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Published: Tuesday, 12/5/2000

Wine lovers will like these seasonal gifts

It's not too late to look through wine lists, the essentials of a reliable cellar, and the accoutrements of wine serving to find just the right gift for the wine lover among your relatives, friends, or business associates. Here are some ideas.

First, an always welcome gift is a bottle or two of fine wine itself. This has the added advantage that you can find an appropriate bottle in a range of prices, from, say, $15 to well more than $100. Don't worry that the person may prefer a bordeaux to a burgundy - a dichotomy as inborn as blue eyes or brown - but he won't dismiss a '97 Clos de Tart from Morey-St-Denis, for example, one of the great towns of Burgundy's Cote d'Or.

Much the same can be said of red wine or white. From Burgundy, a '96 Montrachet - not just any, but Le Montrachet - is as precious in its own way, and as costly, as a prized '95 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild from Bordeaux, one white, one red.

Where you might use a bit of caution is to stick to familiar varieties: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, riesling, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, zinfandel, and cabernet franc. A tempranillo, a malbec, or a gavi may not yet have made a niche for itself in the recipient's heart.

Don't overlook the awe you'll evoke (and the 10 per cent case discount most shops offer) by giving the happy donee not just a single more-or-less costly bottle, but a whole case of, say, velvet smooth '99 reserve chardonnay from Clos du Bois or Gallo of Sonoma's lucious '96 cabernet sauvignon.

Champagne is always impressive, whether it be the real thing from France or a California sparkler, maybe in a package with two flutes, the tall, narrow glasses which show off sparkling wines at its best.

Riedel is a widely available brand of delicate crystal glasses in various sizes and shapes for specific wines, from very costly ($70) to relatively less ($25). Much less impressive but practical are Libbey all-purpose wine glasses in packages from four to three dozen.

Ever-useful corkscrews in a variety of designs and styles are just one item in a staggering collection of wine-related devices and decorations offered on the Internet. A fairly comprehensive sample of what's to be found is in a catalog called Wine Jazz. You can summon it up and select at your leisure at www.winejazz.com.

Then there are books - not the cocktail table albums, but texts with ample information - for beginners and veterans. Novices will profit by Master Sommelier Andrea Immer's Great Wines Made Simple, an easy read ($25), while the 2001 edition of Hugh Johnson's Pocket Encyclopedia of Wine ($13.95) will likely become a wine veteran's favorite shopping companion, and the just-published Wine Spectator's Ultimate Guide to Buying Wine ($30) his or her fireside reference.

Robert Kirtland is The Blade's wine critic.

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