Holiday gift-giving is a daunting task. And while alcohol can be a much-appreciated gift, the choices don’t end once you decide to give wine.
When in doubt, let the shop owner (or staffer) be your guide. Here, Tatjana Brown of Meza Wine in Westerville explains how she talks shoppers off the ledge and through the process of selecting a bottle.
Start by at least knowing if your recipient prefers red or white wine – hopefully, this isn’t too much of a challenge – and how much you want to spend ($15-$20 is a good starting point for a gift).
Then, said Brown, think about whether they like sweet or dry (in the world of wine, this is considered the opposite of sweet), citrusy or berry, crisp or earthy.
Your answers will help the shop owner narrow the hundreds of bottles to a few choices (a process we can’t even begin to put into words).
And here’s perhaps the best idea yet: put a couple of those choices together as a gift package.
“For someone just getting into wine, getting them several inexpensive bottles of wine is a great gift so they can explore different varietals and find out what their tastes are,” Brown said.
You can’t go wrong there.
WORDS FROM THE WISE
If you’re just picking up something quick without assistance, know this:
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a gift that will hold its own.
If you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing red wine, go for cabernet sauvignon or another fruit-forward California wine. Brown loves the 2010 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon ($35).
For whites, try a white Burgundy. Meza stocks a 2010 Andre Delorme Mercurey ($20) that’s delicious and reasonable.
When all else fails, turn to a festive sparkling wine, like the Spanish Cava variety or a Prosecco.
Want to give something a little different? Brown suggests…
A muscadet (from France’s Loire Valley) that’s fresh and zesty.
Plavac Mali, a Croatian red wine that’s fruit-forward and slightly earthy.
Need a quick wine-varietal refresher? While there’s no such thing as an accurate generalization, we did our best to summarize three big reds and whites you should be familiar with.
Full-bodied, with dark fruit (cherry, plum) flavors and plenty of tannins. Probably the best-recognized red wine out there.
Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon
$20, Hausfrau Haven
Thanks mostly to a strong, almost jammy fruit-flavor profile, this is lighter than cab — but far from sweet.
Also known as Syrah or Petite Sirah – depending on where it’s made – this is a big, bold red that’s as complex as it is smooth.
Typically oaky and buttery, with a big, round flavor. However, unoaked chardonnays have become increasingly popular – and if you’re unsure about your recipient’s taste, you might want to go this route.
Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay
Also known as pinot gris. Light, crisp and dry are the best descriptors for it; can serve as a fine “cocktail hour” wine.
Although it can be found in a “dry” (not sweet) form, this is generally the sweetest one in this list. Stone fruits like peaches and apples dominate, and there’s definitely a flowery taste in there, too.