Giving wine as a gift should be simple. You select a bottle, deliver it to the recipient, and you’re done. But anyone who’s spent hours agonizing over choosing the perfect wine and navigating the maze of wine-related etiquette knows how complicated it can be. The reason it’s difficult to give wine as a gift is the same reason wine is so wonderful: a bottle of wine is much more than just its contents. It communicates values, such as history, taste, esteem, and investment. Thoughtful gifts of wine can do more than help provision a good time; they can show friends, relatives, and partners (business or romantic) you pay attention to their tastes and are interested in a long-term relationship.
How do you choose the wine that sends the right message and how do you deliver that message properly? Follow these dos and don’ts of giving wine as a gift and you’ll know the bottles won’t be wasted.
The Dos: How To Give Wine the Recipient Will Love
- Do know your recipient: Everyone’s heard the anecdote about the poor soul who gave a bottle of expensive wine to someone who doesn’t drink. Beyond making sure wine is an appropriate gift, you should also put your knowledge of the recipient to use to select the perfect wine. For a business contact, you’ll want to go with an impressive name. For a more personal gift, select wines that reflect the person’s tastes and relate to your shared history. Maybe that bottle of Abreu that brings back memories of sunny times you spent in California.
- Do consider the context: You wouldn’t wear the same outfit to a garden party as you would to a formal dinner. Nor should you give the same wine to the hosts of both. For party settings, magnum bottles can be a great choice because they’re generous and festive. If the wine will be opened at the party, or your friend entertains often, giving a magnum or two of a simple party wine, like Champagne, takes some of the pressure off of the host. Save your standard bottles for intimate settings, like a dinner with fewer than four people, or give standard-sized bottles as standalone gifts after the party is over.
- Do clarify your expectations: If you receive a gift of wine, are you expected to open it right away? Share it with the recipient at a later time? Or stash it away in your cellar for your own personal enjoyment? This question of etiquette has run rife through many wine-drinking circles. Why not take the pressure off of the recipient by resolving it yourself? For example, you can present the bottle to the host with a note that reads, “For your cellar,” or explicitly tell the host that it’s a great wine that you would love for them to try “sometime,” rather than right this moment. If you’re giving to a fellow wine lover, selecting a vintage that still needs more aging time can let your host know you don’t expect to drink the bottle that evening.
- Do try thinking long-term: Part of what makes wine such a treasured gift is its aging and investment potential. Unlike other consumables, a gift of wine can stay with the recipient for years or even decades and appreciate in value. For example, if you’re going to the wedding of two wine collectors, it could be a thoughtful gesture to give them a bottle of a recent vintage en primeur that will age and improve with their marriage. They can share it at a later anniversary or use it as the starting point for a valuable collection. Another way to think long-term is to invest in cases when they’re available. Planning ahead to buy in bulk can often fetch you a lower price per bottle, which lets you give more generously to friends and loved ones.
The Don’ts: How To Make Sure Your Wine Gift Is a Success
- Don’t break the law: This goes without saying, but gifting fine wines can be more complicated than it looks at first glance, especially if your gift crosses national borders. Instead of trying to brush up on relevant wine shipping and import laws, consider purchasing and sending the wine through an established retailer who can take care of the shipping for you.
- Don’t get too obscure: Part of giving a gift is giving something your recipient will understand and appreciate as soon as they open it. Unless you’re giving them to an off-beat wine geek, obscure wines you’ve never tasted will surprise the recipient but perhaps not delight them. A bottle of fine Champagne or a good vintage of Châteauneuf-du-Pape should go over well, but a Pigato of dubious quality may have them wondering what to do with the bottle after you leave. Ideally, you can use your knowledge of the recipient to select a wine that means something to both of you. Otherwise, established wines from well-known producers and regions are the safest bet.
- Don’t overdo your wrapping or overheat the wine: A simple ribbon tied to the neck of the bottle is appropriate for most occasions. Wrapping paper and gift boxes can destroy a good wine if they cause the bottle to heat up. While this isn’t a concern with inexpensive wines, the last thing you want to do with a bottle of Château de Beaucastel is keep it in a gift box in a hot corner of the room for two hours before you hand it to your friend. Instead, place the wine in a portable cooler to keep it at a stable temperature, especially if it’s a bottle that you want your friend to cellar.
Your Best Wine Gift Options
So, what wines should you give? In the end, it depends who’ll be receiving the bottle.
California cult wines like Colgin can be great gifts for collectors to round out their cellar with solid investments. Even for wine novices, a good Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon can be a great introduction to collecting.
Champagne and sparkling wine are consistent hits at parties, but for special occasions and close friends, you will want to splurge on one of the big Champagne houses, like Moët & Chandon or Krug. For a celebratory gift that’s more casual, Prosecco and Cava are fun and light alternatives to vintage Champagne.
If you’re looking to impress by giving a wine whose reputation precedes it, choose Bordeaux grand cru wines from 2005, such as a 2005 Château Lafite Rothschild. In addition to this château’s immense name recognition, 2005 is one of the most consistently amazing vintages in recent history. If a grand cru would be too ostentatious, another fine Bordeaux from that year is sure to be appreciated by wine lovers. For a more affordable, though less famous, alternative consider the 2005 Château Pontet-Canet. Another excellent vintage from a storied producer is the 2008 Chateâteau Margaux.
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. Call our experts today to have us store or organize your collection.