Top 10 Gift Wines for the Holidays

If you haven’t finished all of your holiday shopping just yet or you know you’ll find yourself at holiday parties very soon and want to impress your host or hostess when you get there, there’s always one thing you can buy — assuming your gift recipient doesn’t have something specifically against it — that’s perfect for dinner parties, social events, and works just as well as a gift: wine!

I know, I’m a fan of wine. I’m a huge proponent of discovering new wines, finding new varietals and flavors that might entice you, and most of all never ruling out any class of beverage because you’ve pre-judged that you won’t enjoy it: either because you’re “not a wine person,” or because you think that in order to enjoy wine you have to have some level of prerequisite knowledge. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I can testify to it.

This is another place where the geek mentality can help you out a lot: all you really need to enjoy wine is a desire to experiment with different flavors and styles of beverage, admit there are things you don’t like and things you just haven’t tried, the willingness to get a little tipsy, and surprisingly little cash to back your Magliette da calcio poco prezzo experiments (lots of great wine can be purchased at bargain prices!) Once you have a few bottles and types that you like, you can start experimenting with foods to see how well they pair with the wines you already like. Before you know it, you’ll have a few bottles stashed away for different moods, different occasions, different events, and hopefully even a few that you’d like to drink at any day of the week, even with pizza.

If you’re already on the way to discovering great wine, great – this post will help you pick something for someone you have to buy a gift for this holiday season, and you might already have a few varietals or types in mind. If you’re just getting started, I have the advice of a very special sommelier for you that just might prove useful for the holidays: Natalie MacLean.

Click the jump to see what she has to say:

The full list is located at Natalie MacLean’s Top 10 Wines for Holiday Gifts, complete with links to each wine so you can see where you can get your hands on the varietal and type suggested.

To compliment the list, she also sent out an e-mail that included some of the rationale behind the selections:

Wines for the Top 10 Tough-To-Buy-For People on Your Holiday List

Pairing wines with personalities for gift shoppers—there’s an app for that (and a web site)

“Wine is one of the few presents that makes both the giver and the receiver look good,” says Natalie MacLean, the red-nosed e-sommelier behind, one of the largest wine web sites. “You look like you spent a bundle on the gift (even if you didn’t) and the recipients are happy that you think they know something about wine (even if they don’t).”

This holiday season, anyone can tap into MacLean’s expertise via her free web site and mobile apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid and other smartphones. They help consumers with a whole new Maglia Roma type of pairing: wine with the people on your Christmas shopping list. The app and site also pair wines to thousands of dishes, including holiday favorites, such as turkey, goose, duck, and even partridge in a pear tree.

“When you give wine, doubles are fine, there are no wrong sizes and you can always find something good in stock,” MacLean adds. “Vintage gifts will get anyone into the holiday spirits.”a

Natalie’s Top Ten Gift Wines for Your …

  1. Hairdresser: For the person who combines humor and optimism every time she styles your mop. Go for a light, gulpable wine like a dry rosé. It’s versatile and fuss-free—a great quaff for your coif.
  2. Psychiatrist: Of course, he’ll analyze whatever you give him so choose a wine that’s all about balance. Easy-drinking pinot noir is medium-bodied yet packed with flavor. Surprise him with a large-format bottle, like a magnum. Big thinking means big progress for you. This wine also works for psychologists, marriage counselors and bartenders.
  3. The Boss: Pick too pricey a wine and your boss will think your last raise was too much; go cheap, and she’ll think you lack judgement. Focus on a label with a lot of white space since that makes the bottle look more expensive. A castle in the distance also works, but avoid fluffy animals.
  4. Personal Trainer: Think a muscular, robust red would work? Hold that position. Instead, try riesling: this light white wine pairs well with a health-nut diet of salad and seafood, plus it’s low in alcohol. You can also give it to Pilates instructors, yoga masters and Tai Chi coaches.
  5. Financial Planner: You and he both know it’s going to take decades before your portfolio recovers after the crash of 2008. With that long-term view, vintage port makes the perfect gift. This Maglia Inter Milanfortified wine from northern Portugal, with its long aging potential, will be around for both of you into your retirements.
  6. Travel Agent: She’s been everywhere and seen everything, so go local with your choice of wine. Even better, if you live close to the winery, get the bottle signed by the winemaker.
  7. Teacher: If you can’t find a suitably obscure wine with a Latin name, there’s always cream sherry. It’s the tipple of Oxford dons, not to mention the centerpiece of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Case of the Amontillado.
  8. Mail Deliverer: Go for a winery that’s consistent year after year in producing a wine that can be enjoyed in snow, rain, sleet or hail. Try an Australian shiraz or Argentine malbec.
  9. Mechanic: Yes, there’s a wine called Red Truck, but try to be more imaginative. Why not give a wine made by Mario Andretti in California or Ferrari in Italy?
  10. Online Date: So you’re on your second or third rendezvous with the person you met on eHarmony or If you’re not sure yet whether marriage is a possibility, try something middle-of-the-road, like merlot. Yes, it’s the soft jazz of wine, but until you know, play it safe.

And after all that shopping, don’t forget yourself: even Santa’s little helpers need more than milk and cookies. Try something with high-alcohol like Italian Amarone or Rhone syrah: these big reds easily drown out tone-deaf caroling and pair beautifully with tired feet.

I’m specifically on board with Natalie’s suggestions for your boss, and for an online date – after all, both of those categories are places where you have to tread lightly and with some measure of care to make sure you pick a wine that says the right thing but is also appropriate for the audience.

Still, don’t put too much thought into it, or else you’ll find yourself struck with analysis paralysis! There are a couple of really great specific reccomendations with tasting notes at the blog entry for these suggestions, and you really can’t go wrong with them – or wines that are like them.

I’ve covered Natalie’s iOS, Blackberry, and mobile app, called Nat Decants in a feature at AppScout, and it’s incredibly useful for people just getting into wine or who wish they had a sommelier with them when staring at racks of wine in their local grocery store or wine seller, so if you’re still nervous, download the mobile app and head to the store.

Seriously folks – don’t show up to another holiday party with a bottle of Yellow Tail in-hand. You can do better, I promise.





4 responses to “Top 10 Gift Wines for the Holidays”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by NatalieMacLean and Alan Henry, Alan Henry. Alan Henry said: @NatDecantsFans Thanks so much! I also mentioned @Nataliemaclean in this week's Classy Geek feature, Top 10 Gift Wines: […]

  2. Whitney Avatar

    Yes, wine is a great holiday gift! Thank you for all the great information! And, did you know that the Wine Spectators have put together a top 100 guide to help us out too: Happy Holidays!

  3. Alan Henry Avatar

    This is a really useful list Whitney, thanks for sharing it, and thanks for reading!

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