Merchants say holiday shoppers are expected to spend at least 14 percent less this year because of the down economy. If you have wine lovers on your Christmas shopping list but are stumped for ideas, we have a few suggestions in a variety of price ranges.
• Buy a vineyard. How about their own vineyard? The U.S. dollar still goes a long way in a few places in the world. The Vines of Mendoza offers vineyards in the Uco valley of Argentina. For $60,000 per acre, you get your own vineyard planted to your specifications. The price also includes consultations with a renowned winemaker, irrigation facilities and complete maintenance for the first three years. The Uco Valley is a prime viticulture area in one of the world's prestigious grape-growing locations. Each acre is capable of producing about 2,000 bottles annually of ultra premium wine. This turnkey program is ideal for someone wishing to be an absentee owner with complete crush, bottling facilities, marketing and distribution assistance soon to be available. Home sites are available and a luxury resort and apa is in the works to accommodate owners and guests when they visit their vineyards. Visit vinesofmendoza.com.
• The gift of wine. Every wine lover is happy to receive a bottle or case of wine. The wine professional at your local wine shop can help you select appropriate items. You could put together a case or gift basket with bottles from different countries, or perhaps, each bottle made from a different type of grape. Although not every winery does this, it's now legal for wineries to ship wine to most states. Many of the smaller wineries are taking aggressive action with the current economic situation and are offering discounts and other specials. If you know your wine lover's favorite wine, go to the winery's Web site and see what they might be offering. Wine can range from just a few dollars a bottle to astronomical amounts for rare vintages. If your wine lover wants a case of Chateau Petrus from selected vintages you might be better off with the vineyard above.
• Wine gadgets. Clef-du-vin is a wine gadget that claims to tell you how a wine will age. You dunk it in the wine for a specified length of time, and the wine then purportedly tastes like it will in the specified number of years. We tested the device and it does change the taste of the wine. It's fun to play with at a dinner party or if you're tasting an assortment of wines with friends. How does it work? We haven't a clue. Their Web page contains unsubstantiated murky claims about aromatic compounds and oxidation, but the results are unverifiable. At $75 it's fun, but a bit on the pricey side. Visit clef-du-vin.com.
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• Wine and chocolate. Chocolate can be a great pairing with many wines and can provide an exclamation point for a holiday meal. Big red wines, ports and red dessert wines all go well with chocolate, particularly dark chocolate. Locally, the Chocolat Boutique, 1012 Market St. at Baxter Village, Fort Mill, has imported chocolates, as well as extremely good hand-crafted truffles made on the premises. It's worth a visit. Wine and chocolate can be a good finish to just about any day, especially a hard day of shopping. Reward yourself, you're worth it. Visit chocolatbotique.com.
• Wine and information. The philosopher Machiavelli said the most valuable gift was that of knowledge. Give your friends and relatives the gift of knowledge of what's going on in the Lake Wylie area through a subscription to the Lake Wylie Pilot. At $21 per year, it's a bargain. It also comes with advice on food and wine. To subscribe call, 803-329-4022 or visit lakewyliepilot.com.
Jim and Marie Oskins of Fort Mill live on Lake Wylie and write a monthly column for the Lake Wylie Pilot.