Wine-related gift giving is always a bit of a challenge. Do you give wine, wine gadgets, wine books, wine experiences? Do you have some entry-level wine lovers on your list? Some experts (God forbid a Wine Blogger)? Is price a big concern? Are you a bit panic-stricken in the wine department?
Well, I know how you feel. The thing to do is to approach your holiday gift giving with a calm sense of purpose and a willingness to give someone something that they may not fully appreciate. Or even like.
Now no one wants to disappoint a loved one or a business colleague, but you’re not a mind reader are you? So do your best, be willing to be flexible, and relax. ‘Tis the season to ENJOY giving and receiving gifts. After all, you are probably more likely to receive a wine basket full of Barefoot Wine than you are to give one, right? (HINT: Do not give Barefoot Wine, Two-Buck Chuck, or “critter wines” – you know, the cheap Australians). No one wants those (they really don’t & they are filled with additives that nobody wants either) and you look, well, cheap and thoughtless for giving them. They are the equivalent of the fruitcake in Holiday wine gift giving.
My recommendation is to give wines that you personally enjoy and that, ideally, have a story. Maybe a little Syrah that you enjoyed at a restaurant or found at a winery that was off the beaten path somewhere; or a gadget that you particularly cherish. When a gift has a personal touch, it is both more fun to prepare and give and more special to receive.
If you live near wine country, or if your gift recipient has a trip planned to a wine region, you might consider the gift of a private tasting that includes a bottle of wine to take away. Most wineries can accommodate such a purchase and you get or make a certificate to give to the recipient. You can gift a wine class to a beginner, or a special wine pairing dinner to someone with more knowledge. And I can help you with the gift of a wine tour in France (if interested, PM me at JimLockardTravels@yahoo.com).
Gadgets are good gifts up to a point. A nice decanter or a set of nice wine glasses are good choices; it tends to go downhill from there. I probably do not keep about 2/3 of the wine gadgets I receive, either because I already have one or because they don’t work, or because it is something I just don’t use. Here is an example:
This stopper-thing is goofy and was given in fun. It might be okay except that it did not provide a good seal on the bottle. I would rather use the cork or twist cap that came with the wine bottle, because the goal is to preserve the wine.
Wine openers are a good choice, but a personal one. We all have our preferences. Here are links to posts about two openers that I have blogged about that I can recommend. However, you should remember that wine openers are personal and your gift may not be used.
What about wine as a gift?
Always a welcome idea, however, there are some inherent issues in giving wine that you may want to pay attention to.
- Shipping. If it needs to be shipped, this can be an issue. There are all kinds of restrictions, most importantly that the USPS, UPS and FEDeX do not take alcohol shipments from private parties. You can have a winery or a wine shop ship for you, but that will often cost more than the wine. I would stick to wine gifts that can be given in person or dropped off. Ship the gadgets.
- Shipping Part 2. One exception (and it’s too late for this Christmas) is to use an online service like WTSO.com (LINK) to ship gift wine. You are limited to what they are offering, so you may have to check the site repeatedly, but it is an easier way to ship wine.
- Giving the wine. If you take your gift of wine to a holiday party given by the recipient, it may just become part of the bar for the party. That may be fine, but it is not ideal. So bring a bottle for the bar and put your gift, well wrapped, under the tree.
- Selection of the wine to give can be a minefield (see the idea of being willing to give something that the recipient may not enjoy). I try to avoid their favorite wines because I know that they will get them for themselves. I go for something unusual for them. Maybe a Petite Sirah for a Cabernet drinker or a Semillion for a Chardonnay drinker. Or a Port or Sauternes, and even Champagne or Cava or a local sparkler for anyone. If they like whites or reds, give them that, but help them to explore a bit. You can also get something like an Australian Cabernet for a Bordeaux drinker. Another idea is to get a mixed case for a new wine drinker; or for me for that matter.
- Wine Baskets. The key to a good wine basket is the wine. Rather than picking up a pre-made basket, ask the staff at your wine retailer to make you one that you design yourself. (HINT: Instead of cheese, get a gift card for the cheese and put a description/photos of the recommended cheeses in the basket). Avoid the kinds of cheese that are usually in baskets that are full of preservatives and other non-cheese stuff.
- Labels. it is said that 80% of wine purchases are made because of the label. Fine, do that if you must. Get some Skinny Bitch as a joke for a female friend, or some Fat Bastard for that male friend with the not-too-sophisticated sense of humor. Just be aware that it only encourages the bottling of mostly bulk wine with clever labels, thus entrapping another generation of new wine drinkers in rivers of barely drinkable wines full of additives. I’m just sayin’.
- Price. It is easy for you to go overboard here. Those top-shelf wines are awfully appealing, especially when you want to impress someone (and many have nice labels, too!). I recommend that you know your budget and stick to it; that will make for a happier January when the credit card bill comes.
- Get help. Your local wine shop, or even Costco (but probably not Target – don’t buy gift wine at Target) has someone who knows wine and will help you. Get their advice – you don’t have to take it, but a good wine department employee can be a big help. The same is true if you are buying from a winery. Tell them what you are looking for, they love to talk about their wines and will be helpful.
- Status. I know that some are getting wines to give as corporate gifts. I will leave that to you, because you are clearly trying to impress people, which is fine, but that is not what the individual giver should be doing. The sad part of corporate wine giving is that many, if not most, of the wines go to people who do not appreciate them. I had a friend who does not drink wine and who received a case of Joseph Phelps Insignia Cabernet Sauvignon one year. He gave some away and used the rest in spaghetti sauce.
In short, wine-related giving is a field rich in opportunity with a few land mines here and there. I recommend again that you give thoughtfully, within your budget, and that you do your best to enjoy the process. Use your gift-buying time on-line or in stores to explore and expand your own wine experience.
Thanks so much for visiting this site, or even following it, this year. And have a very Happy Holiday Season and a Prosperous and Wine-filled New Year!