When selecting a bottle of wine to as a gift, I ask myself several questions about the recipients: Are they connoisseurs of fine wine, or do they prefer everyday drinking wine? How much do I want to spend? What styles do they drink — sparkling, white, rosé, red, fortified?
The answers to these questions offer a solid baseline for selecting the perfect gift. To take it a step further, consider: If the person you are gifting to is very special, try to find a vintage date that would make an impact — perhaps a vintage from their birth year, wedding year, or the year their first child was born. And don’t worry about the price — you’ll often find varietals available at all price points. After all, vintage madeira and port last a long time, as does grower-producer champagne. When selecting a champagne, look for uncommon regions such as the Aube. Producers to consider include Broadbent or D’Olivera for madeira, Croft Port or Ferreira for tawny or ruby port, and Saint Hilaire for a crémant sparkling wine.
If your gift recipient is a big fan of a specific wine or style, go to your favorite wine shop and ask the store’s sommelier for something similar to that style or producer. Don’t feel that you need to spend big on your recipient’s preferred bottle, but if you can find a wine from the same appellation from a smaller producer and at $25 or less, you could possibly introduce your friends to something new — making you a thoughtful friend — while saving a little bit of money yourself. And be sure you include a short note on why you selected that bottle as a gift — personal touches go a long way. It can be as simple as, “I know you enjoy the opulent 2003 vintage in burgundy, so I found something comparable with this 2009 vintage.”
When it comes time to bring a bottle to a holiday gathering, select something that is easy to enjoy. Save the wines meant to be slowly savored for a quiet night at home or the friends and family you know will appreciate it. Sopme easy crowd-pleasers include cru Beaujolais, pinot noir from the Willamette Valley or Sonoma Coast, sparkling wines and rosé. These wines go with a vast assortment of foods and will be enjoyed by almost anyone. Look to producers such as Malene for rosé and Penner Ash or Failla for pinot noir, and try a cava or crémant sparkling wine.
I hope that you, your family and friends have an incredible holiday season together. Drink well and, more importantly, drink responsibly.
Jesse Rodriguez, Montage Palmetto Bluff’s director of wine, has earned the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service and the Wine Spectator Grand Award. He is a certified wine educator and master sommelier.