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Giving the Gift of Wine

Fifty-Five Plus Magazine, December 2004

By Debbie Trenholm, Accredited Sommelier

I love to shop.  I especially like shopping for gifts for my friends. More often than not, I find myself heading for the wine section of the Liquor Control Board (LCBO) or a wine shop to create ‘just the right’ gift.

Buying wine for someone else is not necessarily an easy thing to do. It is not like buying perfume, where you can try the scent before you make the purchase, or a book that you can sample the author’s writing style by simply reading a few pages, or a sweater, that you can admire the colour, texture and perhaps try it on for size.  Buying a bottle of wine for a gift can be a different shopping experience.  You can make your decision based on the label descriptions, expert recommendations, selecting a bottle that you once enjoyed or as a last resort (and not always the best way) by the appeal of the packaging.

Whatever your methods, the gift of wine is always welcomed.  Whether the wine is a hostess gift or to mark a milestone celebration, selecting the ‘right’ wine for the occasion can be a challenge.

Recently, a friend asked me for ideas for a wedding gift for a couple that ‘has everything’. My suggestion was a collection of six personally selected wines. We browsed the wine section of the LCBO with the mission to find wines that would appeal to the newlyweds.  As we had enjoyed dinners with them before, we had some idea of their preference, but, beyond that, we let our creativity complete the gift. The gift was well received and is still being enjoyed during their first year of marriage.

Whatever the occasion, a Christmas present, a birthday gift or a hostess thank you gift, there is a wonderful world of wines waiting to be discovered.  Before you start, make it easier on yourself, by choosing a theme for your gift.

Memories of a Special Trip – Wines bring the world to the dinner table.  Choose wines from a country that the recipient has visited.  This will not only bring back memories of that trip, but is also an opportunity to re-tell adventures of that special time.

Milestone Years – I bought a bottle of vintage port to a birthday party and was met with the comment, “I am not the only one getting older!”.  For graduates, a bottle from the year that they started their diploma or degree is a fun way to mark that milestone.  If you want to celebrate the year that they graduated, you will have to wait at least one year, as wines are not generally released until the following year. A bottle of red wine is a better choice than a white wine as reds generally age better over time.

Wines to Grow Old With – Select wines from a significant year. As a christening gift, perhaps a certificate promising a gift of wine from the year that the baby was born (for some reason as above). An idea is to include a bottle of sparkling wine that the parents can enjoy now. This theme is ideal for a wedding gift, selecting wines from the year that the couple first met, accompanied by a note suggesting a particular anniversary that they could save it for.

Past, Present and Future – Someone making a big change in their life? Moving to a new city?  A new career?  Celebrate with three bottles of wine or perhaps a red, white and a sparkling wine.  Mark each as Past, Present and Future suggesting that they can remember the past, consider the present and look forward with anticipation to what the future may hold when enjoying each bottle.

With the theme decided upon, you are ready to start the fun part. When you select a wine, with the intention that it is to be aged, here are a few considerations to ensure it will be enjoyed at a later date.

Red wines tend to age better than whites.  To assure that the wine will improve with age, look for cellaring suggestions on the back label of the wine or ask for recommendations from a LCBO Product Consultant.

Select a wine in a dark bottle.  The colour of the bottle serves the purpose to defract the light and protect the wine.  Wines in clear bottles are intended to be consumed immediately.  Light can dramatically alter the taste of the wine.  Nouveau Beaujolais wine (first wine of the year) is released in November and is typically sold in a clear bottle.  The general rule of thumb of this particular wine is that it should be enjoyed before Christmas of that year.  A dark bottle is a quick indicator that the winemaker intends for the wine to age in a cellar for a few years.

Look for ‘Reserve’ wines.  The front label will be clearly marked ‘Reserve’, meaning that the wine has already aged at the winery.  Reserve wines are made with the intention of further aging in a personal cellar.

Splurge on a bottle of something different.  Choose a bottle of wine that is different or special to mart the occasion.  A sparkling wine always suggests a celebration.  A port or icewine is the perfect ending to a perfect evening.

If you need further help in making your selections, Product Consultants who have extensive wine training, are in most LCBO stores.

As you fill up your shopping cart, keep in mind the collective price of your gift of wine. It is easy to purchase several outstanding wines with outstanding price tags. Whether your gift of wine is two bottles or 12 bottles, it is best to have a price range in mind before you start.

To add a personal touch to your wine selection, you can write a message on each bottle using a coloured glass marker available from a stationary supply store.  Mention the reason for choosing the wine, suggest an occasion to enjoy the wine or provide tasting notes and food pairing suggestions.

Packaged in a gift bag, box or basket, giving the gift of wine is as much fun creating the gift as it is receiving it. If your budget allows, adding one of the accessories in the sidebar is another opportunity to creatively complete your gift of wine.

Until next time….”Cheers!”

Debbie Trenholm is an accredited Sommelier who hosts fun winemaker’s dinners and wine tastings in Ontario. Contact her for wine recommendations or questions about wine by emailing her on

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