Anyone who has spent time in a wine shop knows how fraught the task of choosing a bottle can be. Double that when buying for a friend. Here is a familiar scenario: Someone strides into the shop, impatient because he or she is running late for a dinner party. This guest wants a special bottle to give to the soiree’s hosts, but has no idea what they like or what they’re serving. The shop’s staff suggests a few possibilities before the guest makes a hurried decision. In the end, if the bottle isn’t opened that evening, and the hosts never mention if they liked it or not, the guest never knows how it was received.
How did choosing wine for a gift become so stressful?
We suggest a different strategy. Stop by your favorite wine shop with the goal of purchasing a mixed case of bottles that you like and would be proud to give. They need not be expensive, just thoughtfully chosen. Enlist the staff to help you. Select several perky whites and a passel of appetizing reds. As you walk out, you will feel smart (case discount) and satisfied (you now have a stash of gift wines).
Here are five that we would be happy to see in your hands if you appear at our door. Don’t forget the bow.
Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet Languedoc 2011 Yellow apple, tea rose, and baked pineapple aromas elevate this ripe white wine from the south of France. An appealing sip, refreshing on its own or with first-course nibbles. Around $11. At Sudbury Wine & Spirits, Sudbury, 978-443-1300; Downtown Wine & Spirits, Somerville, 617-625-7777.
Broadside Wild Ferment Chardonnay Edna Valley 2011 A lively and generous white that may very well change your mind about California chardonnay. This virtually unoaked gem is pure and fresh, full of juicy pear notes, bright acidity, and wet stone minerality. Around $20. At Central Bottle Wine + Provisions, Cambridge, 617-225-0040; Andover Liquors, Andover, 978-470-0500.
14 Hands Vineyards “Hot to Trot” Red Blend Columbia Valley 2010 Every gift giver needs a bottle for the friend getting acquainted with red wine. This ripe style of Washington merlot, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon is fruit-forward without being a fruit bomb. Ripe plum, a plush palate, and vanilla notes from oak. Around $12. At D&L Liquors, Waltham, 781-894-1907; Wollaston Wine & Spirits, Quincy, 617-479-4433.
Cincinnato “Polluce” Lazio 2010 With vineyards nestled on mountain slopes 45 minutes’ drive from Rome, this agricultural cooperative makes a red wine from indigenous nero buono di Cori grapes. Aromas of cherry, freshly turned soil, and purple flowers greet the nose while lip-smacking acidity and velvety tannins fill the mouth. Around $13. At Gordon’s Fine Wines & Liquors, Waltham, 781-893-1900; Medfield Wine Shoppe, Medfield, 508-359-4097.
Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Chile 2011 Juicy, balanced red from Chile, sporting black cherry, plum, cocoa, and green bell pepper notes. Well-integrated fruit, oak, and fine-grained tannins. Around $12. At Cambridge Wine & Spirits, Cambridge, 617-864-7171; Giles Fine Wine, Woburn, 781-933-0932.
Ellen Bhang can be reached at