Guide to Wine Gifts

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Forget the flowers -- there's nothing wine lovers enjoy more than a box or basket filled with things related to their favorite hobby. Wine gifts can take many shapes (and cover many price ranges); they can be as elaborate as a wine club subscription, or as romantic as a picnic basket stuffed with bottles and delicacies. Whether you're shopping for a wine-loving spouse or picking a present for the boss, let our Guide to Wine Gifts make the perfect match.

Wine Gift Baskets

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A wine gift basket is endlessly customizable, and will always makes a terrific impression upon arrival (who wouldn't love receiving a couple of amazing wines surrounded by a bounty of food?). There are a number of gift services that can build a stunning wine-centric tower of goodies, and handle the delivery -- but if your recipient is local, why not build your own? Here are some things to consider:

Focus on the wine. Sadly, there are plenty of wine baskets that treat the wine itself as an afterthought. Consider the recipient's tastes and level of wine knowledge, and choose accordingly. Remember that you don't have to spend a bundle to get a great bottle (check out Snooth's best wines under $15 ).

Pick a picnic basket. Why not make the basket itself a big part of the gift? A close-able picnic basket filled with goods is immediately ready for a romantic afternoon in the grass, and can then be enjoyed for years to come.

Choose some non-perishables. By all means, throw some terrific fruit and cheese into the mix, but don't forget to include some snacks with a longer shelf-life. Consider wrapped chocolates, crackers, nuts, and preserves.

Go for gadgets and guides. Your wine basket doesn't have to stop at food. Wine accessories and books make excellent basket-stuffers. No wine lover can have too many good corkscrews -- there's always a new place to stash one!

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Wine Clubs

If you want a wine gift that quite literally keeps on giving, consider a gift membership to a wine club. Wine clubs deliver one or two bottles to their members at regular intervals throughout the year; depending on the nature of the club, all of the the wines could be from a single winery, region, accessibility level, or even a certain varietal. When selecting a wine club membership as a gift, you'll want to keep a few things in mind:

Consider the curator. It seems that nearly everyone -- newspapers, radio stations, even political groups! -- sponsors a wine club. Beware: many of the organizations that put their names on a wine club have little to nothing to do with the wine selection (it's handled by a third-party marketer). Look into clubs curated by a familiar wine merchant, a family of wine brands, wine region, or even a specific winery.

Select a style. Are you buying for someone who is just starting to learn about wine, a die hard Pinot Noir fan, or a collector who has a thing for cult California releases? There are clubs tailored to nearly every knowledge level or interest. For a beginner, choose a club that offers red and white wines from a variety of regions. More established wine lovers or collectors may appreciate a series of shipments of new releases from their favorite winery (wine club members often get them ahead of the public).

Set a schedule. Many wine clubs will offer three, six, or twelve month subscriptions, or will ship on a quarterly basis. Less frequent shipping (ie, six bottles shipped quarterly instead of spread out over three months) can result in huge cost reduction. Whatever you select -- if you're signing someone else up as a gift, make sure that the subscription isn't set to automatically renew, unless you'd like your wine gift to go on in perpetuity!

Check shipping restrictions. Not all states can receive out-of-state wine shipments, so make sure you search out any restrictions on your recipient's address before selecting a wine club. Also evaluate the shipping costs; in some cases, the price of getting the wine to your recipient undoes the benefit of any discount gained by joining the club.

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Wine Bags & Carriers

The best thing about a wine gift is that the very wrapping can be a gift in and of itself. Wine lovers always need a clever way to carry wine bottles, whether it be to a restaurant, a friend's house, or even to another state or country.

Upgrade your gift bags. When you're giving someone a bottle, you can slip it inside a simple paper gift bag, or choose something slightly sturdier that's still decorative. For a few extra dollars, you can pick up an endlessly-reusable, specially-designed neoprene or padded tote that hugs a wine bottle's curves, maintains it's temperature, and protects it from an accidental (or in the case of some bottles - tragic) breakage.

Scope out carrying cases. Wine bags work when carrying just a bottle or two, but for anyone who regularly lugs three or more bottles around town, consider a sturdier carrying case. Make sure your selection has significant layers of protection built in between the bottle-slots and a tough-but-comfortable handle or shoulder strap.

Look at luggage. For the serious, globe-trotting wine lover in your life, consider getting them a dedicated piece of luggage designed to hold multiple bottles and protect them during transit. Get them one with a sturdy pair of wheels and a long, collapsible handle, and they're bound to be so grateful they'll share their international bounty with you.

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