Rather than relying on pre-made gift baskets this year, consider building your own wine tasting gift set for the wine lovers on your holiday list. By building your own basket of region-specific wines, you can offer your gift recipients a few rare, unusual wines this holiday season–the types that you’ll never see in a pre-made basket that you would buy in a store. With a custom gift like this, you can take your friends or family on a “tasting tour” of the world, allowing them to see firsthand what makes these wines so spectacular. And, you may even introduce them to a new favorite producer in the process.
Handmade Wine Tasting Gift Sets Carry More Value
It’s tempting to buy a pre-made holiday gift basket–the wines are already picked out for you and wrapped in a neat little package. However, you may do yourself and your gift recipient a disservice if you choose convenience over quality. Moreover, building your own wine tasting gift set from scratch isn’t as complicated and time-consuming as you might imagine. As long as you have a basic guideline of the wine regions you want to highlight, you can easily make a gift that will impress your intended recipient far more than a pre-made basket ever could.
Here are just a few reasons why homemade wine baskets are more valuable than pre-made sets:
- Bottle Price: Convenience often comes at a steeper price. Bottles in wine baskets are generally marked up significantly. For example, I once found a gift basket containing two bottles of Robert Mondavi Maestro that was priced at $180–in reality, these two bottles are only worth about $50 apiece. You’ll get much better value for your money if you shop for individual bottles on the secondary market than if you buy them in a pre-made basket.
- Wine Quality: You have more control over the quality of the wine when you make your own wine tasting gift set. While a pre-made basket may contain a subpar, 85-point vintage, if you make your own basket, you have the flexibility to decide to include only wines that received very high scores.
- Rarity: There’s little point in giving a wine connoisseur a boring bottle, or a variety that you can find in just about any grocery store. By building your own gift set, you can choose rare and unique wines that are actually worth collecting. You’ll never find sought-after producers like Gaja in a pre-made gift basket.
- Education: When creating your own gift set, you can choose rare wines from esoteric regions, or unusual varieties that your gift recipient perhaps has never tried before. This lets your gift recipient try out these wines and determine whether they want to buy more in the future.
- Thoughtfulness: By putting together the gift yourself, you’re showing your recipient that you care about their preferences and that you dedicated your time and effort to making the perfect gift for them. Handmade gifts simply feel more special.
How to Make Your Own Wine Tasting Gift Set
With so many bottles in the world to choose from, where should you start? The best method for making your own wine tasting gift set is to pick a specific theme for your wines to follow. This could be a set of wines that all have similar tasting notes, or that are made from the same grape variety. However, in our opinion, the best theme to follow for the holiday season is a region-based theme. Wines from the same region vary in taste and variety, but they often are made using a region-specific technique, or they have a similar overall ethos. For instance, California wines are often intensely concentrated and bold, whether they’re made from Chardonnay or Cabernet. This can make a gift set feel cohesive even when you include a wide range of different varieties.
Once you’ve decided on your theme, you should include wines and snack foods that fit the theme, and that teach your gift recipient about the wine inside. You may decide to only include snacks made in the same region as the wine, or make educational notecards featuring tasting notes or facts about winemaking techniques. If you include food, be sure to pair the food with the wine–don’t serve a salty, bold salami link with delicate Pinot Gris.
Wine Tasting Tour Options
If you go with a region-based “wine tour” basket, you might consider one of three options: New World, Burgundy, or Bordeaux. The New World gift basket is perfect for wine connoisseurs who are already very familiar with French wines, and who want to sample something new. The Bordeaux and Burgundy basket options are ideal for budding wine collectors who are still getting to know these two famous regions, or for any connoisseur who adores classic French offerings.
To create your wine tasting gift set, pick one wine from each of the “stops” on the tour maps below. These tasting tours are designed to flow seamlessly from one bottle to the next, going from lightest to darkest, just as they would at a normal wine tasting party.
A Tasting Tour of New World Wines
For New World wines, you’ll want a range of wines that move from lightest to boldest in style. Start with light Oregon Pinot Noir, and then move on to California’s slightly bolder Pinot. From here, you can offer up an even more concentrated Cabernet Franc from Argentina, followed by a South African Bordeaux-style blend, and finally, a rich, intense Australian Cabernet. It will be easy for your gift recipients to observe how these New World styles differ, but they should also be able to identify the shared characteristics as well–namely, the experimental, intensely concentrated flavors.
To make your New World wine tasting gift set, try the following wines:
NEW WORLD WINES:
The Bordeaux wine tasting gift set will feature wines that are a bit more subtle in flavor differences compared to the New World set. The goal of this gift is to show off the best producers from Bordeaux, and give your recipient the opportunity to try these rare wines firsthand. For the best results, you may want to choose wines from the same vintage, making it easier to detect differences in winemaking techniques and overall climate. But your gift will be just as effective if you choose wines from different vintages, as long as the wines you choose are an accurate representation of that area’s signature style.
To make your Bordeaux wine tasting gift set, consider the following wines:
Burgundy, from White to Red
Like the Bordeaux gift set, a basket of Burgundy wines is a way to let your gift recipient identify and experience differences in flavor and style among the subregions of this French region. Starting with a light, airy Chablis, then moving from whites to reds (south to north), your gift recipient will experience the absolute best that Burgundy has to offer in a single basket.
To make your own Burgundy wine tasting gift set, you may decide to buy the following wines:
Regardless of which theme you choose, you can customize your gift based on the producers you prefer. While you can and should pick whichever wines you’d like, it’s never a bad idea to choose wines that follow the basic map outlines listed here. These guidelines help you stick to the theme and include a representative variety of wines from these regions.
Customize Your Basket to Your Gift Recipient’s Taste
In addition to following the regional guidelines in the maps above, you should also take your gift recipient’s preferences and taste into account. For instance, if your gift recipient doesn’t like Pinot Noir, you may decide to swap out the Pinot Noir selections in the New World category for Cabernet Sauvignon instead. Include a note in the basket suggesting the best order to drink the wines in, or offer tips on when they’re best served with food (for instance, “drink this with dessert,” or “serve this with a winter stew”).
You should also ensure that all of the wines in your basket are of similar quality, particularly if you’re giving to a new collector or wine lover. Don’t put an 82-point Pinot Noir next to a 98-point Cabernet Sauvignon; inexperienced gift recipients may think that all Pinot Noir tastes inferior to Cabernet. By picking wines that are all within about 5 points of one another, on average, your gift recipient will be able to identify the differences in winemaking style, rather than being distracted by differences in quality. You may also include a tasting note template or information about note-taking apps like VinCellar to make the experience more worthwhile. Your recipient can use your gift to practice taking detailed wine tasting notes, and later will be able to seek out the wines and varieties they enjoyed most.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
If you’re giving this wine tasting gift set to an experienced wine collector who already knows how to write detailed tasting notes, focus less on educational notecards, and more on the wine itself. Chances are, your gift recipient already knows what order to drink the wine in. For this type of knowledgeable wine lover, make sure that you include wines that you know they’ll love, but also add in one or two experimental bottles that you think they’ll enjoy as well. These may not be wines that they’ve tried before, and they’ll appreciate the opportunity to taste something new.
In general, as long as you make the experience of drinking the wine as entertaining, informative, and interesting as possible, you will create a wine tasting gift set that your friends and family will remember forever. Holiday wine gift sets are your opportunity to experiment with something new, and remind the collectors on your list just how much fun wine can be. After all, some wine is meant to be drunk and celebrated–it doesn’t always have to sit on a cellar shelf.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s best wine.
At Vinfolio, we help our clients buy, sell, store, and manage their most
treasured bottles of wine. But in our spare time, we’re just a group of
passionate and slightly obsessed oenophiles–we love sharing a great
glass of vintage Champagne, followed by a Burgundy, and then a
Bordeaux, to get things started. We’re always obsessing over the latest (and oldest) vintages, and we want to share that knowledge and passion with our readers.