It’s official: the holiday season has arrived, and with it the annual dilemma of what to buy for whom, how much to spend, and the dread associated with asking for gift receipts. From hipsters who adore most things esoteric to score-chasing label hounds, and demure office managers everywhere, we’ve got the perfect bottle for everybody, from $13 to $130.
When giving wine, it’s key to remember the basic etiquette surrounding edible gifts. First of all, if the gift is presented in a party setting, don’t expect the recipient to open it in your presence, after all, the bottle is a gift for them to enjoy whenever they choose. Asking them to open it is like forcing a cute stranger under the mistletoe after two eggnogs…awkward. Secondly, don’t aim to change tastes–it doesn’t matter if you think Petit Sirah smells and tastes like municipal garbage, if your boss loves it, don’t give them Pinot Noir instead.
Instead of shopping by grape variety or the endless possibilities of holiday tables, it can be easier (and tastier) to shop based on personality. We all know these types, and we know how they drink.
These dudes and dudettes are just too cool for traditional stuff like Cabernet Sauvignon or jeans without holes, so opt for an interesting bottle like spicy Gewuzrtraminer or lush, Austrian Zweigelt–you’ll be awarded extra points for gifting a bottle with a difficult name or unfamiliar label.
Thrifty Buy: Zweigelt, Erdenlied 2012 ($13), jammy blackberry fruit dominates this easy-drinking red, while soft tannins and a liter-sized bottle make it perfect for sharing.
Spendy Buy: Hugel & Fils 2012 Gewurztraminer Classic ($25), a spicy and tropical white perfect for cooling the burn of too much wasabi or bringing out rich herbal tones in roasted poultry.
The Label Chaser
Rave revies and picture perfect labels add value for these drinkers, and so do sky-high Parker scores and massive tannins. In this instance, give the people what they want: a BIG well-known red, preferably covered in new oak.
Thrifty Buy: Ridge Vineyards Three Valleys Sonoma County Zinfandel Blend ($18), from California’s iconic Zin craftsmen this juice is a blend full of lush blueberry fruit, and has enough good reviews to fill an entire book.
Spendy Buy: Concha y Toro 2011 Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon ($125), Wine Spectator’s #1 wine of 2014 really is thatgood–loads of blackberry fruit, cocoa, tobacco, and leather make this a wine worth the extra money and a truly special gift.
The Party Animal
When it’s all party, all the time, nothing will do but a big, fat bottle of bubbly. As the stars of Esquire’s Somm recently agreed, bubbles are the undisputed beverage of celebration, and we agree. If you’re feeling really thoughtful, include instructions for sabering the bottle, and the wild-child recipient will thank you for this party trick for years to come.
Thrifty Buy: Dibon Cava ($13), a traditional method sparkler from Southern Spain tinged with fresh lemon and peach tones it’s perfect for getting any party started.
Spendy Buy: Ferrari Brut Sparkling ($25), an Italian sparkling wine that challenges nearly all Champagnes in complexity with golden apple flavors and tons of luscious yeasty tones.
The Authority Figure
Bosses are some of the toughest people to buy for during holidays, so it’s helpful to remember the power they often hold–this person is responsible for a huge amount of your happiness and/or misery 40 hours per week. As such, it’s important that a gift for them shows that you understand their role, and appreciate getting that extra day off, or being allowed to leave early for Thursday Night Trivia. Here’s an instance to spend the extra $10 for a special bottle. If upping the budget isn’t an option, choose a reliable bottle that tastes high quality but doesn’t break the bank, like Riesling, or Beaujolais.
Thrifty Buy: Leitz Out Riesling ($14), this German stunner boasts more than an artsy label–it’s got laser-sharp lemony acidity, and fantastic minerality. Complex enough to savor, yet yummy enough to chug.
Spendy Buy: Fattoria dei Barbi 2010 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG ($50), this Tuscan gem is smooth and seductive in all the right ways with ripe cherry fruits accented by dusty earth and cedar. Asking for a raise in January? Give this in December.
The Reds-Only Drinker
The winter is this wine lover’s favorite season–finally everyone is agreeing to put big, bold reds on the table. Cabernet Sauvignon is a classic in their line-up and never goes out of style, but ostentatious reds like Zinfandel and Syrah offer the same full body and luscious fruit flavors for less.
Thrifty Buy: Peirano Estates, 2012 The Other Red ($14), this Cabernet and Syrah Blend is brazen and full-fruited, with notes of sweet vanilla and wild raspberries.
Spendy Buy: Louis M. Martini 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($35), a California classic with all the requisite red fruit, plus seductive vanilla tones and tannins that will stand up to any and all decadent holiday feasts.
The Whites-Only Drinker
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter what’s on the table or if there’s a blizzard building outside–white wines are in the glass! While Chardonnay and Riesling are classics, the holidays also offer the opportunity expand horizons with rich, floral whites like Viognier which offer the full-body Chardonnay-lovers adore, with more tropical fruit flavors and a touch of flair.
Thrifty Buy: Graham Beck 2013 Chardonnay-Viognier ($13), rich and pineapple-scented this South African bottle packs lots of ripe stone fruit and is perfect with heartwarming chicken stews and Netflix binges.
Spendy Buy: Joseph Drouhin 2013 St. Véran ($20), a classic Burgundy Chardonnay sans exorbitant pricing, this bottle offers a hug in a bottle with luscious golden apple fruit, rich buttery notes, and a touch of minerality.
The Secret Santa
Grab Bag wines should be fun wines! And no, they shouldn’t cost more than the string of scratch tickets the janitor brings to the party every year. This is the opportunity to buy a fun, obscure wine that tastes great and doesn’t break the bank. Not only are Portuguese reds crowd pleasers, but their unique grapes and traditional production methods make them fantastic conversation starters.
Thrifty Buy: Doural Tinto ($10), this red blend is medium-bodied and full of great red fruit flavors like cherry and wild strawberry. Like the tiny Iberian nation, it’s a wild card that doesn’t disappoint.
Spendy Buy: Ramos Pintos Duas Quintas 2011 Reserva ($34), a smokey and spice-laden field blend from Portugal’s famed Douro valley this red delivers full flavors and elegant tannins–equally delicious with Beef Wellington or a bacon cheeseburger.