I think it’s pretty universally believed (by wine drinkers) that wine is the perfect gift for all occasions. But wine doesn’t have to be just a standalone gift in one of those cool fabric gift pouches (which is a fine gift, all wine drinkers would agree), it can be a whole-event gift.
I thought about how to organize this post and realized that for the various occasions you might consider giving a wine gift, there is no recommended corresponding wine. There isn’t a housewarming wine, birthday wine, anniversary wine, just-got-dumped wine, got a promotion wine, did not get a promotion wine. No sommelier builds a career on recommending pairings with “he hasn’t texted me back for three days and I thought he was the one.” That is, however, a perfectly appropriate time to give a wine gift.
So we’re going to build our wine gifts based on the season in which the event occurs—there are trained professionals who pair wine with seasons of the year. I realize that not everyone lives in a climate that actually has noticeably different seasons, but I do, so I’ll tell you about the wine and what that season is like. We can start with summer since we’re in it now. Full disclaimer: I live in North Carolina and the heat and humidity are suffocating. It’s an assault to walk outside to get the mail. Here in NC, I would recommend a gift basket that has in it a giant air conditioning unit, two oscillating fans, an igloo (an actual one, not the cute cooler), and a bunch of really cold wine. That would be too heavy and expensive a basket, I know.
Okay, summer wines are typically light and not high in alcohol content. Why less alcohol? If you sweat more, you increase the likelihood of dehydration. Bubbly is always considered a good choice, as is a crisp Rosé, and you can actually get two for the price of one in a Rosé Prosecco. Cold pink bubbles are what you get, and it’s like drinking thousands of little sunset-colored snowflakes. Experts also recommend an un-oaked Chardonnay or a Chablis. I’ll admit that I have never tried Chablis, and my only knowledge of the word comes from seeing it emblazoned on the side of boxed wine during my childhood. I texted my BFF about the whole Chablis thing and she agreed. Not to implicate either of our mothers, but the word “box” kept coming up in our exchange. It’s different now! She and I both agreed to go to our local wine shop together, ask questions, and pick out a Chablis. In a bottle!
Next is autumn…beautiful perfect, wonderful autumn. In this place where people turn so sweaty and surly there’s a sense that everyone is actually melting, the autumn is spectacular. Colors abound—leaves on trees slowly transform into every shade of the spectrum except for blue, which is already stunning you in the form of a cloudless, brilliant sky. The air no longer seems like it personally hates you. Wines to choose for an autumn gift basket might include a Merlot or Chardonnay. As representatives of the red and white categories, they’re probably what Goldilocks would have deemed “just right.” A Merlot is not too heavy a red wine for fall, and a Chardonnay is a formidable enough white wine for fall. Experts recommend these wines often because of how well they pair with the “comfort food” associated with autumn.
Next is winter. Cruel, harsh winter. Winter in North Carolina is never actually cruel or harsh. People are still re-solidifying from the melting of summer. Some people don’t even bother to stop wearing shorts despite an occasional falling of snow and temps in the teens. I’m not a fashion blogger or a doctor, but at some point, shorts + single-digit temperatures = hypothermia. Winter wines to sip while snuggled under a blanket beside a crackling fire include Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec—hefty reds that will warm you up. However, everything I have read says that Champagne is always a perfect year-round choice. So, given all of the winter holidays, consider a bottle of Champagne for your gift basket.
Then comes lovely Spring when everything comes back to life. North Carolina is covered in trees, not all of them evergreens, so the stark reality of winter hits one psychologically in the form of SO MANY dead-looking trees. We rarely have a blanket of snow to distract from all of those barren trees everywhere. It makes one even apologetic for hating the heat (until it comes again). But Spring…everything turns brilliantly green, flowers bloom everywhere, the days get longer, everything seems to start over—a new life. It’s perfect but for the pine pollen. For about two weeks, it falls heavily and covers everything. It gets into your house, car, clothes, mail, food, laptop, nose. Sometimes it just stands still in the air, making it a creepy outer-space shade of yellow when the sun is setting. People with allergies are basically disabled. Experts say that springtime wines are based on weight more than color. Just like summer isn’t all white wines and winter isn’t all red wines, fall and spring are associated with the qualities of the wine and seasonal foods rather than the color. Wines recommended for spring are crisp Rieslings and sexy Pinot Noirs. In the spring, when everyone is waking up from a bitter winter, these wines are exciting.
Okay. I have given you some seasonal wine education, but have talked more about the weather. I promised a blog about gifts, we’re going to talk gifts.
Go to thrift stores to find inexpensive baskets—people give away all sorts of beautiful baskets, which is the vehicle of your gift. This is not being cheap, it’s being smart—the gift recipient is probably going to give away the basket too. Imagine how many times that basket could be used just to deliver a gift. Hit up a thrift store.
Buy ribbon from a fabric store, not the gift wrap section at the local pharmacy. I know it’s convenient, but if you make a habit of assembling wine gifts, it’s more cost efficient to get 4 different rolls of actual fabric ribbon—yellow (summer), green (spring), red (winter), orange (fall). Or any combination that you see fit, any ribbon you like, really. I am not the boss of colors.
Get lots of tissue paper in lots of colors. Many gift baskets have stringy raffia sticking out everywhere, or if not that, some shredded paper that’s meant to resemble raffia. I get the loveliness of a gift that looks like you just plucked it out of the forest, but maybe you don’t always have that around. Maybe you just have teal tissue paper—you can make that work.
Handwrite a little TO/FROM card and tie it to the basket handle or tuck it into the goodies. Just handwrite it. And if you’re so inclined, write a message for only that person from only you.
(In addition to his/her favorite snacks, you can include these based on the occasion):
(These you can find locally):
Gift card to the local movie theater
Gift card for a massage
A trashy magazine
Wine basket gifts!
Aside from the tips, I implore you to give gifts freely; find any and every occasion to give them. Friends, family, strangers…whenever you can, give a gift.