Buying and gifting wine for Christmas....the burden of choice....

Buying and gifting wine for Christmas....the burden of choice....

Choosing wine for yourself or as a gift can be a bit of a challenge. Do you really need to know your wines to decide what to buy?

Christmas is coming - what about the wine?

As Christmas approaches, enjoying some decent food and wine is top of my list of priorities – could be an age thing…. Anyway, as far as gifts go, I mostly get to cheat as no one is unhappy with me turning up on their doorstep with wine, ready to be shared not hoarded. Wine is much more enjoyable in the sharing. On the other hand, I rarely receive any, as people are too concerned, they might choose something I don’t like or don’t rate. They don’t like to give wine to an “expert”, although that is certainly not how I see myself. Certainly, as far as Italian wines go, I would consider my knowledge close to zero, hence this exciting voyage of discovery I am now on, learning with Ben and Emma. #discoveringitalianwine – more to follow on that.

Knowing your wines?

As I have worked with and learnt a lot about wine over many years, finding myself suddenly presented with a mass of unfamiliar wines and regions from Italy is probably the closest I have come to someone else learning from scratch. At Bat and Bottle’s Winter Tastings I watched customers happily trying the wines and talking to the producers in London and then I chatted to quite a few customers myself in Oakham. The room wasn’t full of ‘experts’, just people trying and enjoying wines. It dawned on me (lightbulb moment) that in fact unpronounceable wine names, unheard of wine regions and grape varieties aren’t the stumbling blocks, that many wine trade people tend to think they are. It isn’t about only having Malbec, Shiraz, Merlot or Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin or Chardonnay on the label or knowing about similar wines or regions that encourages people to buy. Obviously, budget plays an important part, but which bottle do you choose with so much choice out there?

Choosing wine…..

I have been lucky enough to regularly try wines from lots of different regions, producers and styles, from an inexhaustible supply of new things to discover. The overriding sentiment this creates for me is that I would love other people to know these wines are out there too, to have a chance to try them for themselves. As there are always too many wines to choose from now, there is little likelihood of tracking down the real gems for yourself without a few pointers. Enter reliable and endlessly enthusiastic independent wine merchants, an important and thriving sector of the UK wine market. If you have access to one, you are on to a winner. Let them point you at wines to try, they will listen to your feedback and steer you in the right direction again and again. Even better if they have sought out and imported some or all the wines themselves.


So, this is where I am now, learning lots about Italian wines from scratch, trying out styles and grapes I know very little about.  I am completely reliant on Ben and Emma to point me in the right direction – no complaints!

Perfect recent example: I tried the wines from Villa Guelpa at Bat and Bottle’s London Tasting and one wine I particularly liked was the 2018 Sizzano. So far I have learned:

  • Sizzano DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata) is an (officially designated) wine region, which I had no idea even existed.
  • It is made from Nebbiolo and Vespolina grapes - I had heard of these grapes, but didn’t know what this blend would or should taste like.
  • It comes from Alto Piemonte which I do know is a region known for good acidity in the wines, longevity and some volcanic soils.
Daniele Diona
I was able to read up more information about this wine and Villa Guelpa by checking out the Bat and Bottle webpage on my phone, whilst at the tasting (how good is that?!).  Plus, huge bonus meeting the winemaker Daniele Diona in person.

My thoughts were that it was a lovely juicy red, nice crisp finish and very smooth (i.e. didn’t get any chunky tannins.) Comparing notes with Ben later at the warehouse, he pointed me at the 2017 Sizzano, “only a few left” – well, enough said, had to try it... a really super, delicious wine. (grab some!)
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.