Suggestions for wine gift buyers

The Christmas season is here in all its glory. This time of year, you will receive Christmas Cards, gifts, and the stressful feeling of buying wine for people whom you don’t know their tastes. Every year, we see hundreds of wine gift buyers looking for wine for someone they care about but have no idea what to get them. Here at Sip on This, we’ve got a few suggestions for you to make your time shopping efficient and easy.

One of the first things you can do is your homework. Find out if they drink red or white. That is the biggest hurdle in buying wine for someone. And as a wine professional, “What do they normally drink?” is always my first question. You don’t have to know the specifics of which varietal (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, etc.) they regularly consume, just the little direction of red or white is sufficient for me to get the hamster running on the wheel. That will give us options for you to select from to make sure you are excited about giving the gift instead of nervous. Besides, if your friend is an avid wine drinker and you don’t know what they drink, it’s safe to say they love to drink wine and aren’t going to turn their nose up at your present.

Another great way to direct your buying is the wine rating system. The wine rating system is a 100-point scale that wine critics use to judge wine. It was developed by Robert Parker (probably the most famous wine critic in the world and history) in the ‘70s. The 100-point rating isn’t something you should live and die by though. The way to use those ratings is: if are buying for a Pinot Noir fan but do not know their favorite, asking for a 90-94 point wine is something any seasoned wine drinker will easily appreciate and often share with the person that gave them the gift. After all, wine is meant to be enjoyed in fellowship and good times.

In regards to gifting wine, something I do all the time is give a bottle of wine that I really enjoy. You will be able to talk to them about it and tell them why like it so much with out all the technical mumbo jumbo Judd the wine nerd told you. It adds a personal touch to the gift because you have a connection to it and you are passing that along to your friend. Giving something you would drink to someone is a great way to end up sharing a bottle with him or her.

My final tip for wine gifts is really about receiving one. Drink the wine. Don’t save it unless it’s meant to be aged. Most wines under $30 are meant to be drunk in the first 2-3 years of release. Under $20 you’ve got about two years maximum, unless it comes from an old-world producer from France or Italy, before it’s over the hill. I’ve seen this happen all too often and it hurts my wine filled heart. So, do me a personal favor and don’t forget to drink your presents.

Judd Smith is a local wine enthusiast who also works as Wine Country’s beverage director. To read more from Smith, check out his blog at