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For Christmas one year, my mom invited her childhood friend to stay over for a few days. As a gesture of gratitude, my mom’s friend brought her the most thoughtful gift: a beautiful wine basket filled with my mom’s favorite Champagnes, including bottles of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame and Perrier-Jouët. Not only was the gift attractively packaged in a beautiful wicker basket, but the wine itself was of spectacular quality. Although my mom appreciates fine wine, she rarely buys it for herself, so the gift allowed her to enjoy the bottles she loves for the first time in years.
When giving wine as a hostess gift, it’s important to make the hostess (or host) feel special and appreciated. Many of us stay at our family’s and friends’ homes around the holidays, and wine is a great way to show that you are thankful for the hospitality. But choosing the right wine can be a challenge. To give your hostess something memorable that she will truly value, consider her tastes, her upcoming plans, and the overall quality of the wine. These three factors will help you take your hostess gift from basic to unforgettable.
Find Out Which Wines Your Hostess Loves
Finding out what your hostess’ preferences are requires some legwork. First, fish for information from the hostess herself; start a casual conversation with her about wine before your visit. If you want your intentions to be less obvious, you can also ask her friends and family for a few wine suggestions. While you’ll want to get as specific as you can, even narrowing your choices down to red or white wine will help a great deal. If you’re looking for some ideas to get started, consider giving your hostess a pre-made gift set put together by experienced wine experts.
- Tuscany Set: Best for the hostess who loves complex reds or who has an interest in great Italian wines.
- Leflaive Family Puligny-Montrachet Set: Best for the hostess who loves full-bodied white wines or who wants to try white Burgundy.
- Pomerol Set: Best for the hostess who already drinks commercial red Bordeaux and who wants to try some top wines from this region; this is also a great set for seasoned Bordeaux enthusiasts.
- American Pinot Noir Set: Best for the hostess who likes light red wines; this is also a great gift for people who typically enjoy aromatic whites but want to get into more red styles.
- Bordeaux Super Seconds Set: Best for the hostess who is already very familiar with fine Bordeaux and wants to try a lesser-known label from an iconic producer.
- Châteauneuf-du-Pape Set: Best for the hostess who enjoys bold, fruit-forward red wines that are complex.
To customize these sets to your hostess’ personality, add accessories and personal touches to the gift that you know she’ll appreciate. For example, if she’s a casual wine drinker, she might not have a wine aerator or a quality decanter. These types of gifts can make the wine drinking experience more enjoyable and the hostess–or host–can continue to use them for many years.
Ask What Events Your Hostess Has Planned
Another way to give wine as a gift is to choose styles that are appropriate for any upcoming events you and the hostess or host have planned. For instance, last year I stayed at my mom’s house for a week over Christmas. We have a family tradition where we open bottles of Champagne on Christmas morning and serve them with orange rolls. To thank my parents for letting me stay for the week, I showed up at their front door with half a case of mixed Champagne–everything from non-vintage Bollinger to Billecart-Salmon. It was the perfect gift because my parents didn’t have to go out shopping for Champagne on one of the busiest weeks of the year and we all got to experiment with some producers we’d never tried before.
Regardless of which specific wines you give the hostess, include a brief note in the gift explaining what you hope the hostess will use the wine for.
To choose a wine gift based on specific events your hostess has planned, find out what type of food will be served at the event. For example, if your hostess is planning a formal dinner and has prime rib on the menu, then giving her a bold red wine like 2005 Larcis-Ducasse is a great choice; it will pair perfectly with the meal. Likewise, a lighter fish entrée or a casual party with appetizers is the perfect opportunity to open a bottle of 2016 Eisele Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. For ideas on specific wines to bring to the events your hostess might have planned, follow our guides to pairing wine with Christmas dinner, serving wine with Hanukkah dishes, or bringing wine to holiday parties.
Regardless of which specific wines you give the hostess, include a brief note in the gift explaining what you hope the hostess will use the wine for. You could say, “Please enjoy this bottle of Burgundy with dinner this weekend.” This makes it clear that you picked the wine especially for that occasion without demanding that your hostess serve it at a particular time.
Finding Top-Quality Wine
Quality is essential when you give wine as a hostess gift. After all, you want the hostess or host to feel appreciated for all of the work they did to prepare for your stay. Taking the time to research the best vintages from a particular region or producer and look up average critics’ scores shows your hostess that you put thought into your gift. Moreover, you might introduce the hostess or host to exceptional wines they haven’t tried before. One of my colleagues once received a Tokaji blend from a friend, and while he normally doesn’t love sweet wines, this unique wine was so delicious that it made him rethink his preferences entirely. He not only got a high-quality wine but he also learned more about his palate in the process. While you should also strive to select wines that match your gift recipient’s preferences, prioritizing quality can make your gift more memorable.
Start with a list of wines your hostess loves, then look for regions that are known for producing the best versions of that wine.
To find top-quality wines, try limiting your search to bottles that received 100 points from renowned critics. You can also narrow your search to the best vintages from a particular region that your hostess enjoys. If she likes Bordeaux, then wines from 2009 or 2015 are excellent candidates. Or, if she prefers Burgundy, 2012 and 2010 wines are exceptionally high in quality. And for fans of California wine, the 2012 and 2013 vintages make wonderful gifts. Start with a list of wines your hostess loves, then look for regions that are known for producing the best versions of that wine. From there, research the best vintages from that region and see whether any critics enjoyed specific producers from that year more than others.
Tips on Giving Wine as a Hostess Gift
Once you have your wine picked out, packaging it properly will keep it protected and make it look impressive when you offer the gift to your hostess or host. Handcrafted wooden wine boxes prevent bottles from rolling around while you’re traveling and they look chic and polished. If you can’t bring bottles with you while you travel or you still aren’t sure what style of wine to get, you can also offer your hostess a gift certificate to a wine shop so that she can choose her own.
Being offered a place to stay over the holidays is a generous offer that calls for a generous gift in return. No matter how much experience your hostess has with wine, she’ll appreciate the thought that goes into a personalized wine gift.
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Image credit: Epicantus [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons