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The best gift is the one you give yourself

122414 FD wine Italy map

This map shows the some of the wine-producing areas of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. There are 20 such administrative regions in the country, each enough to fill an entire vacation.

Christmas is a time for lists and it seems every writer online and in the glossy magazines is anxious to share his or her list of things you need for that perfect gift.

Need? How many people really need another cork puller or wine book or more wine glasses?

Well, all of us, perhaps, although I disagree with the “need” part. Those things and more make welcome gifts, but they certainly aren’t things we can’t live without.

And it’s almost agonizing how much time and money we spend trying to make someone else happy, when that happiness is theirs to make, not ours.

There is one thing you and all wine lovers can do this Christmas and that’s to give yourself the gift of wine in 2015.

It could be education, diving into one of the many fine books covering every topic of wine, from the basics of wine and grapes to insights on winemakers and the regions where wine is made.

One of the best parts of wine travel: Walking and driving the steep hills of Valdobbiadene in  the Veneto region of Italy and getting an education into the difficulties of producing Prosecco DOCG and what makes it a special wine.

One of the best parts of wine travel: Walking and driving the steep hills of Valdobbiadene in the Veneto region of Italy and getting an education into the difficulties of producing Prosecco DOCG and what makes it a special wine.

It could travel, getting to know what it means when someone talks about the “place” from where wine comes. Travel doesn’t have to expensive, although you certainly can make it so.

A long weekend trip to California, Oregon or just around Colorado can teach you a lot about those regions, and by expressing an interest you’ll be surprised how doors may open and how friends you will make.

Or perhaps you can make a visit to one of the Big Three – Italy, Spain and France, each with more than enough to fill your two-week vacation.

Italy, for example, has 20 administrative regions and each of those has wine-producing sub-regions.

Why do the mind-numbing “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Tuscany?” trip? Pick a region or two and focus there.

Find yourself an inexpensive B and B, rent an inexpensive car, and spend a week driving from one vineyard to the next.

Or maybe visit one of the areas you’ve dreamed of, such as Germany, Sicily, Argentina and Chile, the Less-Big Four, and all of which are on my list of places to visit.

Australian and New Zealand not only have great wine and great beaches, they also have friendly natives who speak English, something not to be discounted.

Every major wine region has a tourist association or consortium anxious to assist you with visits to their region.

If you’re hesitant or simply can’t make up your mind, you can have a great time and learn things you might never learn alone by traveling with a tour arranged by a local restaurant or travel agent.

Closer to home, there are many ways to improve your wine knowledge.

Watch for and attend a seminar or two, hang out at wine tastings and go to dinners with winemakers, talk to the wine steward at your favorite store or restaurant, and buddy up to a wine salesperson.

The easiest way is to drink more and different wine, because you have to pop a lot of corks to learn what you like and why. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a wine you’re not familiar with, to take notes and read the notes of those who have more experience than you.

Wine education is a great gift to give and it comes in many forms, most of them enjoyable. But like any education it takes a bit of effort. That’s effort with an “F,” as in fun.

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