Natalie MacLean’s Top Ten Gift Wines

It’s that time of year again! The onslaught of holiday shoppers has already poured into the malls. There are family gifts, friend gifts, and host gifts, not to mention those here-and-there gifts for acquaintances, those who you interact with year-round but who aren’t quite friends.

Wine is often a great gift option, and luckily, Natalie MacLean, author of the award-winning Red, White and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass has shared some clever tips for figuring out just what wine to buy for those tricky gift recipients. Natalie, also the winner of four James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards and many others, writes the website NatDecants, an incredible go-to for wine lovers and the place for food and wine pairing tips. Looking for a wine to go with your holiday feasts?

When you are done reading Natalie’s gift-buying tips, go straight to my favorite part of Natalie’s site, Wine & Food, and enjoy!

Nat Decants

Pairing wines with personalities for gift shoppers—there’s an app for that (and a web site)

New York, November 18, 2010 — “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 judgment. 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:

Live in the Boston area? Check out the Red White Boston app to help you find your closest wine stores and the wines they recommend this time of year!

Do you ever give wine as a gift? Do you have a standard favorite that you prefer?

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Tags: holidays, Natalie MacLean, wine, wine and food pairing

  1. Michelle’s avatar

    These are some great tips! Thanks for sharing!


  2. Grace’s avatar

    These are such great, timely, and fun tips! I do like giving wine as a gift if I know the tastes of the gift recipient.


  3. Megan’s avatar

    I really like this tips. I may give my boss a bottle of wine this year.


  4. Daniel’s avatar

    great post, thanks for sharing


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