We’re not going to beat around the mistletoe.
Giving the gift of wine is about as festive as it gets—inspiring surprise, elation, and the kind of pleasure that doesn’t come from giving them a pair of silly socks. But gifting wine to a friend, co-worker, or family member can be challenging. There are many personalities to consider, know-it-alls to maneuver, and total novices who might stare blankly at you wishing they’d been given a pair of silly socks.
Since we’re out on the wine trail every day looking for the best bottles to share with you from established producers to new and upcoming vintners, it only seemed fitting that we offer up some tips for wine gifting so that you can sit back and reap the rewards: over-zealous hugs, huge smiles, and of course—well, hopefully—a “thank you” glass of the very wine you’ve just gifted.
PERSONA: The Foodie
WINE GIFT: Michelin-Star Restaurant Wine
They’ll try anything, travel to the far reaches of the world to visit as many of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants as possible, and spend their entire paycheck on Chef’s Tasting menus. They only take photos of mouthwatering pies, burgers and fries, and they only drink sparkling water.
The wine that will light up the Foodie’s eyes isn’t a perfect 5-star red. No, they’ll be elated with just a 2- or 3-star wine—as in a wine that graces the list of a Michelin-2 or Michelin-3-Star Restaurant, and in the eyes of a sommelier is designed to be enjoyed, even enhanced, alongside food.
Like the Favia Rompecabezas red blend, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape inspired red from 100-point Screaming Eagle alum Andy Erickson and a favorite of Michelin-3-starred sommeliers.
PERSONA: The Trendsetter
WINE GIFT: Unexpected/Undiscovered Wine With a Great Story
Try surprising the person who knows what’s cool before it’s cool. These were the first people to use Instagram and now have 50,000 followers, have quit their desk-job, and spend their days taking pictures of themselves with products from Jo Malone and Target.
Trendsetters hunger for a great tip—something they can latch onto and make their own before spreading the news. One of our best tips is this unexpected jewel of a Pinot, the 2017 Escarpment Pinot Noir Martinborough New Zealand from the rugged Sonoma Coast—the personal project of winemaker Larry McKenna whose been called the “King of Pinot” by Wine Enthusiast. Wine Advocate has called him “one of New Zealand’s Pinot Noir gurus.”
That’s the kind of wine that’ll have the trendsetters of the world looking to set the next big trend in wine, like making experimental Chardonnay in Napa’s coolest subregion, just as one former Screaming Eagle winemaker did because the soil, climate, and sun-exposure were too perfect to pass up.
PERSONA: The Travel-Obsessed
WINE GIFT: Bubbly
If they’re not going on another boat cruise through the Douro Valley, or jet-setting to Paris, they’re off to New York City for the weekend, or Aspen for a last-minute ski adventure. Every trip is a cause for celebration for the travel-obsessed, and every celebration calls for bubbly.
So, when they’re not popping off to another place you’ve always wanted to go, give them top Champagne like the Laherte Frères Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature, a downright addictive sparkler with its mineral drive and heady aromas. Champagne doesn’t get any purer than this beauty, which boasts a smoky, flinty nose, generous mid-palate, and a bone-dry and super-long finish. It’s a 95-point stunner that captures the soul of grower Champagne.
PERSONA: The Collector
WINE GIFT: Large Format, Big Bottles
We all know someone who is a real wine aficionado. That could be you, or, it could be your father-in-law (note to any father-in-law reading this: forward immediately to your son-in-law or daughter-in-law). The biggest misconception about giving wine to a collector is that they won’t be impressed with what you give them.
For one, they’ll be thrilled you put in the effort, and for another, you never know what they haven’t yet discovered. Go for the absolute gold and a wine that will make just about any collector happy beyond belief, like the 2014 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley out of magnum. For one thing, 2014 is Wine Spectator’s “dream” vintage and this is drinking right in the pocket today, because according to Silver Oak family member Matt Duncan, “About four years [in the bottle] is perfect for the Alexander Valley Cabernet.”
PERSONA: The Investor
WINE GIFT: International Icons
An “investor” could be someone who works for an investment company, or it could be someone who invests in the time it takes to plant and maintain a serious garden, or someone who has invested in you in some profound way or another.
Give that person a wine of serious pedigree—an icon bottle they might enjoy today, but that will pay the dividends that obvious investors are looking for. That kind of wine gains in value and also as a profoundly complex tasting jewel. If you were to gift a bottle of the Shafer Vineyards unmatched 100-point Hillside Select Cabernet or the 100-Point Unico, Spain’s most collectible red, we can guarantee two things:
One, their mind will be blown, and two, if they hold it for drinking in a decade or two, they’ll think of you fondly, even if in the intervening years you accidentally backed your Volvo into their prized 1994 edition Jag.
PERSONA: The Beer Drinker
You know them: The grandfather who refuses to taste wine, the guy from college who always opted for the keg, and the aunt on an IPA-high.
The gift you give them is the gift of fear—the fear of missing out on extreme value. Please don’t attempt to break the beer-lover with a bottle of Chateau Latour, okay? You want to wow them with serious quality at an unbelievable price.
That wine is the 2016 Chateau Lafont Fourcat A Nos Amours Bordeaux, a beautifully complex French red that delivers the best of Bordeaux for under $25.