The Gift Of Wine: How to buy it

Wine can make a great gift. You’ve got to pick a good one, of course, and it has to be a style that your victim loved one enjoys, but there is more to it than that. I have a new favorite wine. I bought two cases in the past few months (that’s a lot for me), and I know people who like this style of wine. But I won’t give any of it away because it would make a terrible gift.

Every gift tells a story

My current favorite wine is inexpensive. If you saw the label, you’d probably recognize it and the first thing that would come to mind is how little it costs. If that’s what they think when they open your gift, they’ll mean it when they say, “you shouldn’t have!” It won’t matter if it blows away other wines at it’s price point (it does) and it won’t matter if it beats many mid-priced wines (it does that too), it will just be the cheap gift. And no, you can’t make it up in volume by giving them a lot of it.

Buying a good wine that costs more isn’t really enough. If you want to make someone happy with your gift it should tell a story. What kind of story? Let’s look at Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of 2009. You can make a lot of valid criticisms about lists like that, but none of that criticism will matter if you bought someone the Columbia Crest Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Reserve 2005. You wouldn’t just be giving them a very good wine, you’d be giving them Wine Spectator’s Number One Wine of 2009. Now that’s a great story! Unfortunately the wine is sold out and very difficult to come by, so most people won’t be able to use this as practical advice. On the other hand, if you can get some, then not only would it be Wine Spectator’s top choice, but it would be Sold Out And Really Hard To Get!

A good story can be personal

A while back, I set out to find the best Washington State Lemberger. I couldn’t survey the 650+ wineries in the state, but I did my homework. I visited wineries and wine shops and talked to the owners, employees, and customers. I did some online research. Finally I had three Lembergers that I wanted to try. I arranged a tasting party and one of my guests, Chef Ralph, brought a fourth. We tasted, we took notes, we disagreed, we ate, we had a great time.

In the end, the Lady of the House and I had a new favorite Lemberger and it would be the perfect gift for a red wine drinker on my list. Not just a good red wine, not just a good wine from Washington, but my top pick after looking for the best Washington State Lemberger.

One story does not work for everyone

Except Chef Ralph. Neither of us knew this until all the wines were tasted, all the notes were taken, and all the wines were ranked, but he ranked my favorite (and I ranked his) dead last. I don’t know what that says exactly (we have different tastes? the wines were very close?) but if I bought it for him the story would be “his last choice.”

I’ll be using experiences like that to pick wines for people I know, and next week I’ll talk about giving homemade wine as a gift (no, I didn’t forget about that!)

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