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Schrader: Appropriate wines for last-minute Christmas gifting

Caroline Schrader is wine columnist for SouthtownStar newspaper Food section. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

Caroline Schrader is the wine columnist for the SouthtownStar newspaper Food section. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 21, 2013 2:45PM



You may have a mile-long list of gifts you plan to buy family and friends for the holidays. Many of you will go to holiday gatherings and celebrate the season with family, friends, and coworkers. Consider gifting a great wine for them to enjoy and remember the holiday with.

Picking out a quality wine to present as a gift can add to the stresses of the season. Often, people ask me for suggestions on how to pick out a good wine, at a good price, that would be appropriate for gifting. I have six simple rules on how to find a great wine to bring to a holiday dinner or to give to someone on your nice list.

1. Keep it simple. Wine is meant for enjoying. Don’t let the infinite number of bottles to select from overwhelm you. Decide on purchasing a white or red wine and go from there. Most wine shops and wine aisles organize their wine by varietal, which is easily distinguished by color.

2. Determine your price point. Many people think that the more expensive the wine, the better the quality. This is not always the case. Many of my clients aim to purchase wines that are $20 or under, and there are plenty of quality wines that can be found at this price point. There is no rule on a minimum amount to spend. On average, people tend to spend between $15 and $25 on wine for gifting purposes. Buy what you can afford. In a wine retail environment, quality wines tend to be displayed in the middle to upper shelves, while lower quality wines tend to be placed on the bottom.

3. Step out of your comfort zone. Try to ignore fads and wines that are the most familiar to you. Many brands that are consumer friendly and popular tend to be overpriced and not necessarily worth your money. It’s completely acceptable to purchase a wine that you have never heard of before. Many of the wines I try for the first time, un-familiar with the producer, easily turn out to be a new favorite.

4. Know your audience. Whether you’re looking to bring a bottle of wine to a family dinner or to someone who has been collecting wine for years, choose a wine that can please a variety of palates. For a family dinner, stick with wines that accompany a plethora of main courses. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are perfect pairings for many types of holiday meats and poultry, such as turkey, pork and lamb. For steak and dark roasted meats, choose a heartier wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel. For wine connoisseurs, Cabernet Sauvignon is a favorite amongst people who collect and cellar wines.

5. Tell a story. I love stories. Every chance I get, I tell a story with the bottle of wine that I purchase for someone.

If there is a wine that has any relevance to you, be it a wine you tried on a special vacation or a wine that is linked to a special event in your life, purchase it and tell your receiver what it is and what it means to you. The person on the receiving end will appreciate the thought you put into purchasing a wine for them, and will most likely remember it down the road. If you have no story to correspond with the wine you choose, tell the person you give it to why you chose it (cool label, great price point, only one bottle of the selection left on the shelf, etc.) Make it memorable.

6. Remove the price tag. Simple enough, right? It doesn’t matter how much the wine costs. When comparing variously priced wines side by side, chances are that the quality in taste will not be determined with the price.

Remember that giving the gift of wine should be simple. If there are wines that you love, by all means, share them with your family and friends. Wine is meant to bring people together and to be shared around the table. So, enjoy the holiday season with your family and friends, along with a great wine.

Cheers!

Caroline Schrader is a wine writer and wine consultant serving the Chicago area. Follow her on Facebook and visit www.carolineschrader.com.



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