint Christmas present trip to France in time for spring (May 21-31, 2014) seems like a good idea. The 11-day trip is to Champagne, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley and is led by Peter Scudamore-Smith, Master of Wine. Good wine and food guaranteed ($6950 a person). For information, go to the websites uncorkedandcultivated.com.au or email firstname.lastname@example.org.