How many times have you been running late to a party and ran back into the house when you realized you needed a hostess gift. You are finally back in the car, relieved that yes, you do have matching shoes on, and armed with a bottle of wine as a gift. My version usually continues like this…by the time we pull up to the party I am rethinking the quick grab. I should have grabbed a different bottle. Erg!
A little preplanning can help avert this situation. Here are a few questions I like to think about before making a selection. Yes, some are obvious but sometimes the obvious is overlooked.
1) Do they like wine and drink it? If they don’t enjoy wine, move on. Try olive oil instead or tequila or whatever the recipient is into.
2) Do you know of any preferences? Red, white, California only, anything but Chardonnay, etc.?
3) What is an appropriate price point? Is it a special event, 50th birthday, or just a casual dinner party? If I know it's a special occasion, I try to find a unique and more rare bottle. It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, but I put more thought into the style (more on that in a moment). If I'm joining a casual group of friends, I usually grab two bottles of $15 wines. Less of a story about the wine, but it helps keep the party going.
4) What is the personality of the person? I usually try to reflect on the person’s personality in the wine choice, from the style of wine to the varietal. For example, if I know the person is adventurous and travels, I try to find a lesser known varietal. If I know the person is quiet and mellow, I will usually reach for Pinot Noir, or conversely, if they are loud and laugh a lot I would probably reach for a Syrah.
5) Everybody likes a story. If you know something about the winemaker or specific wine, share it with the recipient in a card or when they are not rushed. I love to give Elisabetta’s wine to people--I feel there is a transference of good energy. When people bring me bottles I always love to hear their story for the selection. One friend, likes to say, “It is our current house favorite,” and the spouse follows up with, “It is the current one on sale.” Needless to say, not all the stories need to be serious ones.
6) Should the recipient open and share it with you that evening? I get this question quite a bit, and the answer is no. Never expect to have a bottle opened at the event or when you are around. If you really want to have a taste of the bottle you are giving, etiquette would have you call the host prior to the evening and ask if it would be ok to bring this particular bottle to share. When I'm the recipient, knowing that many people do not know this piece of etiquette, I will ask the giver (without actually looking in the bag or at the bottle) if this bottle is something they would like opened that evening. I do on occasion have people that have brought something they want to share and am happy to make everyone happy.
In the end, all wine is good, and it is better to share it amongst friends and family.
Angela Camacho, a certified sommelier and author of a best selling wine tool, The Wine Wheel®, shares her obsession with wine and food.