The trick to making a good gift of homemade wine lies in seeing it objectively and seeing it the way other people do (not necessarily the same thing!). After doting over the yeast, balancing the must till it’s just so, and (im)patiently aging, you might have a hard time tasting your wine with a critical palate. I know I do.
How to tell if your homemade mead or wine is good enough
One way to get an objective look at your own wine or mead is to compare it against a known quantity in a blind tasting. Sometimes it’s pretty easy to decide what to compare it against. You want to know how good your homemade Chardonnay is? Taste it blind against a good commercial Chardonnay. It’s tougher when you want to test something more obscure.
Commercial meads are available, but I’ve been unimpressed by the ones I’ve tried. You could test your own mead against them. It might be better, though, to think about what food would pair well with it and test it against a good commercial wine that also goes with that food. For example, I served aged dry rhubarb wine with ham at Thanksgiving, and it was terrific. So a dinner party with ham could become a tasting party for rhubarb wine (tested against Chardonnay maybe?). There are lot of questions you won’t be able to answer in an apples to oranges comparison like that, but you should be able to answer, which one would I rather drink with ham?
Competitions are also a good way to get objective feedback, even if the feedback is just a score. They can be less work than a tasting party, but a good tasting party will be a lot more fun.
A gift of wine will tell a story: Make it a good one
Ok, you’ve done your taste tests and it isn’t just you – you’ve really got a good homemade wine and you want to make a gift of it. Like commercial wine that you give away, your gift of wine will tell a story. The story can’t be all about you. If it’s, “look at me!” or “see what I can do!” you might as well give away pictures of yourself – even good ones won’t make good gifts. If you know someone who’s started or genuinely interested in making their own mead or wine, then one of your own would make a great gift. Someone who really likes a kind of wine that’s hard to get would love to get a good homemade version. Scoring well in a competition also makes a good story, and I’m sure you can think of others.
A great wine needs a great label
I’ve written about why it’s important to make a good label for homemade wine before, and everything I said goes double for gifts. Why would the recipient think there’s something special about it if you don’t think it’s worth the effort to make a good label? You might even make special labels for wine or mead that you give away. Use it to help tell the story – did it win a blue ribbon at your state fair? Put that on the label!
Have you had a good (or bad) experience with homemade wine as a gift? I’d love to hear about it.