The holidays always present the problem of finding presents for people you love. Not for the wine lover, however. There is always yet another good but unknown bottle of wine to impress friends with, or a new wine glass, or just a glass you know someone would love but doesn't yet have. Above all else wineglasses are useful gifts. Not only will they will be enjoyed and used for years in some cases, but giving a good wine glass to a friend can even help elevate his or her appreciation of wine forever.
Although there are other wine glasses that look good, overall there is nothing that compares with the best series of Riedel glasses ever made, the Sommeliers series. However, for a more modest sum I would recommend the Riedel Vinum series, which I have used in every restaurant I have ever worked in.
Beyond the merely utilitarian or hedonistic gift, every year there is an emotional or spiritual reason to drink something that honors or commemorates a special person
If you want a fun party "glass" that won't break by the pool or on the lawn in a season when people can run barefoot outdoors, then try Govino, which makes stemless Bordeaux-style, tulip-shaped tasting glasses out of a food quality polymer. They can be reused, but they should be hand washed, and they are recyclable. Decanters also make impressive gifts, especially the recent creations of the younger generation of the Riedel family. Maximilian Riedel's Amadeus, Eve, Cornetto, Swan and "O" Magnum are beautiful and functional. And as another piece of advice, if you or your friends want to read about wine and friendship, learn about the camaraderie of the sommelier profession, and discover from insiders how to select wine, you must absolutely get Rajat Parr and Jordan McKay's new book, Secrets of the Sommeliers (Random House, 2010).
Beyond the merely utilitarian or hedonistic gift, every year there is an emotional or spiritual reason to drink something that honors or commemorates a special person or event. If there is someone in your life who has turned 21 this year, for example, it isn't too late to end the year with a celebration of wines. This year my family will be celebrating my daughter's 21st year, when she returns from college for winter break. So it will mean drinking wines from 1989. The vintage of 1989 from many of the best regions in Europe has held up very well. Only California had a bit of a problem with wet and cool weather in 1989.
If you can't find this or another older, mature vintage, or prefer something a little less costly to improve the holiday meal, the more recent vintage of 2007 in the Northern Rhone is very good, and the 2005 has some outstanding wines, although the Grenache-based 2007 wines of the Southern Rhone are better than the 2005s. Bordeaux has 2005 and 2001, and, starting to drink well now, the 2000. Out of Italy there are great wines from the Piedmont 2004 vintage available: Gaja, Vietti, Aldo Conterno, Giacosa, Clerico, and Sandrone.