If there's a single universal guideline for buying gifts, it's probably to pick something you know the recipient likes. When it comes to buying for wine lovers though, making a choice can be far from simple.
Clearly, wine is the obvious gift choice, but you might feel daunted by the sheer number of options. Narrowing your options to a bottle of nice Champagne is an excellent place to start — it's never been easier to find virtually any caliber or vintage of Champagne without even leaving the house.
There's surely something out there that the recipient will love and appreciate, but how do you pick? Unless you're a well-versed Champagne connoisseur yourself — or an armchair sommelier — you may not be sure where to start.
Tips for Selecting Champagne for a Wine Lover
Research Before You Shop
Wine appreciation is the focus of many websites, magazines, and television programs. Read a few current articles or watch some shows to learn about trends and popular topics related to Champagne.
This will give you some keywords to search if you buy online as well as brands and Champagne varieties to look for in a shop. If you reach out for help from staff, you'll also have a more knowledgeable frame of reference.
There's No Need to Blow Your Budget
There is virtually no ceiling to the amount of money you could spend on a single bottle of Champagne. Your best bet is to decide on a budget and aim for a gift that you're comfortable buying. Wine sellers love steering customers toward a special wine at any price point.
The truth is, you can find a complex, refreshing Champagne for a small investment, or you can spend hundreds of dollars on a rather dull bottle. Don't feel constrained by a lower budget. Do some research and make a list of Champagnes that match your price point, and go from there.
Focus on Rareness
If you want to find something truly unique and special, focus on a rare domain or limited release. Conduct some research focused on Champagnes that are sought after by the wine community. Your wine-loving recipient will appreciate the effort and enjoy reading up on their special bottle.
Non-Vintage or Vintage?
You might see advice encouraging you to personalize your gift based on the recipient's year of birth or another significant date. While this idea is interesting, you could wind up with a clunker.
In the case of Champagne, older is not always better. Champagne, in particular, does not age well after a certain point due to the special construction of the cork. At most, some vintages can keep for ten years or so after purchase.
It can be tricky to determine whether a bottle of Champagne has been idling on a store shelf well past its prime. Luckily, many Champagne producers take away the guesswork by stamping Champagne bottles with a lot number or the date of disgorgement (when it was corked). This can be a good indicator if the bottle you are considering is recently released from the winery, or a dust collector the retailer hasn't been able to sell.
It's also not uncommon for a Champagne house to re-release older vintages into the market some years after the wine was made. In this case, the Champagne has been in the cellars of the winery under a non-permeable seal, which prevents oxygen from getting in from the outside. This creates the perfect environment for the oxygen inside the bottle to age the wine gracefully, while preserving its freshness and of course, its bubbles. These re-releases can make for an exceptional gift for the recipient,
The bottom line is, know who you are purchasing from and ask questions. If you don't get satisfactory answers, you should look elsewhere.
Champagne is available in mini bottles, standard 750mL bottles, and magnum-size or larger. A magnum is twice the size of a standard bottle (1.5 L). Gifting a supersized Champagne bottle is a fun way to mark a special occasion.
Gift Certificates Fit Everyone
No, they are not as personal, but gift certificates can be an ideal gift for a wine lover. Choose a specialty wine retailer with a wide selection and knowledgeable staff. The wine lover in your life will have a great time browsing the selection — selecting a new wine is part of what makes their hobby so enjoyable!
Champagnes to Gift
This sampling of recommended Champagnes will give you some jumping-off points.
Peach, lemon, and pastry cream notes help to make this Champagne one of the "finest examples in its category." Critics note that this Champagne will age well, a detail wine connoisseurs will find helpful and intriguing.
This Champagne blend includes 30 different wines, including 25 percent of reserve wines. A tangy, energetic experience with apple and lemon curd flavors, this Champagne's brightness and layered nature make it a lovely choice.
This upper midrange rosé Champagne has wide-ranging appeal. Reviewers cite bright acidity and an aroma of red berries and freshly baked bread. This wine is medium-bodied, unique, and complex, with an unusual but very agreeable blend of baking spice, rose petal, blood orange, ginger, and mineral notes.
This aged Champagne is toasty with citrus notes and incredible complexity. Other flavor notes include toast, minerality, pear, and fresh almond.
Dom Perignon is a classic, perhaps accounting for why it's the most recognized Champagne name in the world. Critics point to the 2008 vintage as particularly notable and predict it will be considered one of the best releases of the year. Critics describe this vintage as having mature, toasted notes, a rounded finish, and a taste that lingers on a spicy note
Your gift recipient will enjoy this tidbit: the release of the 2008 Dom Pérignon vintage is the first time the estate has released a wine out of order. The 2009 vintage was released before the 2008, but the vintner was so impressed with the 2008 they aged it a bit longer.
An impressive bottle to give as a gift, to be sure, and critics agree that it is well worth the price point. Expect a rich, textured, bright body and notes of white cherries, chalky minerals, clear honey, and crisp green orchard fruit. One critic noted a distinct pastry cream and white flower finish.
Reach out to the knowledgeable, friendly wine consultants at JJ Buckley Fine Wines for more ideas and recommendations. You're sure to find a bottle of Champagne that will make a perfect gift among our 130+ selections.