From a birthday celebration to a holiday gathering, wine makes the perfect gift for any occasion. But in this case, it’s not always the thought that counts. Choosing the wrong wine for a friend can turn the sweet gesture sour.
Because there is such a wide selection to choose from, it can be overwhelming to pick the right one—especially if the person you’re shopping for is a wine connoisseur. How can you possibly pick the right bottle when you don’t know their preference?
Keith Nelson, the beverage director at the Greek restaurant Avra Madison Estiatorio in Manhattan, uncorked expert advice worth toasting to. (Pro Tip: You might also want to read up on popular wine terms before heading to the store, too!)
For your best bud:
When it comes to shopping for a good friend, a splurge may be in order. For Nelson, this usually means buying a bottle from Antica Terra, a winery in Willamette Valley in Oregon. He praised owner and winemaker Maggie Harrison for the selection. (He’s not the only one: Food & Wine put her on the list of winemakers of the year in 2012).
“She makes these world class pinot noirs and a chardonnay as well, and just some of the most beautiful wines I’ve ever tasted,” he said. “They are some of my top recommendations always, specifically [one called] Botanica.”
Champagne is high on Nelson’s list, especially when it comes to gift giving. Not only is it great to drink on its own or with food, it also has a special aura that makes it the perfect choice for just about anyone.
“Champagne is so versatile and has a lot of things attached to it; it’s luxury,” Nelson said. “Even if it’s not an expensive champagne, people really think it’s fancy.”
For the romantics:
Rosé is Nelson’s top pick for single friends and any romantic occasion. Showing up with a bottle of rosé will also make it clear you stay on top of trends: “Rosé is certainly in vogue right now.” He recommended Whispering Angel by Chateau d’Esclans.
White wine enthusiasts:
Forget the typical white wine options that other guests will likely show up with and go for something a bit more unique. Nelson suggested stepping out of the box with a California wine from Sonoma not Napa. His choice: Banshee Chardonnay from the Green Valley aka “the coolest part of Sonoma.” “It’s fruity, it’s super smooth and it has a really cool label,” he said.
Red wine only:
Sure you can pick up the first bottle of merlot you spot in the store, but why not get a little more creative? Nelson recommended Woodcutter’s Shiraz, a delicious wine from Australian winery Torbreck. “It’s fruit-forward, spicy and super smooth and Torbreck is one of the best wineries in Australia,” Nelson said. There’s no traveling required, you can order it online from the comfort of your own home.