You’re rushing out the door, late for a Christmas party, and you still have to stop by the wine shop to pick up a gift. Sound familiar?
You know your intended gift recipient likes wine (who doesn’t, right?) but as you stare blankly at rows upon rows of wine bottles you realize you have no idea what wine to buy.
How to choose a wine
First of all, try to recall the sorts of wine they might like. Your boss is a big Italian wine buff? Aunt and uncle recently took a trip to Burgundy? Friends at the mom-‘n-tot playgroup spent two summers ago cycling in the Loire Valley? These are things that will help – at the very least they indicate an interest in these areas and most likely their wines. If your lucky recipient isn’t a traveller, think about food they like or restaurants they frequent and pick wines that fit with that cuisine.
During my time at the retail level of the wine business, I realized that most gift givers have a budget in mind, but dread looking too “frugal” in the eyes of the father-in-law, boss or party host. Good wines can be found at almost any price point, but it gets hard to find noteworthy gems that I would be proud to serve under $15. Not impossible, but it’s difficult.
Under $15? Really?
The good news is that most styles of wine or regions of note produce good examples of their wines in the $15 to $30 range and this is a good place to pick out pleasant, somewhat complex and possibly terroir-driven examples of wine suitable for gifting. If you have a higher budget and are looking for wines in the $100 or more range, consider getting two or more bottles in the neighbourhood of $50 or so. You can still get good wines that have the potential to age, but are also going to drink well now. The added bonus is that the recipient will be more likely to actually drink your gift while they still remember who gave it to them.
What to buy
Spain, France, Chile, Argentina and Australia. In the $15 range of wines, most likely, you will be looking for wines from countries known for producing good value wines. Sparkling wines from Spain, Valpolicella from Italy and reds from Australia are worth trying.
California, Canada (both Niagara Peninsula and Okanagan Valley), Italy, South Africa and New Zealand. In and around $25, wines are a little more focused on quality rather than quantity. Wines at this price are also coming from more specific regions such as Tuscany, Marlborough and California. Certain places such as Ctes du Rhne and the Loire in France also start to provide excellent value.
$35 to $50 Range
Napa Valley, Sonoma, Bordeaux, Germany, Champagne, Piedmont, the Douro and many others stand out in this price range. Sparkling wine from Champagne, both table and fortified wine from the Douro in Portugal, Barolos and top-shelf wines from South America are good bets here.
$50 to $85 and Beyond
The doors are wide open here so look for premium wines from California, high-end wines from Burgundy, big Italian offerings and start searching for cult wines from the southern hemisphere.
If you still have absolutely no idea what sort of wine to get, follow these simple tips.
Final tips on giving wine
The wine should look good on the shelf. Avoid critter wines with cutesy animals on the label. By avoiding such trends, you won’t be guaranteed the wine in the bottle is any good, but at least it will look classy, just like you.
Get a gift bag. Presentation is everything and a brown paper or plastic grocery bag just looks cheap.
And finally, ask for help. The people that work in wine shops are there for a reason.