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Giving Wine As A Gift

By Alex Russell on December 15, 2011 in Food

I’ve been helping people choose wine as a gift for years and have found the following questions are pretty useful…

Do you know what they like to drink?
Do they prefer red or white? Do you happen to know whether they prefer a Shiraz or a Pinot Noir? See if you can suss out some of these details first. This is where their family, or a quick trawl through their cellar, comes in handy.

Do you want them to cellar it or drink it now?
Some wines are made to be put down for a few years (or decades), so if your recipient is just going to open it up and smash it down, then perhaps a wine that’s ready to drink now is better. Many wines are ready to drink as soon as they’re released. The other option is to find a decent retailer that has some wines that have been aged already. One local example is Rose Bay Drive In Liquor Store, with a cellar full of aged reds.

Are they really into labels?
If the label is really important to the recipient, you’re best off going with a well-known winery like Wynn’s, Penfold’s, Tyrrell’s, etc. These big names do make some sensational wines but the name on the label is often more important to some people than the contents. Having said that, just because that $8 bottle of Rawson’s Retreat has Penfold’s on the label doesn’t mean that it will make the perfect present for the Dolce and Gabbana brigade.

Many of the best wines that I have tasted have come from labels that many consumers don’t know. A bottle from the likes of Ruggabellus, Spinifex, Rusden, Tomfoolery or Teusner would be right up my alley. You probably won’t have tried many of these, so you’ll have to trust your friendly neighbourhood retailer to choose you a nice one for you.

Remember, you don’t drink the label.

Do they care about medals and trophies?
Don’t get me wrong, medals and trophies are often a sign of a very good wine, but not always. Many wine shows have a lot of classes. The Sydney Wine Show is one of the biggest and had a category for best table wine under $10 wholesale. Now that’s great and all, and some wine had to win an award for it, but would that be the best gift just because it has a trophy to its name?

The other issue is that not all wineries make enough wine to enter wine shows. To show your wine, you need to give away more than a few bottles of your stuff for free. If you only make a few hundred bottles of a particular wine, that’s a big outlay for no financial return.

What’s your budget?
“Oh I don’t know, medium-priced” is not a helpful answer to this question. Medium-priced means different things to different people. If you have a rough dollar figure in mind (say under $15, or $20ish), then you’ll find it much easier to narrow down your final choice.

Most retailers will give you a discount if you buy 6 or 12 bottles, so you can either get better wines and keep to budget, or save some money. You can even throw a few in for yourself and get the discount that way.

Does the recipient even drink wine?
Seems like an obvious question right? If they prefer beer or spirits, or if they don’t drink, then why give them wine? Every year I see people doing this anyway. It’s better than socks and jocks, I suppose!