About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tips on Selecting A Gift Bottle of Wine

The Wine Guy:
Roger Yazell CWS
   During my tenure in wine retailing, I’ve often been asked to help a customer in selecting a bottle of wine as a gift.  Helping customers select just the right bottle of wine is always a pleasurable duty for any good wine steward but it can often be quite a challenge.  The following conversation occurs more often than you might think in this kind of situation and it represents the challenge that those of who work at retail often face:

Customer:    “I need to buy a bottle as a gift.  Can you recommend something?”
Wine Steward:  “It would be my pleasure to be of assistance, what did you have in mind?”
Customer:   “I don’t know a lot about wine and I’m in a hurry.  Just give me something good that doesn’t cost a lot.  You’re the expert, you choose!”

   The conversation, to this point, has probably placed your friendly, neighborhood Wine Guy in the position of trying to select an important gift for an unknown significant event from at least a few hundred possible choices.  You don’t have to be a mathematician to realize that the odds are very probable that any bottle he pulls forth at this point is probably doomed in terms of being able to satisfy or impress your gift recipient.  What’s needed here is a little more qualifying information to avoid your gift becoming just something you picked up on a whim.

   The subject of today’s blog is a short list of easy tips that will help make your bottle of wine gift selection easier and more meaningful even if you know little or nothing about wine.

Tip number 1: Have a gift budget in mind and let your wine steward know what it is.
Everybody is afraid of this one.  They don’t want to appear cheap (either to the steward or the recipient).  But you also don’t want to overspend.  You need to recognize that a good steward can recommend good wines anywhere from $4 to over $400 per bottle.  Anyone of them could be considered a bargain and a thoughtful gift if they fit the need and the occasion.  I once sold a customer a 92 point Brunello di Montalcino that retailed under $50, well below the typical retail for even a average wine of this type.  The recipient was an aficionado of bold Tuscan wines (and the customer’s boss!) who thought the employee had given him what amounted to a bar of gold.  Impressive wines don’t necessarily come with high price tags, especially in recent years.  It is not uncommon as it once was to find high quality wines retailing well under $20.   A good wine steward will recognize that this is a gift and will direct you to the most appropriate and most impressive bottle of wine within your price range but he needs to know what that range is in order to be able to do so.

Tip number 2:  Let your wine steward know what the occasion is.

Hostess gifts are the most common requests and that’s good to know, but what are they hosting?   If it’s an intimate dinner party, the selection should be personal and perhaps related to the meal being served.  A neighborhood gathering in which everyone is bringing a beverage to share may call for a completely different bottle or style of wine.  Birthdays, anniversaries, housewarmings, engagements, job promotions or just a thank you are all clues to the type or style of wine that could be purchased.   After prompting, one customer advised me that their gift was to be a bon voyage wish for friends who were taking a Greek island cruise.  Needless to say, an affordable bottle of Greek wine turned out to be an appropriate, thoughtful and meaningful choice. I once had a couple who were purchasing wine for friends who were serious wine aficionados with their own cellar and celebrating the adoption of a grandchild.  They were delighted when I recommended (within the budget they had decided to spend) not one, but two bottles of wine. The first was an affordable, quality bubbly for the grandparents and parents to share and toast their family addition. The second wine was capable of ageing under proper storage until the newest family member reached drinking age. Suffice it to say that a brief summary of why the gift is being given and how it will be used is the second most important piece of information in making a meaningful gift selection.  Having that information will help a good wine steward to make a great selection that fits the occasion in a timely and efficient manner.

Tip number 3:  Be prepared to tell something about whom the gift is for and what their known preferences (or dislikes) are:

It can impact your choice if the recipient is a male, female, older, younger, etc.  It obviously helps to know what wine preferences they might have.  Detail helps but isn’t always necessary.  Any general information can be helpful.  Even narrowing the choices down to the broad categories of red, white or sparkling can help expedite the choices and options and help insure a more meaningful gift.  In cases where this is unknown (and this is very common among my customers), a good steward will focus on blends or mid range wines likely to appeal to he broadest possible number of palate preferences and your gift bottle will stand a greater chance of being memorable to the recipient.  It’s almost as important here to also give information on other taste likes and dislikes.   I’ve had multiple customers wanting a gift wine for close friends who “loved” chocolate.  That’s allowed me to offer meaningful choices that ranged from a sparkling raspberry-flavored Italian Brachetto that paired wonderfully with chocolate to a red wine infused with Dutch milk chocolate to a deep, rich aged port with hints of cocoa.  Another customer finally wondered aloud to me what wine would be appropriate for a friend who absolutely had a passion for spicy Thai food.  That led to a gift of an excellent Nigori sake’, a perfect accompaniment to her friend’s favorite meal.  A deep, rich and smooth Zinfandel port turned out to be an excellent gift choice for another customer who didn’t know a friend’s everyday wine preference but knew he often enjoyed a good cigar after dinner.  Again, the more you can share about the recipients likes and dislikes, the better and more meaningful will be the recommendations you receive.  If you don’t know, don’t hesitate to say so.  It will help the steward avoid choices that might be narrowly selective in taste profiles.

Tip number 4: How is the gift to be presented?

  It might seem obvious but the presentation of a gift often says as much about the occasion and your thoughtfulness in giving it as the gift itself.  An appropriate gift bag only costs two to four dollars and can add a lot. So can presenting the wine in a gift basket, with a bow or ribbon attached or with a card message attached to the neck of the bottle.   One person I know who gives a lot of wine as gifts always asks for a sharpie and writes a short “Thank You”, “Happy Birthday”, Best Wishes”, “Congratulations”, etc and then dates and signs the bottle.  It’s a nice simple touch that adds extra meaning to the gift.  Give some thought or ask your steward for suggestions in making the bottle of wine you’ve selected more meaningful and special for the occasion.

Tip number 5:  What else do you need to complete the gift?

This ties in, as well, to the whole mindset of making the giving of a simple bottle of wine meaningful.  Some parents who had selected a bottle of bubbly for a housewarming gift to their daughter moving into the first place of her own were delighted when I suggested adding a pair of champagne flutes, some crackers and soft cheese with the bottle and placing them all in a gift basket with a card expressing their pride as she stepped out on her into the world.

The most important thing to remember is that a good wine professional treats your selection of a bottle of wine as an important event not only for you and the gift recipient but for him, as well.  If he is successful in making this the best possible choice within your budget, you are likely to return as a customer.  You’re also likely to be asked how and where you chose such a thoughtful gift. Thus he has the opportunity to help grow his customer base and volume if he helps you to make that simple gift of a bottle of wine a memorable experience for both you and the gift recipient.

Here's a recap of The Wine Guy's tips for gifting wine:
              1. Set a Budget
              2. Share the Occasion
              3. Identify who It's For
              4. Decide on Presentation
              5. Complete the Gift Experience

   I hope these simple tips are helpful.  The gift of wine can, and should be, a special event and is one of the most delightful ways to share the blessings and bounty of life with someone else.

Go out and share some wine with someone you care about soon!   


  1. Wow Its really nice post. Thanks a lot for sharing the all the informative ideas. Its really nice tips on selecting gift bottle of wine.

  2. Thank you for giving the information. I was planning to make a gift basket for our relatives and we weren't able to decide which wine should include in the gift basket.
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