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How To Be The Classy Wine Guy This Christmas

The following article is sponsored by Penfolds

‘Tis the season – the season of celebration, the season of gifting, the season of enjoying a few drinks at the numerous family occasions.

You may be a beer man most of the year. You may even privately think wine is just old grape juice. But when the holidays come around, you suddenly feel like you need to be a viticultural expert in order to cross everyone off your shopping list and impress over lunch or dinner.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a sommelier to choose a wine and you don’t have to spend a fortune for your gift to impress. A foundation of basic knowledge about varietals, vintages, and a few other factors will help you select a present that makes any occasion merry and bright.

We’ve partnered with the legendary iconic wine brand Penfolds to bring you tips on how to spread the holiday cheer in true oenophilic style.

Consider The Occasion

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First things first: what, or who, are you buying for? Is it a wedding? A housewarming party? A Christmas gift? If you know the recipient well, the answer is easy: buy what they like. They’ll be thrilled to get a wine they love and impressed by how well you’ve been paying attention.

You may be tempted by the bottle with the fanciest label or the biggest price tag, but this is no time for ego or snobbery. If your giftee likes it sweet, then there are many wines on the market that can appeal, but you can also help expand their likes with whites such as Penfolds Bin 51 Riesling – a very approachable white with lemon gelati and pink grapefruit flavours. Even if it’s not their usual taste, it will show them that you have put thought into their gift choice.

If you’re not familiar with their taste in grapes, you’ll need to be more creative. Assess the situation to determine an appropriate tipple. A dinner party with friends demands something that will appeal to the majority, whilst a celebration, usually calls for a sparkling to toast the moment.   If it’s a wedding, consider getting a variety of wines or a case to help the new couple begin their own wine collection journey together.

A bottle of Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz is a robust and respectable choice for a meal amongst companions, while Grange 2011 in a presentation box is a sophisticated splurge for the most special of occasions.

Consider The Cost

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Unless the recipient is a connoisseur of wine, chances are they won’t know if your gift cost $50 or $250.   If you plan on going down the $200 route, it’s important to make sure that what you are buying is actually good. 

Obviously keep your budget in mind, but don’t forget what matters ultimately at the end of the day is taste.  A cheap bottle can disappoint but equally an expensive one is not always worth the extra investment.  Relying on the advice of staff in store or visiting brand’s websites for some research is always a good way to start your gift purchase journey.  Reviewing tasting notes and selecting based on tastes they like, will make the selection of the perfect wine that much easier.  Whatever you so, choose a wine that checks both boxes: it nails it in the taste stakes and won’t set you back on rent.

Penfolds offers a range of wines to suit a variety of tastes and budgets. A Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon or Bin 8 Cabernet Shiraz is an affordable bottle that won’t fall flat. Try a Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz or St Henri Shiraz if you have more to spend. If you’re looking to go lavish, the Grange 2008 & 2010 Twin Magnum Collector’s Edition is the ultimate extravagance.

RELATED: A Magnificent Bastard’s Guide To Gifting Wine This Christmas

Consider The Label

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Your mother taught you not to judge a book by its cover, but the rule doesn’t apply when it comes to wine labels. To the untrained eye, wine jargon reads like an alien language. To the savvy, labels share key information about the bottle that can guide your choice.

Here’s what to look for:

Vintage

Vintage indicates the year in which the grapes were harvested, not the year the wine was produced. A vintage wine is made entirely from grapes grown and harvested in a single year. A non-vintage wine is made from a blend of grapes from different years, with the goal of creating a consistent “house style.”

One vintage can differ noticeably from another, even if it’s the same wine from the same producer. Each grape variety responds to changing weather conditions in its own particular way. As the micro-climate of a wine-growing region varies (sometimes dramatically) from one year to the next, the wine it produces also varies.

Varietal

The varietal is the type of grape or blend of grapes that make up the wine. Examples of grape varieties commonly used in red wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. Common white wine varieties are Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.

The exception to the rule is a blend. If the wine combines different kinds of grapes, you may see either all of their names on the label or none at all. In other cases, the word on the label can refer to a specific blend of grapes used to produce the wine. Meritage, for instance, is not the name of a grape but rather the designation for a fusion of particular “noble” Bordeaux grape varieties.

Region

Region denotes where the grapes were produced. The region could be as broad as an entire country or narrowed down to a more specific locale, like Australia’s Barossa Valley. You may also hear the term “appellation” used for geographical indication.

Wines from different regions taste different, even if the same grape variety is used. A Merlot produced in California will not be the same as a Merlot from France or Italy. Weather, climate and soil conditions – also known as the “terroir” – all contribute to the varience in product between wine regions.  Some of the best wines often come from multiple regions, blending the best of the grapes from each to deliver a spectacular wine.  Don’t limit yourself to just a single region… 

Name / Producer

Some wines prominently display a name or brand. Others reference the wine’s producer. If there is no brand name on the label, the bottler’s name is considered the brand. A winery that has several brands may also specify the bottler’s name.

If you’re the type who likes to research before making a purchase, knowing the producer can give you insight into what’s in the bottle. You can look into the climatic and geographical conditions of the vineyard, learn about the wine-making process of the winery, and get a feel for the style of wines previously released by the producer.

The Final Word

Before we release you into the wild, itching to put your new-found knowledge to good use, we have one last piece of advice: don’t buy a wine you’ll be tempted to drink before you gift it, unless of course you buy two – one for them, one for you! An empty bottle doesn’t make quite the same impression as a full one (and no, you won’t be able to pass it off as an upcycled flower vase).

RELATED: A Gentlemen’s Guide To The Penfolds Family Of Wines

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