Holiday Wine Guide

A bottle of wine makes a great gift – for the hostess, people who have everything or professionals that you’d like to give a holiday present to. I’m still at the basics level when choosing wine, but fortunately Natalie McLean has some entertaining suggestions for which kind of wine to share this holiday season.

 “Wine is one of the few presents that makes both the giver and the receiver look good,” says Natalie MacLean, the red-nosed e-sommelier behind, one of the largest wine web sites. “You look like you spent a bundle on the gift (even if you didn’t) and the recipients are happy that you think they know something about wine (even if they don’t).”

This holiday season, anyone can tap into MacLean’s expertise via her free web site and mobile apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid and other smartphones. They help consumers with a whole new type of pairing: wine with the people on your Christmas shopping list. The app and site also pair wines to thousands of dishes, including holiday favorites, such as turkey, goose, duck, and even partridge in a pear tree.

“When you give wine, doubles are fine, there are no wrong sizes and you can always find something good in stock,” MacLean adds. “Vintage gifts will get anyone into the holiday spirits.”

Natalie’s Top Ten Gift Wines for Your …   

1. Hairdresser: For the person who combines humor and optimism every time she styles your mop. Go for a light, gulpable wine like a dry rosé. It’s versatile and fuss-free—a great quaff for your coif. 

2. Psychiatrist: Of course, he’ll analyze whatever you give him so choose a wine that’s all about balance. Easy-drinking pinot noir is medium-bodied yet packed with flavor. Surprise him with a large-format bottle, like a magnum. Big thinking means big progress for you. This wine also works for psychologists, marriage counselors and bartenders.

3. The Boss: Pick too pricey a wine and your boss will think your last raise was too much; go cheap, and she’ll think you lack judgement. Focus on a label with a lot of white space since that makes the bottle look more expensive. A castle in the distance also works, but avoid fluffy animals.

4. Personal Trainer: Think a muscular, robust red would work? Hold that position. Instead, try riesling: this light white wine pairs well with a health-nut diet of salad and seafood, plus it’s low in alcohol. You can also give it to Pilates instructors, yoga masters and Tai Chi coaches.

5. Financial Planner: You and he both know it’s going to take decades before your portfolio recovers after the crash of 2008. With that long-term view, vintage port makes the perfect gift. This fortified wine from northern Portugal, with its long aging potential, will be around for both of you into your retirements.

6. Travel Agent: She’s been everywhere and seen everything, so go local with your choice of wine. Even better, if you live close to the winery, get the bottle signed by the winemaker.

7. Teacher: If you can’t find a suitably obscure wine with a Latin name, there’s always cream sherry. It’s the tipple of Oxford dons, not to mention the centerpiece of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Case of the Amontillado.

8. Mail Deliverer: Go for a winery that’s consistent year after year in producing a wine that can be enjoyed in snow, rain, sleet or hail. Try an Australian shiraz or Argentine malbec.

9. Mechanic: Yes, there’s a wine called Red Truck, but try to be more imaginative. Why not give a wine made by Mario Andretti in California or Ferrari in Italy?

10. Online Date: So you’re on your second or third rendezvous with the person you met on eHarmony or If you’re not sure yet whether marriage is a possibility, try something middle-of-the-road, like merlot. Yes, it’s the soft jazz of wine, but until you know, play it safe.

And after all that shopping, don’t forget yourself: even Santa’s little helpers need more than milk and cookies. Try something with high-alcohol like Italian Amarone or Rhone syrah: these big reds easily drown out tone-deaf caroling and pair beautifully with tired feet.

For Natalie’s favorite wineries, tasting notes and recipe matches for all the wine types mentioned above, please visit:

With Natalie’s great suggestions in mind, for a little extra holiday flair, think gift wrap. There are countless styles of wine gift bags on the market, but customizing your own is easy. You can find plain white or brown gift bags at craft stores or the Container Store.

For a simple classy bag, you can’t go wrong with gold. I like to take a brown bag and turn it into a faux bois masterpiece with a little gold acrylic paint and a faux bois tool. Using a foam brush, paint a thin layer of paint onto the front of the bag, then gently drag the faux bois tool down the paint, gently rocking it, as you drag it toward you in one stroke. It takes a little practice, so try it out on a few scrap sheets first until you get the look you want. When the front of the bag dries, do the same on the back side. Paired with green velvet ribbon and some frosted pinecones, it’s a sophisticated way to present a quality bottle of wine.

You can also use a hole punch to add a border to the top of your bag – snowflakes or scrolls are both festive choices. And you can find a multitude of rubber stamps these days – you can use traditional ink with these, or stamp into adhesive so that you can emboss, glitter or flock the image.

However you choose to present your wine, keep these easy suggestions in mind this year while doing your holiday shopping – your recipients will be glad you did when they’re able to pop a cork after the hustle and bustle of season and enjoy a glass that was picked just for them.