“I don’t know, they are into the geeky stuff.” “They like Zinfandel and I want to wow them with an amazing example of it.” “They go deep and like library wine.” “They like wines from Italy, is there anything they would like that would be special?” These are some of the examples of gifting inquiries I have received over the years working in wine retail. There are many more, but these are some of the most frequently asked (beyond the flabbergasted, five-bags-in-hand, one-glove-missing, forehead-vein- pulsing, eye-twitching, plea for help).
Whether or not you are as into wine as the person you’re buying a gift bottle for, there’s always the pressure to impress. There is a need to see the “Oh, wow” moment when they pull the bottle out of its gift bag. That can be a little stressful, especially because, in my experience, wine is often the last stop on holiday shopping day.
Here’s a little wine buying hack you can count on that may reduce the feeling of agita when buying wine as a gift: Bottles that are a little pricier will always be good. I know, that’s a bold statement. But just know that, save for an unexpected flaw in the wine or a very narrow preference, if you’re spending over $50 on a bottle of wine, it is going to be made with more care than higher- production wines. Even if you are not totally sure if it’s their thing, they will drink it, probably love it, and throw up some #humblebrag bottle shots on the IG.
Another thing you can count on is that every wine lover has a spectrum of wine they like. Even if they typically focus on a certain region or grape, most oenophiles will always be willing to try something new. So even if you can’t figure out exactly what they want, know they will always pop that bottle — even if it’s out of pure curiosity.
And lastly, you don’t have to wrap a bottle. Maybe slip it into a festive bag or just wrap a bow around it. Most retailers will even do that for you, gratis.
Even though everyone’s wine preferences are as individual as snowflakes, here are some bottles that might help you out.
For those who dig the classics, this is an excellent Champagne that tastes pricier than it is. It’s 100 percent Chardonnay (blanc de blancs), with a soft, creamy palate. It has calm bubbles that are about perfect, and the fruit adds a dollop of tartness to liven things up. Maybe try to steal a sip or four — they’re your friend; they should share.
For the nerdy explorer in your life, this is a geeky gem. It smells like creamy mint and cinnamon, with a waft of fresh-picked brambly berries. Its vibrant acidity makes it zippy and juicy on the palate with earthy undertones. It’s such a fun wine, with a festival of aromas and textures for the adventurous.
For those who live and die by Chardonnay, here is one they may have never tried and that will soon be in their top five. This Friulian Chardonnay is beautiful and elegant while still being rich and grippy. It smells like almonds and honey, with a hint of musk that is very inviting. This bottle will give the wine geek in your life the depth that they crave, with a refreshing acidity to liven things up.
If you have a red wine-loving Gen Xer (raises hand) in your life, they probably drank a lot of Zinfandel at one time. It was all the range in the ‘90s, only to be outdone by the brief Shiraz craze that led to our current Malbec obsession. Zin is great and under-appreciated, so take them back to the old days with this supremely balanced Zin that smells like blackberries and a dollop of oak. It has excellent acidity, keeping the wine balanced with its nice full depth.
Gifting an Italian wine lover a Brunello is always a win-win. Like, always. This wine is aging so damn well and is ready to drink now. It smells like cherries, sweet, aged balsamic vinegar, and a waft of fresh soil. The tannins still have a slight grip, but they don’t take away from the impeccably smooth mouthfeel due to this wine’s great acidity. Even though it’s drinking well now, it can still age another few years if your giftee likes to lay bottles down.
For the library wine lover, this wine is an American legacy in a bottle. It’s dark and brooding, with dense aromas built into the wine. Smells of mocha and blackberries waft into your brain, along with a whiff of white and black pepper. Its rustic edge is still doing the work to soften the tannins a bit, but in another year or so it will be amaze with the just-right acidity keeping the weight in balance.