By Jim Campanini
Wine makes a great gift for the holidays, and how you present it can make a significant statement to the recipient.
Do you want to be regarded highly? Do you want to become a special friend? Do you want to firm up a so-so relationship?
There’s nothing wrong with giving someone a bottle of wine. It shows appreciation, love and respect in many ways. But what if you were to spruce up that bottle a bit, adding a nice festive holiday wrap and a simple red, silver or gold ribbon bow?
It’s very easy to go a little extra and got a whole lot more in return for your caring generosity. For instance, you can place the bottle in a nice holiday gift bag filled with rainbow-colored confetti paper or wrapped in sparkling tissue paper and add a small, thoughtful card to the mix.
Remember, it counts to put a card in the bag or attach a Christmas or holiday tag to the package. People who send out thank you notes after receiving a gift want to know who gave it to them and what it was, because they often mention the item in the note. Also, people who regularly receive wine as gifts can’t always recall what bottles they received from whom, so don’t let them guess. It could lead to an awkward moment if one thanks you for a bottle of Two Buck Chuck when you delivered a nice Caymus Special Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you really want to perk up your gift-giving ways, here are some tips from the Wine Goddess – my wife Mary Lee – who always makes it something special to be on receiving end of a bottle of wine.
- While Michael’s, Target and most liquor stores have suitable holiday gift bags in stock, the Wine Goddess said the most “fabulous” values can be found at Job Lot stores. “They have beautiful bags for all occasions, and you’ll pay a lot less,” she said. Also, Job Lot offers dozens of choices for ribbons, bows, and gold and silver wrapping paper and foil. She also likes to rummage through the store for small items that enhance her creation, like wine-themed knick-knacks, pet key chains, inspiring quotation coins, etc.
- For a spectacular presentation (a two-bottle or more gift set), the Wine Goddess uses a topless wooden box, wire wine tote or heavy straw basket with a handle, similar to a picnic basket. Wood baskets are available at Marshall’s for $13 a piece, she said. As for the wine totes and picnic baskets, the Wine Goddess picks these up throughout the year at yard sales or Home Goods stores when on sale.
- With the above creation in mind, the Wine Goddess stands the bottles up on a bed of shredded confetti, and places pine cones, holly and other seasonal items in the box. She adds several Ghiardelli Dark Chocolate squares (raspberry chocolates for rose bottlings), biscotti, other small and fancy items, and a small corkscrew to the mix. The coup de grace, however, comes from the gold poinsettia stems (available at Michael’s) that she uses as a support frame to wrap the entire package in clear, shiny cellophane wrap. She pins a big, shiny colored bow on top with a note card.
The package is simple, elegant and from the heart.
Now here’s where I come in with some wine pairing suggestions.
If you plan on giving a single bottle of wine, determine your price range. The wine does not have to be expensive to says “thanks” or “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year” or “Happy Hannukah.” The more thoughtful the better. For example, if there’s a teacher on your gift list, you can choose from either a bottle of Napa Valley’s Educated Guess Chardonnay ($19.99) or the Cabernet Sauvignon ($22.99). Or you can make a two-bottle gift set out of it. For the police officer in your life, try the 19 Crimes Cabernet Sauvignon ($7) or the high end – and exquisite – Napa Valley red The Prisoner ($49.99).
For a more refined approach, there’s a red and white Italian coupling from Ruffino: Il Ducale Toscana 2016 IGT, which is a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and small amounts of Alicante and Petit Verdot; and the Il Ducale Pinot Grigio 2017, a 100 percent varietal from Friuli. Both wines are on sale in New Hampshire for $15.99 each, a $3 discount from the suggested retail price. You can give them as single bottles, but they go expertly as a combo with contrasting red and white labels. The red Toscana is full of cherry nuances (Sangiovese) bracketed by a sleek and spicy lift from Syrah and a warm, round plummy tilt from Merlot. The finish is dry and expressive. As for the Pinot Grigio, it’s intensely aromatic in peach and pineapple, leading into flavors of ripe apple, pear and spearmint. A delightful white by all standards.
For a more upscale pairing, package Chateau Montelena’s Napa Valley Chardonnay ($44.99) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($55.99) and drop in a $5 CD of the movie “Bottle Shock.” It tells how the little-known winery bested the prestigious French Burgundies in a 1976 Paris blind tasting to put American wines on the global map.
Then there’s the Triple Play package combining three different varietals from the same winery. For example, Washington State’s 14 Hands offers Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Merlot, among others, each for $9.99. Or you can build a package of California wines around La Crema’s Pinot Noir ($17) , Chardonnay ($14.67) and Pinot Gris ($16.99).
Whatever you choose to do, the gift-giving options are unlimited whether it’s one bottle, three or five. The main thing is to have fun, enjoy the season, and present a gift that leaves an enduring impression of warmth, love and beauty.