Hinsdale Cellars Announces Tips for Choosing the Perfect Wine Gift this Holiday Season

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Selecting the perfect wine gift can be troublesome and the choices overwhelming. Read a list of helpful considerations when selecting premium wine for your loved ones, close friends, or colleagues this holiday season.

My merchant suggested this wine will not be ready to enjoy before a certain date, but it will not be available for purchase that far in the future so I am delighted to present it now.

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Discerning consumers are exercising ever more confidence in presenting premium wine as gifts for important occasions or major social events. To make their decisions less challenging, Hinsdale Cellars checked in with its network of experts in the premium wine industry to formulate its user-friendly Holiday 2006 Vintelligence Gift Plan.

"At Hinsdale Cellars, we're dedicated to lifestyle enhancement, and the place to start is with reliable information sources. We sell world-class wine, but also specialize in delivering reliable Vintelligence. For the Holidays, it's essential to understanding the necessary steps for choosing an appropriate wine. That's where our expertise can help," says Steve Woodward, the site's managing director.

The plan outlines the following Vintelligence guidelines:

1.    Be careful with "brand recognition" even if it is likely to impress the recipient.

Beringer makes a great Private Reserve red wine that competes with the best in America, but they also make Beringer Knights Valley -- 60,000 cases a year of good "mass market" wine. Also be cautious selecting from among Europe's vast selections. There might be temptation to lean toward a wine with the word Rothschild on the label. But what if it is Mouton (Rothschild) in a bad year? Many consumers often will not know for sure.

2.    Champagne is not a sure thing.

Grander occasions increasingly find hosts pouring an acclaimed white or "cult red" wine. Fine Champagne still has a celebratory aura about it, but with so may fine wines on the market it is often times not Champagne people cherish. Buck the trend by arriving at the door with a great bottle of wine ready to drink right away, or one worthy of a wine cellar.

3.    Provide an "owners' manual".

For some so-called wine geeks, here is the quandary: Hand someone a great bottle of wine and say nothing, or include a note about the wine, with tasting comments? Or even more importantly, provide instructions about when it will be ready to drink.

The fear people have is that a comment card might make them appear to be bragging about their vast wine knowledge. But Hinsdale Cellars' advisors believe most recipients will be thankful in the long run. An easy solution: simply visit a winery's website for a few brief gems of information, as many wineries maintain excellent sites.

Avoid any dilemmas aforementioned by simply buying wine that is ready to drink now when the time arrives to send wine as a gift. An esoteric wine that is ready to drink now will thrill the person to whom it is given.

4.    It is best to work backwards.

Start with drinkability. If a person opens it tomorrow, will he or she be pleased? If not, a note might be appropriate. Something straightforward: "My merchant suggested this wine will not be ready to enjoy before a certain date, but it will not be available for purchase that far in the future so I am delighted to present it now."

Do not be deterred from choosing exceptional wines - such as some types of Napa Valley red wines -- simply because they might need to age.

5.    Consider the "gender thing".

It is harder to find limited production, high end white wines for men. Most guys prefer red wines. Reds are safer gifts for wine lovers for prestige, but a riskier choice as far as drinkability.

6.    Critics' scores are not always important considerations for wine gifts.

When mentioning a score, especially for a recipient who is not well versed, it is best to do so in the context of a descriptive paragraph. Don't forget that a wine rating in the high 80s can actually turn out to be more desirable than one ranked in the low 90s after both have undergone aging.

7.    Among American wines, stick with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot from California; Pinot Noir from Oregon; and Cabernet and Cabernet Blends/Meritages from Washington (as good as many from Bordeaux). A great wine lover gift from outside the U.S. is a big Shiraz from Australia, as the higher end is almost always ready to drink.

8.    Protect gift shipments from Mother Nature by using next-day or second-day options.

The only safe window for ground shipments is mid-October to around December 1. For the Holiday season, air shipments are preferable as cold temperatures are no less detrimental to wine than extreme heat.

9.    Choosing a wine of the month club as a gift should focus primarily on minimizing choices for the recipient.

Some clubs send monthly "samplers", i.e., Great Sauvignon Blancs of New Zealand. However, a more stringent connoisseur always prefers a premium club that sends top-rated, limited allocation wine along with well written content about the monthly selection(s).

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