Thursday, December 8, 2011

'Tis The Season To Buy Jolly

Christmas is getting close and, if you haven’t already, it is time to start thinking about the gift shopping. There are many articles out there eager to help you buy the perfect gift. There are even articles out there discussing the conventions of choosing the perfect wine. This year, I say throw convention to the wind and have a good time. The following are my unconventional, or at least non-traditional, ideas for buying wine as a gift:

1. Find a great value. A customer recently came into the store looking for a Spanish wine. He was not looking for anything in particular, he just knew it had to be Spanish. I did not ask why. It just so happened that we currently have a great deal on a Priorat normally priced at $34.99 on sale for $26.99. After explaining how the region is trending upward right now and explaining the value and the 92 pts it scored with Wine Advocate, he spotted a $21.99 next to it and said, “I’ll just take this one.” After taking a couple steps away, he stopped dead in his tracks, turned around and said, “What am I thinking? This is for my boss and I’m trying to save $5.” He put it back and grabbed the sale wine. Good choice since he really saved $13 and now, should the recipient do his/her own research, they will see that he chose a wine with a reputation (no matter how you feel about point systems) and will also think he paid more than he did. (In fact, internet searches show this wine at a suggested retail price of $46.99.)

2. Buy based on a hobby or interest. One of the most fun customer experiences I’ve had was with a woman who came in asking, “do you have any wines with dogs on the label?” Fortunately, it was a slow night, so we had time to look together. My first choice was Australia, since they are doing some fun things; the second choice was American red blends. Next, I went back to Spain as they are making a great effort to appeal to international markets right now and I found a Mencia that did not have a dog on the label, but a pawprint. “It is perfect.” The wine inside was not so important as the label. The intended recipient was both a dog lover and a wine adventurist. Wine is a very subjective thing. Her friend may hate this new wine, but she may also love it. At the very least, she knows the giver put a personal touch on it and she tried something new.

3. Buy based on the name. With a caveat that the person you are buying for can take a joke, my favorite wine to buy for girlfriend birthdays or bachelorette parties is a fabulous grenache blend called “Bitch”. “Fat Bastard” is great for a guy’s 40th (or other) birthday. “Ball Buster” Shiraz is perfect for the recently promoted. There is also “Mommy’s Time Out” Pinot Grigio for Mother’s Day or new moms. Wine shouldn’t be stuffy. Have fun with it!

4. Buy based on the label. Paco & Lola’s Albarino has a very fun polka dot label. This is great for showers or any other parties where the decorations may echo the bottle. (For some reason, I always think Audrey Hepburn when I look at that label.) Clos Galena Formiga del Galena has ants on the label. Can you think of a better wine to bring to a picnic? Many customers come in asking for “that circus wine,” which is Michael David’s Petite Petit Syrah. While I’d love to take credit for originating the idea, “Buttery Books” suggests it for a “Water For Elephants” book party. What an awesome idea!

5. Buy an alternative. Many people are afraid to step outside their comfort zone and will shy away from buying a wine they are not familiar with. This is where the beauty of gift giving steps in. If you know someone who mostly drinks Chardonnay, buy them a Semillon or Pinot Gris. These are all white wines that may see oak treatment. If they like Cabernet Sauvignon, pick up a Syrah. You may also pick up a Barolo or Barbaresco, which is made from Nebbiolo. These three grapes are all high in tannin, so will give a similar mouthfeel. If you’ve often seen them order Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, grab an Orvieto or Albarino, that are also easy-drinking wines. If you’ve heard them talk about wines of the Rhone Valley, look for a GSM (grenache, syrah, mouvedre). They are the same combination of grapes you will see in the Rhone. In fact, if you already know they’ve had a GSM and would like to step it up a notch, the reverse is a great idea - buy a Chateauneuf du Pape.

(Santa photo from
(Michael David wine photo from
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  1. Brenda, Your site is so awesome! It's informative and fun. I'm always looking for different wines to try and know right where to go now!
    Thank you for the mention above in your post!

  2. Great tips for the holiday season, thank you.