1. Avoid giving older red wines from stores you don’t know well. Top wines can age well for years, but only if they’re kept at an ideal temperature during that entire time. Also, avoid weak vintage years, even if the price is better.
2. Avoid giving older white wines. The vast majority of white wines do not age over time, so look for vintages within two years of the present date.
3. Don’t buy wines made from obscure grape varieties or regions for friends who aren’t really into wine. Instead, look for familiar, popular types of wine that they will recognize, like Cabernet Sauvignon or Champagne.
4. Skip inexpensive, mass-produced brands. A familiar variety or region is one thing; buying a bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz that the recipient can purchase for about $7 at the grocery store doesn’t imply much personal thought.
5. Don’t give a bottle that you want the host to open that night. If you’re absolutely desperate to try the wine, buy two bottles and keep one for yourself. That way you won’t sit through a dinner party wondering if the host is ever going to open your bottle.