What is more ubiquitous this holiday season than countless electronic versions of your favorite Christmas carols?
How about the equally untold recommendations for your "perfect" Christmas wine?
In case it's of interest, a recent Google search for "selecting Christmas wines" yielded 9.03 million results in .61 seconds.
I found everything from wine deals to wine clubs to assurances I will pick my "holiday wines like a pro."
A pro what? A pro wrestler?
As in, trust me, where can you go wrong?
Maybe it's best we don't tell you all that you might find if you dare to look.
How about a set of "Ugly Christmas Sweater" wine bottle covers complete with Santa Hat bottle toppers, or a Wacky Legs Mrs. Claus bottle topper, or 12 ways to re-use wine bottles for Christmas decorations?
And who can resist the DIY handbook of making Christmas crafts ("beyond easy") with used wine corks?
Well, I can, for one.
There are some sensible gifts for Christmas. The first that comes to mind, given the crowd with which I occasionally tip a glass or two, is better wine glasses, or stemware, as they are known.
You can run the gamut here from functional (Libbey, $20 for four) to super-premium and super-cool (Zalto and Riedel, from around $55 and up).
What's the difference? Well, for your typical Christmas and Thanksgiving crowd ("I drink wine only on the holidays when it's served at someone else's house"), a set of basic wine glasses will do.
Millions of gallons of wine have been drunk from all sorts of containers and the only negative might be a hangover or two.
A friend is adamant about drinking her wine from a jelly jar (this is reflective of her choices of wine), and hasn't yet succumbed to any mysterious diseases.
But glasses can make a difference if your interest in wine is greater than it being simply an alcohol transport system.
So why the many options in wine glasses?
You'll notice all wine glasses share several traits: A stem to hold it, a bowl that's wider at the bottom and a small (or nonexistent) rim.
The stem keeps your hands off the bowl, since hands tend to change the serving temperature of the wine and leave fingerprints on the clear glass.
The bigger the bowl the easier you can swirl, letting the wine's aromas circulate and become evident.
You'll notice glasses for red wines generally have larger bowls than glasses for white wines.
This is partly true because red wines need more time and more contact with the air to open and release their aromas.
Bowl shape and size is a personal choice, and some well-known wine critics use the same style of glass for all their wine tasting.
Hand-blown (or, more correctly, mouth-blown) glasses tend not to have a rim because of the manufacturing process. No rim means less likely to dribble, and it allows the wine to spread evenly onto your tongue.
The better glass makers have developed wine-specific glasses with the rim and bowl shaped to direct the liquid onto certain parts of the tongue and palate. Related theories hold that certain wines reveal their nuances better in specific sections of the mouth and different glasses have different-sized openings.
Regular glass or crystal?
The difference between crystal and glass is that crystal may contain a certain amount of lead, which strengthens the glass.
Regular glass is lead-free but is thicker, doesn't have crystal's clarity or delicate chime when struck and survives your dishwasher, kids and cats better than crystal.
Lead is used in glass-making because it has a low melting point and thus keeps the glass liquid longer and easier to work with. It also makes the glass stronger, a key component when seeking out the thinnest glass possible.
Some stemware makers (such as Schott Zweisel), aware of concerns about the lead in glassware, now use zinc oxide, barium oxide or potassium oxide in place of lead.
Crystal stemware is known for its sparkle and feel, a certain microscopic roughness because of the crystalline structure not found in polished glass.
Crystal wine glasses also are more expensive than regular glass.
While lead-free wine glasses, such as those by Riedel and Zalto, are
surprisingly durable, they still need special care when being washed.
Hand-washing is recommended for your better stemware. You can use a machine (I am NOT suggesting this, although some restaurants do it), but make sure the glasses are secure and won't bounce around.
Stemless wine glasses are popular today for their casual manner and functionality. The stem, as many a server has learned the hard way, is the most-fragile part of a wine glass and where breakage tends most often to happen.
Plastic stemless wine glasses? Save them for camping.