With some interesting facts, tips and tricks for buying, gifting and sipping, Modern Mississauga’s resident wine expert demystifies the world’s most interesting beverage.
Wine makes a great gift, but giving wine is a difficult thing to do well. Here are some tips to take your wine-gifting to the next level this holiday season.
First of all, keep in mind that because we all shop at the LCBO, your gift might as well have the price tag right on the bottle. It takes about eight seconds to go on the LCBO website and find out the value of the wine you just received. Even if the recipient is not so superficial to look it up right away, if they enjoy the bottle and go looking for more, they will eventually know exactly what you spent.
That’s probably not a big deal for expensive one-off gifts, but if you’re buying a number of bottles for your staff or colleagues, it’s difficult to spend more than $20 a bottle. The super-savvy gifter will seek out an agency like The Living Vine, Le Sommelier or Henderik & Co. and buy a wine that’s NOT available in the LCBO (delivered to your door!). The downside is that you have to buy a whole case, but if you need 10 or 12 bottles, you can effectively hide how much you’ve spent with the added bonus of being able to gift a wine that’s normally only available in restaurants.
If you’re shopping for a real connoisseur, avoid pre-packaged wine gift boxes. It’s tempting, I know, with their cute wooden chests, rustic clasps and little information cards. But I promise you that a true wine lover would much prefer one spectacular $60 bottle than three mediocre-to-crappy wines in a branded box that they will never use again.
On a related note, you may know that this particular connoisseur is partial to a specific wine: Bordeaux perhaps, or Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Be warned that there aren’t really “great value” wines in many of the world’s most-famous winemaking regions; you’re going to have to spend a few bucks to get something good. Red Burgundy and Napa Cab are probably the toughest, running $70 or more for a really great wine. Chianti or Rioja could be the best – $30 can get you a remarkable bottle. But for all the other prestigious places, from Sonoma to Barolo, you should be willing to spend $40 to $60 for a memorable gift.
And if you’re not ready to break the bank for fermented grape juice, that’s okay too. Hopefully, the people on your list have more modest taste and a $25 bottle of Australian Shiraz will knock their socks off. But don’t be afraid to shop outside your (or their) comfort zone. Even for the less-experienced imbiber, there’s more to the wine world than Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc and Argentine Malbec. There are amazing $20 options from Southern Italy and France, Spain, Portugal or even Greece. Ask an LCBO product consultant for help, stop for a sip at the tasting bar and give a gift that will become their new favourite.
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Tim Reed Manessy [Sommelier CAPS, CMS] is a wine instructor at George Brown College, restaurant consultant, private & corporate event specialist and really annoying at a dinner party.