During the next six weeks or so, My Readers will doubtless be invited to an endless round of parties, dinners, open-house events and other fetes celebrating various holiday preoccupations. And many of you will doubtless carry along a bottle of wine as a gift for your hosts. What bottle to give, however, what price to pay, how to proceed are issues I will address for you today.
First, don’t blow your credit card limit on a bottle of great wine, even if it’s intended for a dear friend or family member and especially if they’re not particularly crazy about or don’t know anything about fine vintages. It doesn’t make sense to stand at the threshold of an open-house and hand over to your host a bottle of, say, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 2000 that cost you an arm and a leg and say, “Here, I think you’ll enjoy this.” Even someone who likes or knows something about wine will appreciate a more modest offering. I think a reasonable category would be $20 to $30; plenty of terrific wines are available in that range.
Second, if you know that your host has wine preferences — pinot noir or sauvignon blanc, for instance, or interesting wines from unusual grapes or places — definitely go in that direction. That way, you’ll be able to say, “I know you like Willamette Valley pinot noir. This is from a winery I just found out about” or “Here’s a grenache blend from a little appellation in the Pyrenees. I think you’ll like it.”
Remember that half of the impact of a gift lies in its thoughtfulness and appropriate nature. Following that sentiment, don’t just pick up a $10 bottle of malbec that anyone could buy at any retail shop or grocery store, as if you were in a rush and couldn’t be bothered, unless, of course, your hosts would be grateful for that $10 malbec. And don’t make ironic gifts, like taking that $10 malbec as a joke to someone who appreciates and collects the best wines, handing it over with an embarrassed smirk. Ho-ho, asshole.
If you don’t know your host’s preferences, choose something that you like and offer it by saying, “This is one of our favorite wines. We hope it will be one of your favorites, too.” Of course a sparkling wine is always welcome, and it doesn’t have to be Champagne. Plenty of excellent bubblies are available from France, Italy, Spain and California priced under $30.
If you happen to be a collector or own a cellar filled with wine, it makes a wonderful impression to give a bottle that reflects your personal taste or style, especially if the recipient is equally knowledgeable about wine. The point is not that you shouldn’t waste a bottle of fine wine on the undeserving but that you don’t want to create a sense of pressure or obligation. Don’t hand over a bottle that will make your hosts nervous and wonder what the hell they’re supposed to do with it.
Do put the wine in an attractive presentation sleeve or sock or carrying bag, even wrapped (neatly) in tissue and tied with a ribbon. It’s just nicer that way, as my late mother would have said. The simpler, the better, please; you don’t have to go all Martha Stewart.
And remind the recipients that the wine is intended for them, not for general consumption at the party or dinner. Always say something like, “The wine is for you. Let’s put it on the table over here so it doesn’t get opened at the bar.”
Remember, the idea is not to show off your wine acumen or fiduciary prowess, but to display your kindness and generosity with a bottle of wine that says “Thanks for inviting us to your party.”
Top image from coupons.com; lower image from publix.com.