Gifting wine to someone is supposed to be a fun, easy way to wish a happy holiday or give thanks without venturing over into serious gift territory. The act should be as simple as knowing the person’s preferences and picking out a quality product, but that isn’t always the case. As the gifter, maybe you feel you don’t know enough about wine and can’t find a good product, or fear the person you’re gifting the wine to won’t be satisfied with your taste. Fret not! We’ve asked a local expert and created a guide to the dos and don’ts of how to gift wine.
Kanchan Schindlauer is the founder of Chipmonkey Wine, a Seattle-based, online wine gifting service that provides personalized, themed boxes. Each gift box comes with wine and a customized card with a photo, a message from the sender and a themed blurb. Schindlauer guides us on how to best tackle gifting wine this holiday season.
The first thing to remember when gifting someone wine is no matter what you do, make it personal and they will love it. Schindlauer says the best gifts are the most personal ones. Whether that means adding a message and photo to your gift, or handwriting a card, those touches will “provide a smile and make any bottle taste that much better,” she adds.
Once you’ve decided which type of wine to buy, Schindlauer says seek out quality wine stores and experts. “Even if you’re not comfortable knowing what to buy, there are experts who are and are happy to help,” she says. “Grabbing something on a whim works great for Taco Tuesday, but for a thoughtful gift, talk to someone who knows.”
Look for artisan products, as with all of the wine available on Chipmonkey and other retailers, Schindlauer says it’s best to stay away from commercialized, mass-produced wines. If possible, look for a wine that comes from nearby, or at least one that comes from a relatively small production because often those wines have had the care and time put into them that makes them shine.
One mistake that is easy for a wine-gifting novice to make is to rely too much on the label. The look of the label really has nothing to do with the quality of the wine, and while it may look great in a gift basket, concentrate more on the wine itself not the fancy label. “Steer away from buying wine based solely on the fact that it has a cutesy or kitschy label,” Schindlauer says. “Would you rather your hard-earned money go to quality grapes and quality winemaking, or to marketing?”
Popular wine varietals can be the bane of a gifters existence. It’s far too easy to get stuck into buying one of the well-known ones, but Schindlauer says avoid getting into the fray and instead seek the non-traditional varietals. Go for a “rich, dark-fruited Negroamaro from Italy or the balanced Spanish white, Godello,” she recommends. “You’ll win by avoiding pre-conceived notions and just might introduce them to their new favorite wine type.”