A bottle of wine is a nice Christmas gift; warm, personal and practical.
The recipient can use it even if she/he already has one. It comes in all sizes, colors (well, at least white, pink and red) and price ranges.
And even if the recipient doesn't drink wine, he/she can serve it to guests.
Still, there are practical considerations to take into account to do it successfully. Ignoring them can lead to trouble. And unfortunately, the quality of the wine is only third or fourth in that list.
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The first rule is to decide how much to spend on the recipient. Spend too little on your boss and he'll think you're a cheapskate; spend too much and he might think you don't need that bonus/raise this year.
Shortchange your mother-in-law and it could be a chilly holiday; spend too much and she'll fear you and your wife will never afford a down payment so you can move out of her basement.
Second rule: Don't give someone a bottle of wine with a screw cap unless you know they're knowledgeable about wine. Screwcap-wine recipients must be people who understand that you're not low-balling them — that some of the finest sauvignon blancs and pinot noirs come in screw caps.
Quality does matter. Don't fall into the trap of buying a bottle for the attractiveness of its label. There's a rule of thumb among wine fans: The cuter the critter on the label, the shoddier the wine.
Maybe the best advice: Don't give pigs in pokes. Buy wines you know, wines you've tasted. It's a little late for this year, but all through next year, jot down the name of every wine you taste, including its name, price and how you like it. Then you'll have your own Christmas wine list.
Meanwhile, here are some of my ideas:
Up to $30
■ 2012 Waterstone Pinot Gris, Napa Valley: crisp and creamy, with aromas and flavors of ripe apricots and pears; $18.
■ 2012 Mother Clone Zinfandel by Pedroncelli, Dry Creek Valley (90 percent zinfandel, 10 percent petite sirah): rich and hearty, with red raspberry and bitter chocolate flavors; $17.
■ 2010 Chateau Lestage Simon Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois red wine (80 percent merlot, 10 percent cabernet franc, 10 percent cabernet sauvignon): aromas of black plums, burnt sugar and espresso, firm tannins; $29.
■ 2011 Morgan "G17" Syrah, Monterey (83 percent syrah, 14 percent tempranillo, 3 percent grenache): hearty, rich and smooth, with flavors of black plums and licorice, long finish; $22.
■ 2011 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, Napa Valley: golden color, aromas and flavors of honey, ripe pears and oranges, full-bodied and smooth; $45.
■ 2010 Brancaia Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG, (80 percent sangiovese, 20 percent merlot): rich, heady and powerful, with aromas and flavors of black plums and espresso coffee; $40.
■ 2012 Kelly Fleming Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley: rich flavors of green pineapples, limes and peaches, crisp and lush; $36.
■ 2011 Arrowood Viognier, "Saralee's Vineyard," Russian River Valley: aromas of lemons, honey and spice, full-bodied and rich; $30.
■ 2008 Boroli Barolo DOCG, Italy: inky red hue, powerful aromas and flavors of black cherries and black pepper, sturdy tannins and acids; $40.
■ 2011 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir, "Olivet Lane," Russian River Valley: concentrated, even heady, with aromas and flavors of black raspberries, cinnamon and licorice, smooth, long finish; $62.
■ 2009 B.R. Cohn Cabernet Sauvignon "Olive Hill Estate Vineyards," Sonoma Valley: deep, dark and powerful, with aromas and flavors of cassis and cloves and a long, smooth finish; $55.
■ 2011 Shafer Merlot, Napa Valley (75 percent merlot, 15 percent cabernet sauvignon, 8 percent malbec, 2 percent petite verdot): concentrated flavors of black cherries and black coffee, full-bodied and smooth; $50.
■ 2011 Stonetreet "Upper Barn" Chardonnay, Alexander Mountain Estate: lush and opulent, with aromas and flavors of ripe pears; $75.
$100 and up
■ 2010 Monteverro Chardonnay, IGT Toscana Bianco, Maremma, Tuscany: golden color, complex, shifting, concentrated flavors of vanilla, ripe pears and honey, rich and viscous and smooth; $120.
■ 2010 Nickel & Nickel "C.C. Ranch" Single- Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, Napa Valley: toasty oak aromas, rich and smooth and opulent, with flavors of black cherries and spice; $100.
■ 2009 Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga, Napa Valley (98 percent cabernet sauvignon, 2 percent cabernet franc): hint of smoky oak, aromas and flavors of black plums, licorice and spice, opulent and smooth, long finish; $150.
■ Samuel Adams Utopias: This is an "extreme beer" — a powerful, dark, uncarbonated brew that drinks like a cognac (and costs like one), with black plum, cinnamon and tobacco flavors, at 28 percent alcohol, to be sampled in two-ounce pours in snifters. It's made of a blend of brews, some barrel-aged as long as 20 years; $199.