A Brief Guide on Gifting Wine
A friend of mine recently got married, and because she is known to be into wine, more than a few of our common friends thought that gifting them a special wine on their special day was the way to go. It seems I was the obvious choice to ask what would be appropriate and so a few of our friends called upon me for my opinion; I suspect were shocked when I gave it to them. You see gifting wine is not the no-brainer you might think, in fact it is a more intimate gift than most because you really have to know the person you are giving the wine to well - assuming that you want the gift to be well received.
Wine is supposed to taste good, and if you are drinking the right wine for you, it does. If you happen to take a sip of the wrong wine, well... That can be a disaster. If you know the wine tastes of the person you are considering gifting than you are ahead of the game - if you don't, there are some rules you can follow that will keep you from giving a gift that doesn't hit the mark.
If you are not familiar with the wine preferences for the person you want to gift I might suggest that you take them out to dinner before the big event and let them order the wine. When it is on the table having been approved by your guest, that is the time to turn the conversation to wine, and a perfect time to ask them what their favorites are without tipping them off on what you are really doing. If taking them out to dinner is not an available strategy than you can follow the traditional route - when confused or in doubt, give Champagne you tasteful lout!
Not All Champagne is Created Equal
The Bubbles are fine, it is a good Vintage Year, but it just might not be ready to drink yet - and most people are not aware that Champagne of the most recent vintage - especially Prestige Cuvee - is not ready to drink. Oh you could drink it, sure, but the taste is not going to be anywhere near what it will be in say, ten or twenty years when that bottle of Champagne you paid $80 for is now worth $700 and (more to the point) has finally come into its own for its taste potential!
There are two schools of thought on giving Champagne as a Wedding Gift:
I. Purchase a bottle that is actually ready to drink - a vintage that is at least 20 years old and that comes from a better than good Vintage Year - but be prepared to pay through the nose for it. You won't find it on the shelf for $80! Chances are it will be locked in a display case and have a hefty three-figure price on the high end.
II. Purchase the most recent vintage, have it placed in a really nice wooden gift box, and make it very clear on the card that accompanies it that this bottle is intended to be consumed on their tenth wedding anniversary!
Option two lets you gift a recent vintage, which will be a LOT less pricey than option one, but of course that does not detract from the gifts impact - after all you are not just giving them a nice wedding gift - you are pre-gifting them a 10th Anniversary Gift - now aren't you the thoughtful one?
You Know What They Like
When you know them well, you know what they like to drink, so now is the time to surprise them with a bottle of something that they would never buy on their own. If you know they like Merlot, go for a premium or low production prestige bottle that has a higher than usual rating - check with the experts at the Wine Enthusiast or one of the other Wine Publications like the Wine Spectator to find the right bottle. Almost every type of wine has a few prestige or rare labels - think of them like the Mercedes of wines - and the recipient is very likely to be aware of the significance of the gift if it is a type of wine that they regularly drink, so bonus points for you!
While this will not work right away - there is a delay of around 5 or more years before a given vintage year is finally on the shelf, consider purchasing a port or champagne from the birth year when gifting a godchild or the child of a special friend. A Vintage 2008 Port with a card that explains that Mom, Dad, and Junior should drink this bottle on Junior's 21st Birthday can be a stunning gift to give, and while it can be a tad expensive, giving a special friend or loved one a bottle of champagne or port that is of the vintage of their birth year is a sure hit no matter when they want to drink it!
No Generics Friend
The one thing you must never do is just pick a random bottle off the shelf and wrap it in paper. When you put a lot of thought into a bottle of wine as a gift than what you end up with is a thoughtful gift. You can figure out the opposite for yourself.
The Box Matters
There are many options for boxing the gift - most really good wine dealers have a variety of wooden gift boxes that you can buy to put that special bottle in - some even offer exotic woods, and with enough lead time in advance you can even have the box personalized with a gold-leaf message! Don't forget to spend the time and effort to find the right box, as that is likely where the bottle will reside tucked away in a cool place until they are ready to drink the wine.
You may not know this, but the wine makers are aware that people like to give wine as a gift. Especially the Prestige wines, which you can often find in special gift sets directly from the Vineyard. Dom Perignon, Krug, Bollinger, Perrier, they all make special boxed sets for weddings and anniversaries - most of these include special crystal wine flutes for the lucky - a bonus when you consider they might not have the proper glass handy otherwise.
Giving wine as a gift - when it is done with some consideration - is a very cool thing to do - and to receive. Just remember it is not the price that counts here, it is the care and consideration - and the wonderous potential of a really great glass of wine. You are giving them an experience as well as a gift, something that should make you feel all warm and fuzzy if you do it right!