Whether it’s a holiday, birthday, or you’re just heading to a friend’s, wine is always a go-to when it comes to gift-giving. However, there are so many different factors to consider when it comes to picking out a wine gift, including personal preference, pairings on the table, and, perhaps most importantly, price point.
Wine industry members have to be discerning about their choices, too, since expectations are high. Basically, no matter who you are, the pressure is on.
VinePair asked an array of wine experts, including sommeliers, distributors, wine store owners, and winemakers themselves what their favorite bottles to gift are. Get ready to party with these 12 selections, from biodynamic Bordeaux to a ’70s disco bottle of sparkling rosé.
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“Champagne is always my go-to, and the brand I buy is Dom Perignon. I think it’s the quintessential sign of elegance, pairs well with so many different things, it’s festive, and life is too short to drink cheap bubbles.” — Carol Lopicich, sommelier and professor of wine appreciation, Nassau Community College
“I give Château Fonglepade, a Bordeaux blend from St. Emilion, France. It’s elegant and balanced, a classically made Bordeaux. It’s a wine that drinks well above its price point so that whomever receives it as a gift will be impressed.” — Dan Rivas, general manager, Bank & Bourbon
“For gifting holiday wine, I think the 2016 Li Veli ‘Askos’ Susumaniello from Puglia would be a wonderful option. Puglian red wine tends to be more robust and full-fruited, and this Susumaniello tends to satisfy wine drinkers who love bigger, New World wine. Nicely balanced with lots of earth notes and plenty of generous fruit, this wine is not only fun to say but fun to drink.” — Amy Thurmond, sommelier, Leuca
“When I bring wine as a gift, I like to bring something different, something unexpected. Nebbiolo is one of my favorite grapes. The lovely aromatics and structure of the grape are very exciting. The Rainoldi Fruttaio Ca’Rizzieri Sfursat from the Valtellina region of Italy is Nebbiolo that has been dried, accentuating everything wonderful about the wine! It’s not too full-bodied, so it can appeal to a lot of people, and it is compelling! This wine can be enjoyed with a wide variety of cuisine and comes alive with food.” — Liz Martinez, sommelier and wine director, Prime + Proper
“Château Le Puy Emilien checks off so many boxes. This stunner can be opened right away and enjoyed from first sip or cellared for decades. The wine is made biodynamically, which lets Mother Nature do the work — no pesticides or chemicals are used, so [it] is kind to the environment. From the Right Bank of Bordeaux, a blend of 85 percent Merlot, 14 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 Carménère, it is deep and inviting. The nose is full of ripe fruits, aromatics, with notes of gravel and forest floor.” — Marilyn Snee, wine director, Upstairs 2
“I would go for a nice blend. I love South American wines and you get better value for your buck. My personal favorite would be Clos Apalta by Lapostolle. It’s a Bordeaux blend from Colchagua Valley in Chile. If you want to go the safe route, The Prisoner is one of my favorite blends from Napa. It is a bold California blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, and Cab.”
— Katia Del Rio, assistant director of food and beverage, Taj Boston
“I love gifting a bottle of San Simeon Stormwatch to friends and family. It’s a well-balanced blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot from the Paso Robles, Calif., region. I love it because it has ripe flavors of blackberry and raspberry with touches of spice and vanilla, making it perfect for both pairing with meals and drinking solo.” — Anthony Riboli, fourth generation wine maker, Riboli Family Wine Estates
“I’ll be gifting Nathan Kendall’s dry Riesling. “It is a surprising gift, first because it’s from a local vineyard in the Finger Lakes, made by a young, up-and-coming producer. It also showcases how Rieslings from the Finger Lakes aren’t just off-dry, they can be elegant, dry, and citrusy.” — Alexis Blondel, head sommelier, Benoit
“My favorite bottle of wine to give is Fontanafredda Briccotondo Barbera. I love it because it’s a great crowd-pleaser. Fruit-forward and lush on the palate, it’s a perfect wine to introduce people to an Italian varietal that they may not have tried before.” — Kirsten Wright, field sales representative, Louisiana/Taub Family Selections
“I give Martha Stoumen Post’s Flirtation. It’s bright, juicy, and just fun to drink. Martha Stoumen is the new rock star in California and is really shaking things up. The label gets the party started and the juice in the bottle keeps it going.” — Merit Wolff, owner, Wine Sage Gourmet
“I am the most boring and maybe consequently all of my friends’ favorite gift-giver. No one is ever surprised when a bottle of Taittinger Nocturne Rosé comes out of the bag that I brought — I am currently obsessed with the ‘70s disco bottle with the super- sexy, luscious, slightly higher dosage. It’s just OG proper.” — Belinda Chang, wine manager, James Beard award winner and lifestyle specialist
“My favorite bottle of wine to give friends for a special occasion is all about age. The concept of a birth vintage wine is gifting a wine from the year that your friend was born. Now, this is not always easy depending on the year, but even the most discerning wine lover may have never had their birth vintage before. Specialty wine shops across the country specialize in these, so it won’t be like searching for a needle in a haystack, but it will be the most epic wine gift you will ever give.” — Jon McDaniel, sommelier and owner of Second City Soil