Get inspired by these international wine-gift ideas (or keep them for yourself!)
Consider these winning international ideas, with Jane Parkinson also providing the rationale behind her 12 selections.
THE UNLUCKY upshot of thinking too hard about the best wine to give as a gift can be option paralysis. There’s just so much to think about; the occasion, setting, recipient’s preferences, the budget… The list goes on. No wonder it can feel easier to simply plump for a reliable bottle of fizz.
And what’s wrong with Champagne? It can be a great option and is an easy go-to as a gift because it never fails to impress. But Champagne can deliver so much more than ‘gasp factor’. With thoughtful selection, it has the ability to bring a slice of history into people’s homes. For example, vintage Champagne is often gifted in its first flush of youth, just after its release, but it would feel even more special to receive an older vintage, one that already tastes ultra-decadent on account of its already-acquired maturity. If Champagne doesn’t tick the box, a more esoteric fizz may be appropriate. This doesn’t have to be totally off-piste, like a tank-method Finnish white carmenere. But consider something that isn’t widely exported yet, such as an English sparkling wine, which is increasing in volume as well as quality. Most are produced using chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, and with reserve stocks increasing with every vintage that passes, the complexity of non-vintage continues to improve and impress. English vintage fizz also continues to benefit with each extra year of vine maturity.
For still whites with a twist, condrieu from the Rhone in France is a crafty and clever gift choice because it’s highly revered, yet often flies under people’s radar because of limited production, as much as anything else.
For those seeking food-friendly bottles to gift, pinot gris is a very useful grape. Not only can it smash red wine out of the water as a partner for cheese, but it’s also supremely successful with spicy food. Naturally, the residual sugar level will play its part on what matches best, so that’s always worth checking before buying. As for reds, a great foodfriendly grape is Piedmont’s barbera.
This immensely drinkable red can boost everything from steak tartare and chicken to sausages and the traditional turkey dinner. This is thanks to its relatively low tannin, which also makes it great with spicier meat dishes, along with its balance of fresh acidity, gentle – if any – oak, and full, but not too full, palate. Add to this its usually reasonable price tag and it’s a great gift.
If your recipient is into wine and fond of the classics, the choice can be nothing short of a minefield. After all, a decent claret can be prohibitively expensive, so too can red Burgundy. But all is not lost because there are pockets of good value to be found in both – if you have time to do the research. But if you’re after more bang for your buck from a classic red, Rioja is a crowd-pleaser. Revered and robust, Rioja is just as capable as melting in the mouth as many a French red.
While white Burgundy is decadent enough, sublime Chablis has just as much chardonnay character and complexity, and, even better, it also has the extra saline freshness for drinking during the sunnier months.
Intense refreshment from classic whites also comes in the form of German riesling. Tangy, refreshing and deliciously indulgent, depending on the sweetness level, German riesling can be a sublime, retro-cool and thoughtful gift wrapped in one.
Are you buying for someone with a sweeter tooth or a stronger constitution? There are plenty of options. Let’s face it, few wines conjure as much lip-smacking pleasure during the festive season as a bottle of Port. Indulgent, deeply spicy and fruity, it’s a must-drink with anything that involves dried fruit. Sweet wines are just as glorious as gifts, and the unctuous liquid honeycomb that is Hungarian Tokaji is hard to beat. Like a melted barley sugar boiled sweet, but with more orangerind zestiness, it’s a luscious gift that would definitely keep you on the lucky recipient’s Christmas card list for the following year, and hopefully many more beyond.
The unlucky upshot of thinking too hard about the best wine to give as a gift can be option paralysis. There’s just so much to think about – the occasion, setting, recipient’s preferences, the budget… The list goes on.