Food & Drink » Food & Wine

Give Booze. It’s Always the Right Size



I haven't had a drop of alcohol in a week. I have pneumonia, and my nightly toddy has been replaced with steroids, antibiotics, and endless rounds of cough syrup.

I'm still thinking about booze, though — when I can keep my eyes open, I've been using my strictly enforced downtime to complete my holiday shopping. In some cases, that means making shopping lists of items like a traditional bottle of Kahlua for a friend, or the de rigueur locally-brewed growlers that I export personally from Memphis to my brother in rural Georgia. In other cases, that means searching virtual store shelves for something that looks truly unique.

If you're a film buff like me, you'll love the labels used by the vineyard Killibinbin, located halfway around the world in Langhorne Creek, South Australia. A few of the bigger liquor stores in town stock Killibinbin Sneaky Shiraz, which was bottled in 2013. The wine inside the bottle tastes fruity and crisp, while the bottle label features a very noir drawing of a dame in a trench coat on the label. Priced at under $15 a bottle, I'd pair it with a Blu-ray of a Hitchcock flick, or a copy of John Huston's 1941 masterpiece The Maltese Falcon. Granted, Sam Spade is more of a whiskey drinker, but the Sneaky Shiraz is still a classy gift.


Along the same lines, a case of Francis Ford Coppola's Director's Cut — either a Chardonnay or a Zinfandel — would make a great gift alongside a box set of The Godfather. "I like to drink wine more than I used to," Vito Corleone sagely noted to his son, Michael, in Coppola's sprawling Mafioso epic. Your lucky recipient can make it through all 539 minutes of the organized crime saga and have a few bottles left over.

Shopping for a world traveler? The black-and-white vineyard maps that grace the bottles of Portuguese imports from Churchill's Estates are so elegant that these bottles don't need wrapping. Churchill's Estates Douro 2012, a peppery red wine, can be procured locally for under $20 per bottle.

Globe trotters might also appreciate a bottle of Boarding Pass, a Spanish Shiraz by R Wines that comes emblazoned with a fun, but no-nonsense blue-and-white label. I've found it on local shelves for just under $20.

Graphic design lovers should seek out the popular Willamette Valley, Oregon, vineyard Mouton Noir. The winery has a great-looking — and tasting — line of reds and whites from the mid-2010s that run between $16 and $42 per bottle. Look for their O.P.P. — Other People's Pinot, an earthy and spicy Pinot Noir with a simple white label slapped on the bottle. It retails for $21, while the winery's Mouton Noir Lieu-dit 2013, which bears a charming, if crudely-rendered, black sheep on the label, sells for $25.

Stroll down any good shop's aisles, and you'll see it all, including bottles bearing blooms, bicycles, birds, and time bombs. Be aware that purchasing a wine by label alone can backfire on you — sometimes the product inside tastes underwhelming in comparison to the kitschy artwork on the outside of the bottle. For under $15, it's worth the experiment. For much more, I recommend deferring to store personnel, who generally excel on solid recommendations at all price points.

In some cases, I'm eschewing labels altogether: For a group of girlfriends, I've purchased Memphis-centric "We Grind Here" foam sleeves from a local purveyor. As soon as I'm well enough to resume my shopping in person, I'll purchase cans of wine (Underwood, at $7/can) to slip inside each koozie. The Grizzlies might not be doing well, but these will make great stocking stuffers, and they're perfect for popping into your purse for an outdoor hang-out. Don't tell Santa, or my doctor, but I went ahead and bought a koozie for myself, too.

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