By Greg Masinton – Wine Consultant and Club Carboy Manager

Many people think that giving a bottle of wine as a gift is a cop-out. Unimaginative. Can’t think of anything else to give, so how about stopping by the local liquor store for a bottle of holiday cheer?

I can’t tell you how wrong that is. Giving the right wine as a holiday gift can be the most thoughtful of all gifts. If you do it right, it takes knowledge, research, and care to pick the right bottle. Not only that, giving the gift of wine ensures not only happiness when exchanging gifts, but joy when it is consumed. Wine is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

That said, it can be stressful. What bottle is best? Is it any good? What if you don’t know what they like? Never fear, Santa-Somm is here with some simple tips to consider when you’ve chosen to buy a bottle of wine for a holiday gift.

Consider the recipient

You’re buying them a present, so you obviously know at least a little something about them. Do they travel? Do they like certain foods? Do they frequent any specific restaurants? Are they extravagant and trendy, or beautifully subtle and traditional? All these simple observations can help direct you to the right wine style or region.

Consider the price

What’s your budget? Gift giving can sometimes bring questions of appropriateness and the stresses of obligation and reciprocity. If that’s the case, then choose the dollar value that is appropriate. The cool thing about giving wine as a gift is that you can find wine related fabulousness, frivolity and functionality at any price. What else can you buy that can be good at $8 or $800?

Don’t get too obscure

Who wants to drink a Merlot from North Dakota? Once you have an idea of the type or region, go in search of a good representative bottle to fit the bill. Say you’ve set your budget at $40 and you’ve chosen a wine from Argentina or Chile because your friend likes Patagonia, hiking, and dancing the Tango. It’s better to get a middle of the road Malbec from Mendoza or Cabernet from Maipo in Chile than to get the most expensive Pinot Noir from the same region. Pinot doesn’t thrive there. It’s better to get a good wine from a good place than to simply match the dollar amount and location.

Find a bottle that looks the part

Here, it pays to be a bit creative. Don’t just buy the cheapest off-brand wine from a big name winery you can find and expect it to be any good. “Hey look, Opus One is offering a wine for $50…it’s called Opus 13 and a half. That’s gotta be good, right?” Seek out a smaller producer from the same region. Find a cute label – as long as the other qualifications are met. Chances are good that the wine will be just as good and you’ll get points for creativity.

Seek advice

Get to your local urban winery or wine store and ask for help. Tell them your criteria and follow along. Trust me. Any good wine merchant will be thrilled to help and you just might get something better than you could have imagined.

Most importantly – Don’t be “that guy”

Don’t buy wine as a gift in order to be all snobby. Don’t try to impress everyone or improve their tastes. Give the gift of wine because you want your friend or colleague to enjoy it. If they like cheap, sweet wines, give it to them. If their favorite wine comes from a box, get them 3, and maybe a bib or something.

Lastly – Don’t drink it yourself

If buying good wine for others throws you into a panic, forcing you to obsess over the bottle until you pop the cork and drink it yourself, then shame on you. Have a little self control. But remember; chocolate makes a good gift, too.