The internet has made it easier than ever to send your friends and loved ones wine as a gift. Nearly every bottle you could possibly imagine is available at your fingertips. Looking for a rare bottle of 1996 Château Latour? You can send this wine as a gift online without ever stepping foot outside your house. In the past, you would have had to visit or call multiple wine shops to see if they had it in stock. In fact, this bottle is so hard to find that you likely would have had to travel outside your state to get your hands on it.
However, while online wine shops have made the gift-giving process convenient (especially if you’re buying rare bottles of wine), there are still a few things to keep in mind when buying wine this way. For instance, you need to make sure that you can legally ship the wine to your intended recipient. You also need to know which online retailers you can trust to inspect, authenticate, and pack the wine for its journey. This guide will show you how to send wine as a gift online with minimum hassle.
How to Legally Send Wine as a Gift Online
My best friend lives in another state, so if I want to send her a gift for her birthday, I have to drop it in the mail. Once, I decided to send her a bottle of 2000 Fonseca Vintage Port (she loves fortified wines); however, I realized that the wine shipping process was more complicated than I expected. I wanted to buy the wine from a local wine shop and send it to her in the mail, but I learned that I couldn’t legally send the wine to her directly. Instead, I decided to buy the same bottle online and have the online retailer mail the wine to her. Thankfully the retailer I chose was very professional–they packaged the wine beautifully in a sturdy case and even allowed me to include a personal note with the shipment wishing my friend a happy birthday.
If you live in the United States, you can’t shop for wine at your local wine store and mail it yourself to your friends or loved ones because it’s illegal to ship wine in the mail without a license. Instead, you’ll need to buy your gifts from an online retailer and have them ship it for you or choose a local wine shop or winery that is willing to ship the wine themselves to the destination of your choice.
If your gift recipient lives in a state with strict wine shipping laws, you may consider getting them a gift certificate to a local wine shop instead.
However, before you order wine online or have it sent from a shop, you also have to consider whether your gift recipient is legally allowed to receive your gift. Even if you ask a licensed retailer to send it, some states don’t allow any wine to be shipped from out of state. There are even some states that don’t allow any wine to be sent through the mail under any circumstances–in other words, even from within the same state. Utah, Oklahoma, Alabama, Mississippi, Delaware, and Kentucky, among a few others, have the strictest wine shipping laws. If your gift recipient lives in one of these states, you may consider getting them a gift certificate to a local wine shop instead.
Once you’ve determined whether your gift recipient can legally get wine in the mail and you’ve contacted a licensed wine retailer, you’ll also need to sort out a few other logistical details. For example, to legally send wine as a gift online, someone who is over 21 has to be present and able to sign for the package when it arrives. This might cause a problem if your gift recipient isn’t home. You can solve this problem by asking the shipper to send the wine at a time when you know your friend or loved one will be home, you can ship the wine to the recipient’s work address (as long as it would be appropriate for them to receive wine there), or you can ask someone else who lives in the house (like a spouse) to be available to sign for the package.
If you aren’t sure when your gift recipient will be home or you don’t want to spoil the surprise (having to sign for a box marked “fragile” tends to give away the secret), another option is to send the wine to a mutual friend and ask them to give it to your recipient in person. This is a good option when you want your gift recipient to open your gift during a special event, like an anniversary celebration or a birthday party.
Choosing the Best Wine Gift for Your Recipient
Once you’ve sorted out the shipping details, you’ll need to decide what type of wine to send. This depends on your gift recipient’s personal taste. As a general rule, choose wines that you have seen your recipient drink before or select easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing styles that don’t require significant storage time to mature. Rare wines also make excellent gifts because these bottles usually aren’t available at local wine shops.
If you want your recipient to enjoy the wine at a specific event, then order the wine weeks in advance, if possible.
In addition to selecting wines based on taste and preference, it’s also a good idea to choose wines that will travel well. Older bottles, for example, often suffer from bottle shock after traveling, which temporarily mutes their flavors. Wine experts still aren’t sure why exactly this happens–it could have something to do with the flavor compounds and the sediment in the wine muddling together. We do know that this is only a temporary problem. After a few days, the flavor compounds and sediment settle and the wine tastes as complex as it was before the journey.
Although bottle shock is only temporary, it’s still something you’ll need to think about when you send wine as a gift online. For example, if you plan to send an exceptionally old bottle, like 1946 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Convento Selección, you’ll need to make sure that your gift recipient can wait a few days or even weeks before drinking the wine. Don’t send a wine like this if you want your recipient to enjoy it at an anniversary dinner that’s scheduled just a couple of days after the wine arrives. If you want your recipient to enjoy the wine at a specific event, then order the wine weeks in advance, if possible. This gives the wine retailer plenty of time to get the wine to its destination and allows the bottle time to fully settle before it’s opened.
You should also ensure that your gift recipient has a place to store the wine for a few days or weeks until they’re ready to drink it. If your friend or loved one has a wine fridge or cellar, then this is ideal, but your gift recipient doesn’t necessarily need one of these to store their wine safely. The wine can also be stored in a cool, dark space (like a kitchen cabinet) until it has settled.
How Ensure Your Wine Travels Safely
Because you have to send wine gifts online using a licensed retailer, the shipping details are usually handled for you and there’s no need to buy special shipping cases or worry about packing your wine. However, some shippers are more trustworthy than others, so it’s important to ask them about the techniques they use for shipping wine. For example, some retailers offer two shipping options: standard and white glove.
If white glove shipping is an option, you should strongly consider using it when you send wine as a gift.
Standard shipping usually means that the retailer will package the wine in cardboard containers that are molded specifically for that bottle size. They will also include insurance up to a certain amount for each shipment and will make an effort to only ship wine when weather conditions are mild. A good retailer will use expedited shipping to ensure that your wine isn’t exposed to the elements for a long period of time.
If white glove shipping is an option, you should strongly consider using it when you send wine as a gift online. White glove services will transport the wine in a temperature-controlled van, ensuring that it’s gently treated and stays safe throughout the journey. You may also be able to schedule the wine to arrive the same day it’s ordered–perfect for those times when you forget to buy someone a gift in advance. The downside of white glove shipments is that they can cost more and they’re not available for every order. Usually, retailers only offer this type of shipment if the recipient of the wine is located within a few hours’ drive of the retailer’s store or storage facility.
How to Personalize Your Gift
Another factor to consider when you send wine as a gift online is personalization. This can be a challenge because not all retailers offer the option to customize your gift. When you offer a gift in person, you can place the wine inside a beautiful basket or wrap it in a ribbon. Buying wine online, on the other hand, means you can only personalize your gift as much as the retailer allows. Some retailers do offer extra touches, like personalized notes, gift wrapping, or gift boxes, and you can also order entire gift baskets online, though in many cases, the wine inside won’t be particularly interesting or high in quality.
A true wine enthusiast will care more about the wine than the package it comes in.
For this reason, if you’re looking for a gift for a serious wine enthusiast, you’re better off focusing on the wine itself and sticking with the personalization options the retailer provides. A true wine enthusiast will care more about the wine than the package it comes in. Still, to make the gift feel more special, you can send along a second package filled with food items that pair well with the wine you selected. The two packages won’t necessarily arrive at the same time, but your gift recipient will appreciate the extra thought you put into your gift.
Alternatives to Sending Wine as a Gift Online
Picking out a special bottle of wine online shows your gift recipient that you care about them. It also shows them that you understand their preferences and the things they’re passionate about. A Bordeaux enthusiast will be thrilled to get a gift of 2009 Château Montrose or 2010 Vieux Château Certan in the mail.
However, in some cases, sending wine as a gift online simply isn’t an option. If your friend lives in a state that doesn’t allow wine shipments or you don’t know exactly which bottle to choose then you’ll need to find an alternative gift. Here are a few options:
- Gift certificates: Rather than guessing which wines your gift recipient will enjoy, you can let them pick out their own wine.
- Wine club memberships: If your friend or loved one lives in a state that allows wineries to ship direct to consumer, you can sign them up for a wine club membership or their favorite winery’s mailing list.
- Wine tasting events: Taking your friend or loved one to a wine tasting event gives them the gift of a unique experience. It also gives you insight into which wines they like to drink. In the future, you can use what you learned from the tasting to buy them specific bottles that you know they’ll actually enjoy.
- The gift of wine storage: For wine enthusiasts who seem to have everything already, the gift of professional full-service storage is a great option.
You can also include any of these gifts as extras when you send wine as a gift online. For example, if you buy a bottle from a retailer, ask the retailer to include a gift card in the package so that your recipient can buy more of that wine or another bottle they’ve been hoping to try. Or, you can buy them a few ageable, quality wines and offer to pay to professionally store for them for a few years. With so many options available to you, you’ll find the perfect gift for every wine enthusiast in your life.
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.