Lifestyle & opinion

Last-minute gift ideas: A bottle and a book for wine lovers and cooks

In my view you can’t go wrong with gifts of books and bottles! If you’re still looking for some gift ideas - or treats for your own bookshelves and wine racks - the following suggestions may help to tick the last few presents off the list.

Marcel Orford Williams with Andrew Jefford
Buyer Marcel Orford-Williams with Andrew at his book launch in London!

I often give bottles and books as gifts – what can give more pleasure than a good book to read or recipe book to inspire, especially when paired with a delicious glass of something? The books below, all recent releases, are from writers whose work has graced the pages of this website and print publications in the past. So, if you have wine lovers and keen cooks to buy for, these books will most definitely appeal.  

Sorry we can’t provide the books (and suggest you get orders in for these pronto), but we can offer free UK delivery for even just one bottle, but equally, do not delay! The suggested bottle pairings below are just my ideas of suitable accompaniments, you may have other ideas. 

Drinking with the Valkyries: Writings on Wine

By Andrew Jefford 

Drinking with the Valkyries

Widely recognised as one of the wine world’s finest writers, Andrew is also a wine judge, tutor, tour guide and presenter. His latest book is a collection of his essays, articles and opinions from half a century of learning, thinking and communicating about wine. His writing is evocative and thought-provoking and would appeal not only to the wine curious, but also to lovers of words, poetry and philosophical musings. 

One of the pieces he wrote for us, describing the herb-scented hills around his adopted Languedoc home, prompted a Wine Society member to contact us during lockdown to say it had brought her to tears. Stranded in England, unable to return to her home in the Minervois, she said she could smell the wild thyme and picture the view from her own kitchen window, after reading Andrew’s article.  

The first chapter of the book starts, ‘A glass of wine poured at the end of the day, quietly surrendering its scents and stories: we know no moment quite like this. Daylight is going or gone, and with it the obligation to work, to act and to analyse; that glass guides us towards ease, imagination and emotion, all of them proper to darkness, and a fitting prelude to sleep.’ It sets you up for the joys in store, almost inviting you to settle down with a glass of something suitably contemplative to lose yourself in a fascinating chapter on the history of wine. But you could dip into this book at any point and find yourself drawn into Jefford’s world with his beautifully wrought discussions on a wide variety of thought-provoking topics. 

Published by the Académie du Vin Library, the book is available in hardback from their website at a special price for Wine Society members. Enter the code: WINESOCIETY at the checkout to receive a £5 discount. Please place orders for UK delivery by 19th December. 

What to drink with it?

What better wines to accompany this book than those that Andrew himself chose from The Wine Society to serve at his book launch? Louis Barruol’s excellent-value, syrah-dominated Côtes-du-Rhône, Saint Cosme 2020 and Andrew’s local white, the ever-popular Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine Félines Jourdan 2021.

Join us for an online event with Andrew Jefford

We’re delighted to have set up an online event with Andrew in the New Year, so why not book yourself an evening to look forward to in the company of Andrew and Anna Spooner of our Tastings team. 

Find out more

MEZCLA: Recipes to excite

By Ixta Belfrage 

Mezcla Ixta Belfrage

Guest food writer in our autumn 1874 magazine (find her pork meatballs with roast tomatoes and whipped ricotta and her porcini and roast pepper lasagne recipes in our Food & Wine pages), Ixta’s first book has already won many plaudits. Her cooking is highly original in style, drawing on the influences of the countries she travelled to and grew up in as child. Her mother is Brazilian, her grandfather lived in Mexico and her father, the late Nicolas Belfrage MW, was an Italian wine expert, importer and author. The family rented part of the Grati family’s villa in Tuscany where Ixta moved to when she was three. These experiences, Ixta says, set her on a course to become the food-obsessed person she is today. 

Ixta Belfrage

Ixta started out working in Ottolenghi’s NOPI restaurant before moving to his, now famous, Test Kitchen. She co-authored the best-selling FLAVOUR with Ottolenghi and now has a regular column in The Guardian. We were thrilled to work with Ixta as her father was a great friend and supporter of The Wine Society, writing several articles for us on Italian wine over the years (read his Clarifying Chianti article) and, of course, the Grati family have been supplying us with The Society’s Chianti Rùfina for many years. 

Mezcla, means mix/blend/infusion in Spanish, and sums up Ixta’s highly creative approach and joyful mix of ingredients beautifully. 

What to drink with it?

Naturally, it has to be Ixta’s Tuscan childhood and the wines of the Grati family to match with this inspirational cookbook. 

Red Sauce Brown Sauce: A British Breakfast Odyssey 

By Felicity Cloake

Red Sauce Brown Sauce

Felicity has contributed so many delicious recipes for us, including some excellent alternative festive dishes (browse our Food & Wine pages) and is the author of several books and columnist for The Guardian and the New Statesman. Anyone who enjoyed her book One More Croissant For The Road will, I’m sure, get equal pleasure from her latest book which sees her cycling around Britain in search of the ultimate Great British breakfast. You also get glimpses of regional specialities along the way, all delivered with gusto and relish (sorry!). This is as much a travel book as a food fest and Felicity’s style is effortless, and often laugh-out-loud funny. 

What to drink with it?

With a book about cycling around the British Isles, the wine ought to come from our shores too and while I can’t imagine Felicity would have wanted the extra weight of a sparkling wine bottle in her panniers, I’m sure she’d approve of toasting yourself having mastered the perfect poached egg with a glass of The Society’s Exhibition English Sparkling Wine from Ridgeview! 

Recommended for you


By Georgina Hayden


Georgina has also written for our 1874 magazine (see her ‘Fresh take on France’ and spring chicken fricassee recipes). As well as being a food writer, she is also a presenter – you may have seen her on Saturday Kitchen or Sunday Brunch? Her delightful new recipe book, Nistisima won Observer Food Monthly’s Cookbook of the Year. It’s an original concept for a book; the word means ‘fasting food’ – the dishes served during Lent by those of the Orthodox Christian faith. Largely these are dishes that avoid meat and dairy, so are great for those looking for vegan recipes. Drawing on her own Greek-Cypriot roots as well as cooking from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and other cultures around the Mediterranean that go in for nistisima, these are recipes that burst with flavour and colour. 

Georgina Hayden

What to drink with it?

With Georgina’s Greek roots, it has to be something Hellenic, and at this time of year, what could be more welcome than a dessert muscat from the birthplace of Pythagoras? Samos Anthemis would be equally delicious with Christmas pud as it would be alongside those wonderful-looking blood oranges on the cover of Georgina’s book. 

>Find more gift ideas in our Christmas shop 

>Explore more recipes in Food & Wine 

Joanna Goodman

Senior Editor

Joanna Goodman

Part of our Marketing Team for over 30 years, Jo has been editor of Society News for much of that time as well as contributing to our many other communications.

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