Culture: DIY Wine Gift Basket Rules to Live By | Wine Enthusiast
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DIY Wine Gift Basket Rules to Live By

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Wine gift baskets are truly the gifts that keep on giving. In addition to containing delicious bottles of wine, which are perfect for popping now or later, the best and most festive wine gift baskets are riddled with wine-adjacent treats like cheese boards (for your wine and cheese nights), wine gadgets (for opening that bottle of vino) and more items that promise moments of enjoyment far beyond simply receiving the initial gift. What better way to add a personal touch than by building one of your own?   

However, there are important considerations for DIY-ing your own wine basket. After choosing the bottle (and of course, the perfect basket), there are a few staple items that needn’t be missed—and a number of iffy items that can probably be skipped.

Not sure where to begin? We talked to the pros to learn how to build the best at-home wine basket possible. The answers are in!  

First Thing’s First: Wine  

The key word in wine basket is “wine,” so homing in on the vino is a great place to start. Sarah Tracey, sommelier and lifestyle expert at The Lush Life, says that the best wines to gift are ones with a story you can share. “I recommend picking bottles from a winery you have visited or a region you’ve traveled, or even somewhere your giftee has traveled, so as to bring back special memories,” she says. Some great options are wines from Bordeaux and Australia or Italian or Burgundy wines, or bottlings by female winemakers or Black-owned wine labels

Aesthetically speaking, Tracey also notes that odd numbers are always more pleasing to the eye, so sticking with an odd number of bottles is key. “You could choose a single bottle that’s very special and include some snack pairings or accessories, or you could go all out and go big with five,” she says. “But for me, three is the magic number.” In terms of specifics, Tracey recommends sticking with a “one of each” formula—one sparkling, one white and one red—as these bottles can be enjoyed on various occasions. And when in doubt, Champagne is always a good idea.  

Don’t Forget the Staples!  

For Brenna Gilbert, founder and CEO of lifestyle brand Love Feste and New York City’s Champers Social Club, including the basics is always a good idea. “Give the people what they want—great charcuterie, favorite cheeses, some pretty apricots and Marcona almonds,” she says, also citing crusty baguettes, luxury honey, and decadent chocolates as other foolproof items to include. To take your basket to the next level, springing for a customizable cheese board with your recipient’s name or initials is a solid idea.  

Lastly, for an added personal touch, Gilbert recommends customizing the basket with items that create an experience, such as a card game, taper candles or a few flowers to help set the scene. Tracey also suggests including a useful accessory, such as a wine key, bottle stopper or pretty coasters, such as these personalized vineyard coasters, to truly bring the basket to the next level.  

Items Not to Include  

Knowing what not to include is just as important as understanding what’s important. Gilbert recommends staying away from gimmicky gadgets in a wine gift basket, such as elaborate wine openers and other unnecessary tools. “Encourage good wine skills. Recipients need nothing more than a good wine key,” she says.  

Maneesh K. Goyal, co-founder of SONA Home and owner of SONA restaurant, also emphasizes the need for a good wine key (he recommends Le Creuset’s wood-handled opener). Additionally, Goyal notes that glassware with stems will often break if not packaged correctly, so simply leaving them out is generally a good idea.   

From a wine perspective, Tracey recommends steering clear of bottles that are meant to age long-term. “Part of the fun of receiving a basket is the joy of unpacking it and popping those bottles, so why make them wait?” she says.  

The exception to this rule? Including two of the same bottle that have the potential to age, yet are good for drinking now (like these vintages that hit their peak this year). This makes for a fun experience, inviting the recipient to both pop one now and revisit the gift down the line. Tracey also notes that if you’re not sure of a giftee’s personal tastes, stay away from anything too adventurous and stick with the classics, like Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon

Best Type of Basket   

In the spirit of sustainability, Gilbert recommends seeking out a basket that recipients might use again. “I love to lean into picnic baskets, great totes or a keepsake woven basket that can be used later to [store] toiletries, hand towels etc.” she says.  

Not sure where to find a basket? Tracey suggests heading to your local craft store or perusing thrift stores or flea markets for the most unique (and sustainable) finds.  

How to Build a Wine Basket  

With regard to packaging the basket, Goyal recommends including useful items rather than wasteful packaging—think hand towels wrapped around bottles instead of tissue paper or plastic. “Tied with a ribbon, [a hand towel] will keep the bottles from knocking together and can be enjoyed long after the wine’s been drunk,” he says. Wrapping the bottles in reusable wine bags, or even wine-themed comfy clothing, also does the trick.   

Gilbert explains that if hand-delivering baskets, using a sturdy basket and little filler will ensure that most items arrive safe and sound. If shipping, however, she prefers to use Flexi-Hex or corrugated cardboard sleeves. “They still give you the [visual] impact…  as you can layer a little ribbon or a tag, and they’re more easily recyclable than a plastic wrap,” she reveals.  

Adding a Festive Flair  

 For a unique touch, Goyal suggests designing the wine basket around a theme, such as cozy fireside evenings or outdoor spring picnics. “Just like I would with a dinner tablescape, [I think about] decor,” he says. Goyal states that dried florals are “underrated and last a long time,” and that using seasonal fruit or produce can add a celebratory pop of color.  

“I have always felt green is the best color for a wine basket—natural, fresh and inviting,” he says. In sticking with the green theme, Gilbert adds that using a natural material as filler, such as moss, can also provide great texture to the basket, while also ensuring that everything stays in place.  

Final Touches  

Consider adding a wine journal to your recipient’s basket, which will allow them to catalog the wines they’ve enjoyed over a long period of time. Of course, at the end of the day, gift-giving is personal, and presenting a wine basket is no exception.  

“I love to go the extra mile and make it a reflection of the receiver,” says Gilbert. Simply adding a personal note can go a long way. Goyal agrees. “Always include a handwritten [message]—never underestimate the power of a beautiful note on good stationery!”   

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