Friday, December 9, 2011
Choosing Wine as a Holiday Gift
A bottle of wine makes a lovely Christmas gift when attending parties, calling on friends, or for that wine lover next door.
But, what should you buy? There are a couple of things you can do to assure success.
- Does the person enjoy wine? Are they a regular wine drinker or just an occasional glass?
- Does the person enjoy red more than white or vice-versa?
- What are you willing to spend on a bottle of wine?
With no offense to grocery stores or even liquor stores with limited inventory, the first piece of advice is get to a wine shop or a liquor store with a wide selection and a knowledgeable staff.
Almost all good wine shops are a lot more interested in making you happy than just selling you a bottle $5 higher than you intended on spending. Small retail business of all type are totally dependent on repeat business.
Let’s talk in general about some wines that would be great gifts. In this Grape Sense, I’m only recommending wines I have tried in recent years.
If your friend is a Chardonnay fan try to find something different than the stereotypical California oak-laden Chard. Ask the sales person for an unoaked Chardonnay or a Chardonnay that is a blend of oaked and unoaked juice. There is a huge selection of good Chardonnay under $18.
If this is a special friend get to a wine shop with a higher-end inventory and buy a French Chablis or White Burgundy. The 2008 Domain Joseph Drouhin Chablis is outstanding wine lighter on the palate with bright acidity. The White Burgundy will be more expensive but be one of the nicest glasses of white wine your friend may ever enjoy.
If you’re feeling adventurous look for a nice white blend. Sokol Blossor, Oregon, makes a delightful white with intense fruit and lasting palate impression called Evolution. It can be found in most wine shops at $15. Caymus’ Conundrum is a sweeter blend of several grapes that gives you tangy green apple, tangerine, and floral characteristics. The Condundrum normally retails $20-$25.
It’s easy to pick a Cabernet Sauvignon off the shelf and throw a bow on it. But don’t overlook the many beautiful red blends that are easy to drink, affordable, and go with just about any meal. I’d direct consumers to Washington State red wines or California’s Paso Robles region. Paso specializes in the traditionally French Rhone grapes. It would be a unique gift that will impress your guests. You might look around for Ortman’s Cuvee Eddy, a wonderful Paso blend that sells for under $20.
I think of all red wine Pinot Noir makes the most beautiful gift. I’ve written often that good Pinot is very hard to find for under $20. There are a few labels that are nice wines – Robert Mondavi, Mark West, Drouhin’s La Floret, Mirassou, and Dashwood all come in under $15.
But it’s Christmas so splurge a little. Lange Winery’s Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is stunning for $22. It drinks far beyond its price point. There are many Oregon Pinot wines in the $20-$30 range which would impress.
And finally don’t forget the Rose’ wines. With the varied shades of red and pink they make a festive addition to your holiday table before they are ever opened. A dry Rose can pair with just about any food or appetizer and makes a great sipper for holiday parties. Rose is not expensive wine. Try Charles & Charles from Washington state for a wine that is worthy of any table. It sells for less than $15.
If you want a very special treat, again head to the nicer wine shop and pick up a Rose from France Provence region. Provence winemakers produce some of the world’s best Rose’ wines. They are typically a light salmon color. The wine is quite dry with beautifully balanced fruit and acidity.
Good to great Provence Rose’ can be found for $20-$50. If you’ve never had a great dry Rose’, one of the Provence wines will totally rock your wine world.