Forbes Magazine: Cyber Monday Wine Gift Ideas. Backstory Included.

Posted: Dec 01 2014

The early numbers are in, and they aren’t pretty.

Retail spending over the weekend — that used-to-be-quintessential-American-shopping-weekend — fell by 11% this year, continuing a two-year slide downward.

The writing is on the wall. Habits are shifting.

How we shop is different. So is why we shop.

Consumers can be more informed about products and purchases now than ever before. That increase in awareness goes hand-in-hand with an increase in intention.

When it comes to wine, that intention can translate to gift ideas that matter to you as the giver and to the recipient of your gift. The research is available, whether your interest is organic wine or hip technology or supporting small businesses or even protecting world heritage sites.

Here are five wine ideas meant to match gift with intention.

When You Want to Know the People Behind the Wine

Wine tourism in Italy can be hit or miss, and vary from virtually non-existent to high-gleam commercial. Yet wine’s appeal here — from its historical roots to its current, complex iterations — is unmistakable. Dive straight to the heart of the matter with a guide like Select Italy, whose goal is to provide visitors with a sense of the people behind the wine, rather than simply the business of it. Check out their Tasca d’Almerita experience in particular — yes, it’ll take you to Sicily and their trendy wines from Mt Etna and elsewhere on the island, but what you’ll write home about are the people you meet who made those wines possible. More information here.

When You Want It Personal. And Just Right.

Sure, it’s contrary to the Cyber Monday theme. But that’s mostly the point. “We’re still old school, and we take mail orders and telephone orders,” said Tim Bucciarelli of Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “You want things to be just right for your holiday party, so lots of people call and need their questions answered. We’re much more hands-on and customer service-oriented.” The retail shop — which first opened in 1978 and is widely known for directly sourcing unique cheeses, oils, and spices — normally does 40% of its annual business during the two months of November and December. Almost half of their shipment orders are transacted by telephone. “For us it’s a lot of fun,” Bucciarelli said. “We solicit input from all our staff to create our own Best Of… gift guide. We get good ideas for what people give to their loved ones, and that creates a spark.” Formaggio ships specialty wine and beer within Massachusetts (ask in particular for their sparkling wine options); all other products are shipped nationwide. More information here.

When You Want to Make an Impact

There’s an area in Piedmont’s Lanze wine growing region — about 30 miles southeast of Turin, Italy — that’s being considered for UNESCO’s World Heritage site listing. In the meantime, and to ensure that the vineyards are preserved regardless of UNESCO’s decision, the municipality is offering an “adopt a row” program. You’ll choose your row, monitor growth and progress via webcam, participate in harvest and winemaking if you want, and receive a case of high-quality Barbera at the end of the year. The program is renewable on an annual basis and, along the way, you’ll have a hand in grass-roots impact (literally) in one of the world’s most prized wine producing regions. More information here.

When You’re into Tech. And Making Wine Last.

You may have noticed wine preservation systems when you’re out and about in restaurants, wine bars, and retail shops. They’re effective and efficient, and they help to take the sting out of purchasing a high-priced wine when you may not want to finish the whole bottle. The system is now available for home use as well, with a counter-top wine preservation product called Genesis, from Napa Technology. It removes the oxygen from an open bottle of wine, either still or sparkling, and preserves it for up to two months. It’s commercial grade technology, brought home. More information here.

When You Need It Simple: Food Pairing, Delivered

Thanks to more open DTC shipping laws, it’s easier than ever for wineries to ship bottles directly to the consumer. But what if perfectly suited food pairings came along with it? And what if those pairings illustrated a fun, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that business partnership? Silverland Bakery (who did think of it…) partnered with Monterey-based Estancia winery to create bakery bars meant to match the producer’s popular Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. One box includes 12 bars — six White Chocolate Caramel bars to go with the Chardonnay, and six Pinot Noir bars with raspberry and cherry filling. You won’t have made dessert yourself, but you can be inspired by the sweet idea of it. More information here.

Find Cathy Huyghe online at and on Twitter TWTR -4.3%@cathyhuyghe.

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