Wine is the perfect holiday gift: you need only choose among red, white and pink, one size fits all, and it doesn't matter if someone already has a bottle. On the other hand, giving someone a random wine can seem as impersonal as buying a book from the remainder table at Barnes & Noble. The more closely the bottle matches the tastes of the recipient, the more meaningful the gift becomes.
Personalizing the Wine Even if you don't know exactly what someone likes, you can personalize your selection by adding a note saying "This is a great vintage for Chianti" or "I loved this Chardonnay when I tried it, and I hope you do too."
Shopping Options Wine stores do an enormous portion of their business at this time of year, and their prices tend to be highly competitive, so it will pay to shop around.
10 Top Bottles
1999 Château Tiziano Chianti Riserva ($11) From the superb 1999 vintage in Tuscany, this juicy, medium-rich wine was given extra aging to attain Riserva status.
2001 Domaine Lafond Lirac ($12) This is a kind of junior Châteauneuf-du-Pape from an up-and-coming French region across the Rhône River. It's a flavorful mix of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.
2001 Eshcol Ranch Chardonnay ($12) This oak-fermented Chardonnay is a ringer for a wine nearly twice the price, with clean, classic fruit flavors and a touch of creaminess.
2001 Undurraga Reserva Merlot ($13) From one of Chile's oldest wine estates (it was founded in 1885), this impressively dark, supple Merlot exudes an aroma of mint and black cherries.
2001 Cline Zinfandel, Ancient Vines ($16) California's greatest wine legacy is old Zinfandel vines. This sensationally lush Zin comes from 80- to 100-year-old plantings.
Gratien & Meyer Saumur Cuvée Flamme ($18) The Loire Valley in France is a great place to look for well-crafted, well-priced sparkling wines such as this lovely, delicate nonvintage rosé made from Cabernet Franc.
Laurent-Perrier Brut L-P ($30) From one of the last family-owned grandes marques Champagne houses, this is a fresh, lively, medium-bodied nonvintage wine with smooth, complex fruit and mild notes of smoke and toast.
2000 Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto ($52) This velvety new wine from the producer of Italy's legendary Sassicaia is not just a more affordable alternative but a terrific bottling in its own right, with 10 to 15 years of flavors yet to unfold.
2000 Ducru-Beaucaillou ($116) One of Bordeaux's most prized grands crus, or great growths, from a stupendous vintage, this wine combines elegance with considerable power.
1999 Dolce ($75/375 ml) From the owners of Napa's Far Niente comes this unctuous dessert wine made from hand-selected grapes infected by the "noble rot" responsible for some of the greatest sweet wines of France and Germany.