Buying Wine for Other People

Buying Wine for Other People

The Casual Drinker

If you are choosing wine for a person who has only a casual interest in wine, then you'll probably need to buy something that will go well with food. Your goal is to buy a wine that is easy to like.

If you are buying wine for someone who likes white wine, then a New World Chardonnay is a good choice. As long as you don't choose the cheapest in the shop, then most Chardonnays will taste good. If possible, try to find one that isn't too acidic or oaky, however, any £8 Chardonnay from the New World will be a very safe bet. The Semillon/Chardonnay blends from Australia are also usually very good, and fairly priced at around £6.

When it comes to red wine, there is no safe choice equivalent to a Chardonnay. However, an easy drinking wine such as Beaujolais, or an Italian red will usually be well appreciated.

The Connoisseur

If you are going to buy wine as a gift for a connoisseur, and you are not one yourself, the best approach is to buy a 'best-of type' with a reasonable price tag. However, avoid choosing the best wines from areas such as Burgundy, as these will set you back hundreds of pounds. On a more reasonable scale, the best wines from Chile, New Zealand or the underappreciated Alsace region will cost you far less. For example, you should be able to pick up an excellent Riesling from Alsace for under £20.

People Who Don't Like Wine

Those people who don't enjoy wine usually object to its acidity, the tannin, or the alcohol.

The acids in wine are balanced in part by the fruit and sugar, and so dry wine with little or no residual sugar may have an acidity that is overwhelming for a non-wine person. Most New World rosés have very low acidity, as do Australian Chardonnays. If you're looking for a red wine, then Beaujolais, with its low acidity and tannins, is a safe choice.

If you're buying for anyone who dislikes the taste of alcohol, then you could try Moscato d'Asti, a low-alcohol, slightly sparkling wine from the North-west of Italy. Its alcohol level of 5.5% is approximately half that of normal wine, which allows its subtle floral components to shine through.

Another low alcohol choice would be a late-harvest German Riesling. At around 9.5% alcohol, this is a sweet and rich white wine. However, costing approximately £20, this may be a little extravagant for someone who claims not to enjoy wine.

People Who Don't Like Red Wine

There are many people who enjoy white wine who, after tasting a few reds, give up on the genre. This is generally because people often start their wine career by drinking inexpensive wine, and cheaper red wines tend to be more offensive than cheaper whites.

One solution is to look for low-tannin wines. As we have already seen, Beaujolais is a fruity, easy drinking gulping wine. Rioja from Spain is another option.

Australian blends of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz exhibit enough raisin fruit to tame most tannins, and you should be able to find some good examples for less than £8. If you're willing to spend around £10, then you'll be able to buy a wonderful Australian Shiraz, rich and thick with fruit and spice, and capable of converting many a red-wine cynic.

It may be that those who think they dislike red wine are actually looking for wine with plenty of fruit. Zinfandel is very fruity, although it may be a little too tannic. Pinot Noir can be a good choice, especially from New World producers such as Chile and California. These wines are the fruitiest examples of this varietal; Old World Pinot tends to be more austere, with less ripe fruit flavour.

People Who Don't Like White Wine

If someone says that they don't like white wine, it often means that they dislike the typically oaky New World Chardonnay. It could also be that if they enjoy huge tannic reds, they will probably think that white wine is somewhat boring in comparison.

There are several options you could try:

  • You could try a good French Chardonnay; white Burgundy is less fruity and more acidic than most New World Chardonnay.
  • Viognier from the Rhone is a heady and intense wine, and light-years away from a Chardonnay.
  • Gewurztraminer is another aromatic grape that will offer a complete change of pace.
  • A good Alsace or German Riesling is less pungent than Gewurztraminer, but different enough from Chardonnay to make it worth trying.