What to buy a wine-lover for Christmas

It's the gift giving season and the spirit of Christmas is in the air. You're almost certain your wine enthusiast friend wants, well... wine. But what to buy? And where to shop for it? Here are some suggestions.

Can you get a wine gift wrong?

During a family gathering for my birthday, conversation turned to wine and why no one ever buys me a bottle for a gift. Apart from another wine aficionado, they were adamant that they would never buy me wine, they were “afraid to get it wrong.”

Later in the year I was chatting over a glass of Bordeaux white with an ex-pat. He works in Bordeaux and is totally immersed in the wine industry there. His knowledge of producers, vineyards and grape behaviour is immeasurable. Practically every drink he has is from Bordeaux, his tasting knowledge of wines outside of this corner is near zero. Not only is wine from outside the region really difficult to find, wine from outside of France is never seen. He receives many visitors from the UK, but "not one ever brings him a gift of wine," he lamented.

Wine lovers, it is easy to conclude, crave wine as a gift. They are always experimenting, trying new blends, hunting out a new generation of winemakers, and love trying older bottles.

What they really don’t need anymore of are corkscrews, decanters, and are also probably chock to the brim with wine glasses.  It is the wine itself that is required.

What to buy?

A few discreet questions should elicit some preferences as to region, grape, variety and so on. But the advice is to pick a price point and head, not to the supermarket (Waitrose excluded, their online WaitroseCellar has a better fine wine selection than other stores), but to an independent merchant.

An independent is where you will locate those interesting wines, hand-picked, tried by the staff and not to be seen during the weekly supermarket dash. The gift really doesn’t have to be expensive to secure pleasure from the recipient. I picked up a great bottle of Spanish red from the Oxford Wine Company just yesterday for under £15.

Park and Bridge in Acton list a stunning Portuguese white (Julia Kemper Branco 2013) for £20. A superb wine I would be more than happy to receive as a gift.

Averys lists the multi-textured Abbots and Delaunay Zephyr 2012 for £17.99. Nicely packaged – it looks classy – which offers lovely complexity and balance.

Perhaps your budget is higher. Or you wish to give just a single, exceptional, bottle as a gift. The sort of bottle a wine lover would squirrel away in the cellar or wine rack. You could pick the Errazuriz Don Maximiano, a true icon wine that could be drank immediately but ages beautifully. It comes in at around £40 a bottle. 

A final recommendation. WaitroseCellar have just listed a few wines from the superb Rhone producer, Chene Bleu. They have stunning labels, superb balance and incredible flavours. The Abelard and the Heloise, two different blends, come in at £48 a bottle. Just about right for a thoughtfully chosen Christmas gift for the wine lover in your family.