Gift selection can be challenging, especially for those who have everything, casual acquaintances whose taste is unknown, or those who unexpectedly appear bearing gifts that trigger a compulsion to reciprocate.

A recent study released by Nielsen reveals that 66 percent of Americans admit to drinking alcohol, and a goodly number of those drink wine. Statistically speaking, wine as a gift is a no-fail proposition – but thought should be given to choosing and presenting the wine.

People sometimes run into difficulty when gifting wine. It is rude to insist your host open the bottle presented. If gifting a box of chocolates, would you insist the box be opened and passed around the room?

A gift of wine should be wrapped in a holiday bag with appropriate gift tag attached. If your intent is for the gifted wine to be poured, it is better to present the bottle unadorned, so the recipient can decide whether to open it or put it aside.

When selecting a wine, remember the most expensive is not necessarily the best choice, nor is the cheapest bottle on grocery shelves. Don’t select a bottle with the intent to impress. Presenting your boss with a $3,700 bottle of Screaming Eagle might be a turn-off; worse still, what if said boss is not into wine and uses the expensive bottle to braise the pot roast?

Conversely, avoid giving wine priced under $5 or wines that come in boxes or jugs. While such wines may be enjoyable, it is better to forgo giving anything at all than give something that screams “cheap!”

If wine preference is known, by all means make a selection according to that individual’s taste.

When taste is unknown, stick with gift selections from these two safe categories: sparkling wines, preferably true Champagne made only in the French region of Champagne; or fortified wines like true Port, made only in the Douro region of Portugal. Even the most uninitiated are likely to find gifts from these two categories pleasing.


Which wine to gift?

1. You need a bottle of Champagne as a gift for your boss. Perusing your local wine shelves, do you:

(a) Select the most expensive bottle in the store, which happens to be a $250 bottle of Cristal, top cuvee of French Champagne House Louis Roederer.

(b) Select a $40 bottle of Roederer Champagne, but not the top cuvee.

(c) Select a wine from the Roederer family’s California holdings, such as Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut, retailing in the $20 range.

The answer is (b) or (c).

All the above are good choices, but the $250 bottle might be a bit over the top. Opt instead for the $40 entry level bottle of true Champagne or the $20 sparkling wine from California, made from estate-grown fruit by the same labor-intensive methods used in making true Champagne in France.

Roederer, like other major Champagne houses, has sparkling wine operations in California, which offer delicious sparkling wines for a fraction of the cost of true Champagne.

Also consider bubblies from great American sparkling wine producers like J Vineyards in Sonoma, whose Cuvee 20 in the $25 price range is particularly tasty.

2.You decide to purchase the most popular fortified wine known to man, Port. Not knowing your Port from your starboard, do you:

(a) Find something called Taylor New York Port at your local grocery for about $8.

(b) Select another Taylor wine, Taylor Fladgate 10-Year-Old Tawny Port, for about $25 (unlike Taylor New York Port, this is the real deal, made in Portugal, from a producer that has been in the Port business since 1682).

(c) Select a Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Porto in a little .1875 ml bottle for under $10.

The correct answer is (b) or (c).

Both are true Ports, and both come in an array of sizes to fit about any budget. A .1875 ml bottle contains enough for two small pours. Or opt for the slightly larger .375 ml bottle for more generous pours and still keep the cost under $20.

Contact Pat Kettles at