“Wine is one of the few presents that makes both the giver and the receiver look good,” says Natalie MacLean, the red-nosed e-sommelier behind www.nataliemaclean.com, one of the largest wine websites. “You look like you spent a bundle on the gift even if you didn’t and the recipients are happy that you think they know something about wine even if they don’t.”
This holiday season, anyone can tap into MacLean’s expertise via her free website and mobile applications for iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid and other smart phones. They help consumers with a whole new type of pairing: wine with the people on your Christmas shopping list. The app and site also suggest wines to go with thousands of dishes, including holiday favorites such as turkey, goose, duck and even partridge in a pear tree.
“When you give wine, doubles are fine, there are no wrong sizes and you can always find something good in stock,” MacLean adds. “Vintage gifts will get anyone into the holiday spirits.”
This is even true for those on your list for whom you have no earthly gift-giving ideas. Here they are, along with a gift of wine that would be perfect for them.
For the person who combines humor and optimism every time she styles your mop. Go for a light, gulpable wine like a dry rosé. It’s versatile and fuss-free—a great quaff for your coif.
Of course, he’ll analyze whatever you give him so choose a wine that’s all about balance. Easy-drinking pinot noir is medium-bodied yet packed with flavor. Surprise him with a large-format bottle, like a magnum. Big thinking means big progress for you. This wine also works for psychologists, marriage counselors and bartenders.
Pick too pricey a wine and your boss will think your last raise was too much; go cheap, and she’ll think you lack judgment. Focus on a label with a lot of white space since that makes the bottle look more expensive. A castle in the distance also works, but avoid fluffy animals.
Think a muscular, robust red would work?
Hold that position. Instead, try Riesling: This light white wine pairs well with a health-nut diet of salad and seafood, plus it’s low in alcohol. You can also give it to Pilates instructors, yoga masters and Tai Chi coaches.
You and he both know it’s going to take decades before your portfolio recovers after the crash of 2008. With that long-term view, vintage port makes the perfect gift. This fortified wine from northern Portugal, with its long aging potential, will be around for both of you into your retirements.
She’s been everywhere and seen everything, so go local with your choice of wine.
Even better, if you live close to the winery, get the bottle signed by the winemaker.
If you can’t find a suitably obscure wine with a Latin name, there’s always cream sherry. It’s the tipple of Oxford dons, not to mention the centerpiece of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story “The Case of the Amontillado.”
Go for a winery that’s consistent year after year in producing a wine that can be enjoyed in snow, rain, sleet or hail. Try an Australian shiraz or Argentine malbec.
Yes, there’s a wine called Red Truck, but try to be more imaginative. Why not give a wine made by Mario Andretti in California or Ferrari in Italy?
So you’re on your second or third rendezvous with the person you met on eHarmony or Dating.com. If you’re not sure yet whether marriage is a possibility, try something middle-of-the-road, like merlot. Yes, it’s the soft jazz of wine, but until you know, play it safe.
And after all that shopping, don’t forget yourself: even Santa’s little helpers need more than milk and cookies. Try something with high alcohol like Italian Amarone or Rhone syrah. These big reds easily drown out tone-deaf caroling and pair beautifully with tired feet. o
Natalie MacLean is an independent journalist and author of the bestseller Red, White and Drunk All Over (Bloomsbury, USA; 2007). More than 115,000 wine and food lovers subscribe to her free monthly e-newsletter. She was named the World’s Best Drink Writer at the World Food Media Awards in Australia. She is the only person to have won both the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award from the James Beard Foundation and the M.F.K. Fisher Award for Excellence in Culinary Writing from Les Dames d’Escoffier International.