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Some bottles are destined to make great wine retirement gifts. In a recent discussion on the Wine Berserkers forum, member Andrew Demaree wrote that he gave a bottle of 1997 Montelena to his father to celebrate his recent retirement. To Demaree’s surprise, another forum member responded to his comment saying that he, too, had been given an entire case of the exact same vintage after retiring from his company. Demaree wrote back, “That’s fantastic. They must’ve thought very highly of you!”
What makes a wine like the 1997 Montelena such a perfect retirement gift? The answer lies in the wine’s maturity, high quality, complex flavor profile, and rarity. When the wine you choose as a retirement gift has all of these qualities, you’ll make your gift recipient feel truly special on one of the biggest days of their lives. After all, retiring is a major milestone, and you should celebrate the occasion with an impressive wine that your coworker, friend, or loved one will cherish.
How to Choose the Best Wine Retirement Gifts
When I shop for wine retirement gifts, I tend to get momentary decision paralysis. There are so many different vintages, styles, producers, and regions to choose from, and this can make the shopping process overwhelming for even the most seasoned wine enthusiast. Our guide may help you narrow down your choices if you can’t decide between a magnum of Champagne or a fine bottle of Lafleur for your friend’s upcoming retirement party.
The best method I’ve found for choosing the perfect bottle (or case) of wine as a gift is to first pick a specific goal that you want to achieve. Do you want to give the gift recipient the rare opportunity to taste a bottle of wine that was made the year they were born? Or do you simply want to find a delicious bottle that will appeal to the retiree’s unique palate?
Here are a few categories your gift may fall into:
Birth Year Wines
Buying wine from the retiree’s birth year shows that you put thought into your gift. Your gift recipient will be impressed that you were able to locate such an old bottle and will look forward to seeing how the wine has matured.
Here are a few excellent birth year wines that have held up beautifully over the decades:
- 1955 Château Palmer
- 1955 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection
- 1959 Château Pichon Lalande
- 1958 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Georges de Latour Private Reserve
- 1961 Château Prieuré Du Monastir Del Camp
- 1961 Château Pichon Baron
- 1961 Château Montrose
- 1963 Fonseca
- 1967 Château d’Yquem
When you shop for birth year wine, always ask for proof of provenance and professional storage from the seller before you buy.
The wine you choose will depend on your retiree’s exact age. The average age of retirement in the United States is 63 years old, so wines from the mid-1950s make great birth year wine retirement gifts. If your gift recipient is retiring fairly young, then wines from the early 1960s may be an option. However, the average age of retirement is increasing, so you may have to look back as far back as the 1940s for birth year gift options. If you’re looking ahead to a loved one’s retirement, you can purchase and hold some bottles aside until your friend, coworker, or relative is ready to retire. My uncle has a shelf full of birth year wine that he plans on giving to his younger brothers when they turn 65.
When you shop for birth year wine, always ask for proof of provenance and professional storage from the seller before you buy. The older the wine is, the greater the risk of spoilage, so keep this in mind when you shop for the perfect gift bottle–you don’t want the retiree to open a bad bottle on the big day.
Rare or Novelty Wines
Another gift category to consider is a particularly rare bottle or one that has some special meaning to the retiree. For example, one of my uncles is an avid stamp and coin collector, so I’ve entertained the idea of buying him a bottle of Sine Qua Non’s The Thrill of Stamp Collecting as a future birthday or retirement gift. Whether the bottle’s label has a significance for the retiree or your gift recipient is a serious collector who has been looking everywhere for an ultra-rare bottle of 1986 Henri Jayer to add to his collection, unusual or hard-to-find bottles often make the best gifts.
The key to choosing the right retirement gift is to pick wines that aren’t easily found in your neighborhood wine shop.
If you need inspiration or you’re not sure what types of bottles are considered rare, you can take a look at this list of high-quality rarities on the marketplace. You may also seek out wine from Sine Qua Non, special edition bottles of Ornellaia, or bottles of Mouton-Rothschild that feature commissioned labels from famous artists of the era. These wines all have distinctive, artistic labels; they’re more than just bottles of wine, they’re works of art and conversation pieces, and they make an exceptional gift for wine enthusiasts and art fans alike. The key to choosing the right retirement gift is to pick wines that aren’t easily found in your neighborhood wine shop.
Gifts Based on Style Preferences
If you suspect that your gift recipient won’t care about the age of the wine, its rarity, or the art on the label, then it’s best to shop for wine based on taste alone. However, this type of gift can be a little tricky to get right, as your own preferences might not match that of the retiree. To find out which wines your recipient will enjoy the most, you should:
- Ask their spouse or one of their close friends what types of wine they typically drink–are there any specific producers or wine regions they love?
- Host a wine tasting party and invite the retiree along; see which wines they gravitate toward.
- Look at the wines they have in their cellar (if they’re a wine collector).
- Opt for Champagne, as this appeals to many palates and is a fun, celebratory style.
When in doubt, avoid polarizing wines and stick to the classics that tend to appeal to many different types of wine enthusiasts. That bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with a high concentration of Brett probably won’t be the best choice, but a fine bottle of Bordeaux from one of the region’s top producers will almost always be appreciated by even the most selective of palates.
I know a lawyer who received a $1,500 gift certificate to her favorite online wine store when she retired from her firm a few years ago. With her gift, she was able to buy an assortment of wines she truly loved, including a bottle of Haut-Brion and a few bottles of Montrose. While gift certificates may seem impersonal, they mean that you won’t have to worry about buying a wine bottle that your retiree dislikes. A certificate also gives your gift recipient the freedom to take risks. If they’ve been eyeing a particular bottle for years but weren’t sure whether it was worth an investment, they can use the gift certificate to try the wine guilt-free.
Look for Mature Bottles
Regardless of which type of wine retirement gift you buy for a retiree, in most cases, it’s best to make sure that your gift is ready to drink right now. Not only does this give the retiree the option to open the wine immediately, but it also ensures that you’re not burdening your colleague, friend, or loved one with a wine that requires decades of storage. Moreover, older retirees may not have time to wait for a young bottle of Bordeaux to fully mature over the next 30 years, so they’ll appreciate being given a bottle that they can uncork the moment they get home. You can even include a card with the gift that explains what the ideal drinking window is for the wine so that they can plan accordingly.
Before you give a retiree an immature wine, check that they have a cellar or another way to store the bottle until it reaches maturity.
That said, some retirees would love to receive wine that still needs time to mature. I have an acquaintance who started his very first wine collection after he retired from his career as an engineer. He was inspired by a bottle of age-worthy Bordeaux that his wife gave him at his retirement party. But before you give a retiree an immature wine, check that they have a cellar or another way to store the bottle until it reaches maturity. If they don’t, consider giving the retiree the gift of professional storage along with their wine. Otherwise, stick with bottles that are drinking well now.
Buying and Sending Wine Retirement Gifts Online
When you attend a retirement party or celebration dinner, all you have to do is hand your wine gift to the guest of honor. But what if you can’t attend the event in person? You can still congratulate the retiree with the perfect wine gift when you shop with a trustworthy, full-service online retailer. One option is to buy the wine online and have it stored professionally in the seller’s warehouse until the retiree is ready to take it out of storage. The best online retailers will hold the bottles for a small annual fee and send them directly to the gift recipient whenever they’re ready to enjoy the wine. You may also have the option to ship the wine directly to the hotel or reception room where the retirement party is taking place.
Online wine sales have made it easy to find the best wine retirement gifts for a wide range of tastes and events. Shopping for wine online gives you the opportunity to buy bottles from around the world that aren’t available at your local wine shops. This, in turn, makes your gift more exceptional and unique because you have access to the finest vintages, producers, and labels on the market. Your friends and loved ones only retire once in a lifetime; this is their chance to drink the best that the wine industry has to offer.
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 finest 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.