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How to choose a wine gift

By Andrew Hyman


How to choose a wine gift? Create a book and bottle set which makes the gift more special.  Then, choose a wine education guide along with a bottle of wine.  

Choose a bottle of sparkling wine as your gift. It is festive and comes in an elegant bottle with shiny foil.  Next, provide your host(s) with a wine that you love; he or she will appreciate that you shared the wine that you treat yourself with. And you want to make sure that you also pick wine based on the type of food that he or she likes.

What about pricing?

Go midrange to high-end. It is tempting to purchase a cheap wine for a gift, particularly if you don’t know much about wines. However, cheap wine will taste cheap. That’s not to say that you can’t get a decent wine for a reasonable price. You just don’t want to pick the cheapest wine, especially if you’ve never tasted it yourself. 

It is important to consider who you’re buying the wine for. Buying a very cheap bottle of wine for your boss won’t endear you to him. Similarly, you may not want to buy the cheapest bottle you can find for a close friend (unless you have a habit of drinking cheap wine together).

Additionally, if you’re known as someone who appreciates wine, buying a cheap bottle for someone else can come off as you are underestimating their taste or simply not appreciating them as much. 

Also, how much you spend can depend on the wine. For instance, you can get a very tasty Cotes du Rhône (pronounce it “Coats Do Roan”) for about $15. However, with a Burgundy, you’ll need to spend more to get a better wine, usually upwards of $50. Another relatively cheap option is a Cabernet Sauvignon, as even cheap versions of this wine are fairly decent. For Pinot noir, go for at least a $20 bottle, as anything less won’t be very good. 


The four seasons 

Consider the season. If you don’t know where to start, picking wines by the season is a good bet. You don’t necessarily want the same wines in the summer that you do in the winter. In the summer, you want something lighter, for instance, than you do in winter. 

White wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Riesling are good summer choices. Rose and Merlot are also a good bet. These wines are a bit lighter.

For fall, you want fuller bodied whites, such as oaked Chardonnay or Viognier. You still want a somewhat lighter red wine, so stick with Pinot noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, or a sparkling variety.

During the winter, you can go with heavier wines since you’ll be eating heavier dishes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blend, Syrah, Zinfandel, and Malbec are fine in the reds. For whites, choose oaked Chardonnay. You can also go for a sparkly wine.

In the spring, you want lighter, fruitier wines, such as Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Unoaked Chardonnay, or Rose. You can also choose Riesling, Moscato, or Pinot noir.

Ask questions. If you’re not a wine connoisseur yourself, gazing at a liquor store’s collection of wines can be quite daunting, as you may be faced with hundreds of different bottles of wines. 

If you’re a bit lost, don’t be afraid to ask the person in charge of the wine section for advice. Many will work within your price range to help you find a good, drinkable wine, especially if you can specify a few parameters, such as whether you want a sweet or dry wine. 

Know the person’s tastes. If you’re buying wine as a gift, it’s best to know what the person likes to drink. 

Most wine drinkers have particular tastes; whether they like a dry white wine or a fun and fruity sparkling rosé. Consider what you’ve seen the person drink in the past; then either go for something similar or the same.

If you’re not sure what the person drinks, consider his or her general tastes. If he or she has a sweet tooth, a sweeter wine may be preferable, while if he or she likes to avoid sugar for the most part, something drier may be preferable instead. 

If you’re still not sure, ask someone at the store to recommend a reasonably priced popular wine.

 If you're a bit lost, don't be afraid to ask the person in charge of the wine section for advice. Many will work within your price range to help you find a good and drinkable wine: Hyman
Most wine drinkers have particular tastes; whether they like a dry white wine or a fun and fruity sparkling rosé

Wine subscription

Consider a wine subscription. If you’re looking for a substantial gift for someone, think about buying the person a subscription to a wine delivery service. Usually, you pay one price (or a monthly price) for the service to deliver wine for a specified period of time. 

Some just send a curated selection, while others base the delivery on the person’s preferences.

Some also include food with the subscription that pairs with the wine.

Check to make sure the wine can be delivered in the state where the person resides as some states don’t allow alcohol to be shipped to people’s homes

Consider a magnum for a party. A magnum is a double bottle of wine or champagne. One reason it works so well for a party is that it has an “impressive look.” Because it is double the size, it will last longer than a single bottle of wine. Your host will appreciate your thoughtfulness. 

When choosing a wine for a party, sparkling is usually a good option.

If you insist on bringing a standard bottle of wine to a party, give it to the hosts beforehand and let him or her decide whether to serve it at the party or not.

Buy a standard bottle for dinner. On the other hand, when you’ve been invited for dinner to a small gathering, such as a dinner for about four people, a regular bottle is appropriate. A regular bottle will provide enough wine for each person at the dinner, which is why it’s appropriate. 

Connoisseur Andy Hyman is the author of Snob Free Wine Tasting Companion: Wine Smart in a Day

Ask the hosts ahead of time what he or she will be serving. Then you can get a wine that matches the dinner, such as a white wine for fish. If you’re not sure what goes with what type of food, ask at the store.

Go more expensive for special occasions. 

When it comes to weddings or other big special occasions, such as birthdays or Christmas dinner, plan to spend a bit more on the bottle. 

Weddings especially call for a more expensive wine. If you don’t want to spend that much, skip the wine. You’ll be safer buying something off their registry. 

Make the wine the package. That is, a wine doesn’t necessarily need to be wrapped or put in a bag or box. If the bottle is pretty enough, adding a bow or ribbon is all you need to do. Besides, most wine packaging doesn’t hide the fact that you’re giving a bottle of wine, which defeats the purpose. 

Additionally, putting wine in boxes can heat them, which can be a problem for more expensive wines. It is much better to try to keep the wine cool. If it’s a particularly expensive wine that should be kept in a cellar, consider holding it in a cooler until you give it to your friend.

Think about adding an accessory. If you want the gift to be extra special, include a gift that goes with the wine. 

You could pick a funky and fun corkscrew or carafe, for instance. 

You could also choose a wine thermometer so that the person can serve the wine at the proper temperature. Other options include fancy or unique wine glasses or a wall rack.

Weddings especially call for a more expensive wine. If you don't want to spend that much, skip the wine. You'll be safer buying something off their registry
Hyman is a wine-tour guide in Napa Valley and Sonoma, California
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