Wine Etiquette – Gifting Wine

You search for rules on the web, but here is my philosophy on wine gifting.

Rules to live by

  1. Never give anything you haven’t tried yourself; yes, the tiny sip at the liquor store because it’s the wine on special counts
  2. When in doubt, give sparkling.  If you don’t know if they prefer a red or a white, something sparkling is appropriate – but not a sparkling rosé, unless it’s for a hostess gift of your baby shower.  If you wonder what’s best – obviously a “real” champagne, after that you can do a Californian, followed by a Cava/Prosecco, and finally sparkling wine (probably in the less than $10 range and unless you’re giving a case, let’s not be cheap).
  3. Corking Matters – if your friends are the type that insist on opening the wine you brought as a hostess gift, then you better have adhered to rule number one and considered rule number 5.  And make it a screwcap, they might not know where their corkscrew is, or they don’t know how to use it
  4. Color can matter.  If you know your neighbor’s are vegans, bless their hearts, you probably don’t want to give them a Boudreaux , you need to find something organic, sustainably farmed, and in a recycled bottle, plus ask yourself why you’re having dinner with them again???
  5. Make it something they can afford – unless you really want to be gauche… If you’re new money and want to show off or rub into your co-worker you got a bigger raise.  Just be careful, this can backfire on you…
  6. At least buy a wine bag where you buy the wine… I mean, wrapping it in a fancy dish towel with a quirky wine theme you bought at Marshalls’ and tying it with real ribbon is better, and having a bag with tissue says you tried, DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT show up with just the bottle.  Even if you do put a stick-on bow on it. AND NEVER just use the bag the store put the bottle in, even if you tie it with ribbon, unless it’s a gag wine gift.
  7. Consider the Season.  You probably don’t want to give a Rosé in December, unless of course, you just know the person loves Rosé.  Think Rosé/Whites for spring/summer and Reds for fall/winter. Although there are some nice whites that work well for winter and some lovely light reds that are perfect for summer. But unless you are just taking wine for a dinner party and know what’s being served (or your host asked for a specific type) try and make it something appropriate for the season. Although, I suggest avoiding the kitschy holiday wines during Christmastime as they seem to fall into the Monday category more often than not.
  8. Be conscious of their politics – meaning if they think Californian’s are evil and the world will better off when it falls into the ocean, you might want to stick to a local wine. This goes hand-in-had with rule number 4.
  9. Don’t Give Boxed Wine.  Even if it is the only thing your recipient drinks.  You’re better than boxed wine, with the exception of the special note below.
  10. What if your recipients don’t drink?  Then go for a sparkling juice.  You can find something fancy at a store like World Market, or just get the traditional Welch’s Sparkling White Grape, but make sure you adhere to rule number 6.  Or, if you didn’t know, then know they can regift your gift the next time they need wine as a gift and remember for next time – especially if they’ve just gotten back from Betty Ford…

Special Note – Gag Wines

If you and your friends have a long running joke on a topic, then find a wine that fits that joke.  Yes, I still have the bottle of Boone’s Strawberry Hill I received as a housewarming gift from one of my husband’s friends… it’s in the liquor cabinet, waiting for him to finally accept the invitation to dinner.  I’ve promised not to set him up with my former sister-in-law (Anna Claire), who he met when she was married to my brother who was the 2nd of her 3 ex-husbands.  Gag Wine is the only time boxed wine is appropriate, and you still need to make sure it’s appropriately wrapped.

Is wine as a gift lazy? 

Yes, probably (I’ve heard it described as “an Amazon Gift Card with heft”). 

But if you take rule number 6 to heart, and truly personalize the gift with a towel, corkscrew, wine glass tags, then it takes it to a new level.  You probably shouldn’t give the bottle of wine remover – unless of course – you spilled red wine all over the great-grandmother’s lace tablecloth the last time you had dinner together.  Then it’s a little bit of a joke.  Oh, and those cheesy boxes at the liquor store that have wine and glasses together… yeah, probably not a good idea – even the really expensive Perrier Jouët ones…let’s face it, the glasses will never match anything but the bottle. And who’s keeping the bottle once its drunk?

Final Thought

Don’t wait to the last minute to buy wine as a gift, especially if you are not in your home state. You might think you can dash into the local big box store and pick something up – but you might not be able to do that. And most states you won’t be able to buy a bottle for brunch (or even lunch) since most liquor laws don’t allow for sale until after noon.

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