A wine tasting gift set is perfect for anyone who appreciates wine, from sommeliers to casual fans. However, before you fill your shopping cart with pre-made gift sets this holiday season, consider crafting one from scratch. Making your own set is better than buying a pre-made one because most store-bought sets rarely offer the sort of unusual, interesting wines that connoisseurs enjoy. These gift wines also tend to be lower in value and selected seemingly at random. One gift set might contain Oregon Pinot Noir, German Riesling, and California Zinfandel, without rhyme or reason. The wines themselves often aren’t that memorable either; they’re typically fruit-forward and lack depth.
When you build your own set of top-quality bottles, you can offer your gift recipients a few rare or unusual wines this holiday season—the sorts of wines you’ll never see in a pre-made set that you would buy in a store. With a custom gift, 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. 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 set; the wines are already chosen for you and wrapped in a neat 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 sense 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 gift ever could.
Here are just a few reasons why homemade wine sets are more valuable than pre-made sets:
- Bottle Price: Convenience often comes at a steeper price. Bottles in pre-made gift sets are generally priced significantly higher than their actual market value. 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 set, you have the flexibility to include only wines that received very high scores.
- Rarity: There’s little point in giving a wine connoisseur an unexceptional table wine, or a bottle 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 worth collecting long-term. For instance, 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 lesser-known regions, or unusual varieties that your gift recipient perhaps has never tried before. Or, if the recipient has always wanted to learn more about a particular wine region or is studying to become a sommelier, a wine tasting gift set is very practical.
- 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.
Now that you know why homemade wine tasting gift sets are worthwhile, below you’ll find some tips on how to build one of these sets for your colleague, friend, or loved one.
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 organize it around a specific theme. This could be a set of wines that all have similar tasting notes or that are made from the same grape variety. However, 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 cult wines from Napa Valley are often intensely concentrated and bold, whether they’re made from Chardonnay or Cabernet. This overall theme can make a gift set feel cohesive even when you include a wide range of varieties.
Once you’ve decided on your theme, you should include wines and snack foods that fit the theme and that pair well together. You may include snacks made in the same region as the wine, or pick out a specific note in the wine that matches a particular food.
Wine Tasting Tour Options
If you go with a region-based “wine tour” gift set, you might consider one of four options for the region: California, Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Champagne. The California gift basket is perfect for wine connoisseurs who are already very familiar with French wines and want to sample something new or for those who love a bold, fruit-forward wine. The Bordeaux and Burgundy basket options are ideal for budding wine collectors who are still getting to know these two famous regions or any connoisseur who adores classic French offerings. When in doubt, the Champagne option will appeal to everyone from experienced wine enthusiasts to those with just a passing interest in wine.
To create your wine tasting gift set, include a range of wines from light-bodied to full-bodied. 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 California Wines
For California wines, you’ll want a range of wines that move from lightest to boldest in style. Start with Chardonnay, followed by a light Pinot Noir, and then move on to a more concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon. Or, you could focus on just one variety to compare how different producers or subregions in California approach this wine. For example, you could compare Napa Valley Chardonnay to one grown in Sonoma. Your gift recipients will easily observe how these wine styles differ and identify their shared characteristics—namely, the experimental, intensely concentrated flavors that make California wine famous.
To make your California wine tasting gift set, try the following wines:
The goal of this gift is to show off the best producers from Bordeaux and present your gift recipient with the opportunity to try these rare wines firsthand. For the best results, you may want to choose wines from the same vintage, which will make 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 put together the most interesting tasting gift set, select one wine from each of the subregions below:
To make your Bordeaux wine tasting gift set, consider the following wines:
Discovering Burgundy’s Gems
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 as you travel north through the region, 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:
A Deep Dive into Fine Champagne
The Champagne you choose for your gift set depends on your gift recipient. If you’re creating a set for a Champagne collector, then seek out rare vintage bottles or wines that have already aged for 20 years or more. Champagne connoisseurs often have already drunk many flagship non-vintage bottles from the region’s finest houses, so they’ll appreciate being given a storied wine they haven’t tried before or one that is exceptionally hard to find on the market. For a casual Champagne drinker, you may include a non-vintage bottle or two. It’s helpful to give someone a set of non-vintage wines from each of the top Champagne houses so they can taste firsthand the difference in house styles.
To make your own Champagne wine tasting gift set, consider the following vintage 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 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 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 California category for Cabernet Sauvignon. It may also be helpful to your gift recipient if you include a note in the basket suggesting the best order to drink the wines.
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. Don’t put an easy-drinking 82-point Pinot Noir next to a 98-point age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignon. By picking wines that are all within about 5 points of one another, you can ensure your gift recipient will be able to identify the differences in winemaking style without being distracted by differences in quality. This tip is also helpful if the recipient wants to store the wines for a few years before drinking them. If all the wine is of similar quality and age-worthiness, then they won’t have to worry about one bottle spoiling in storage before the rest are even ready to open.
You may also include a tasting note template or information about cellar management apps with note-taking features, like VinCellar, to make the experience more worthwhile. Your recipient can use your gift to practice taking detailed wine tasting notes and will be able to seek out the wines and varieties they enjoyed most later.
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 crafting an educational basket and more on the rarity or quality of the wine itself. Chances are, your gift recipient already knows what order to drink the wine. For this type of knowledgeable wine enthusiast, make sure that you include wines you know they’ll love, but also add in one or two experimental bottles that you think they’ll enjoy as well, even if it’s purely out of curiosity. These may not be wines they’ve tried 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 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. Your gift can remind people just how much fun wine can be and how many spectacular wines are out there waiting to be discovered.
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.