Picking out the right wine for someone could prove as challenging as buying a present for the in-laws who have everything.
Which varietal? How much to spend? Go bold – or delicate? Is a bottle of Sherry the ultimate insult?
These questions become particularly difficult when you don’t know the recipient’s wine taste. Steer clear of giving wine to anyone who you’re not certain drinks alcohol.It could become awkward if the person is a recovering alcoholic or for religious reasons doesn’t drink.
But if they do, the trick is in the pairing. Our experts have a lot of tips, everything from matching personalities to wine to finding clues in the foods and beverages they drink.
Tim Hanni, a master of wine, has his own theories about people’s likes and dislikes based on how many taste buds they have on their tongue. While it might be a little presumptuous, and definitely strange, to ask your boss if you could get a look inside his or her mouth, Hanni says there are other hints to follow.
“How they drink their coffee could be a telltale sign,” says the wine master. “If they prefer their coffee black and strong, their wine preference will more than likely lean toward intense wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, old-vine Zinfandels and many Meritage wines (usually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes).”
Hanni says cream-and-sugar coffee drinkers are more likely to show a preference for moderately sweet wines, such as Muscat and Riesling. Sparkling wines are also an option. He says to look for labels that have 2 to 6 percent residual sugar levels.
People who salt their food heavily are also likely to go for the sweeter wines, according to Hanni. Same goes for folks who gravitate to sweet cocktails such as mojitos and pina coladas. He says Manhattan, martini and classic margarita drinkers would probably appreciate Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Merlot and Chardonnay. For the whisky, Cognac, Tequila and Scotch crowd, try big, bold reds and oaky, expensive Chardonnays.
Don’t have a clue about what kind of cocktails the person you’re buying for likes or how he or she takes coffee? Hanni suggests going with personality traits. A man with a strong personality who is good at math would probably prefer a wine that’s received a high rating from Robert Parker. If he’s more artistic and a little disorganised, go with Pinot Noir, dry Riesling and wines you would describe to your merchant as delicate and expressive.
For a strong woman, Hanni suggests Shiraz, Pinot Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay. For an artistic woman, go for something sweet, like a fruit wine, he says. “Of course these are all generalisations,” says Hanni. “But in my experience, they tend to work.”
If you don’t know someone well enough to judge their wine taste, get something festive that they can share with other people. Good choices are Champagne, sparkling wine, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc – it goes great with food.