Wine is a wonderful host gift—if you know your host enjoys wine. Do you feel overwhelmed by wine selection? Here are some pointers on how to select an appropriate bottle.

Tips for Selecting Wine

Know your host. Does she prefer sweet wines? Consider a sweet German Riesling or a dessert wine. Dry wines? Consider a California Chardonnay for a white or an Australian Shiraz for a red. Did she spend a month in Italy? Then get her an Italian wine. And if she’s a beer girl, bring a local brew instead!

Ask experts. Go to a beverage warehouse or wine shop. You don’t need to know the first thing about wine—just ask the professionals to recommend one. This will take the stress out of the selection process. (Tip: If you’re new to wine, take a picture with your phone of the labels of wines you have enjoyed. When you’re shopping, you can flip through to help you remember.)

$$$ does not necessarily equal excellence. If you find a bottle of wine that is recommended and you feel is perfect but costs $9.99, don’t fret. It’s all about the quality and the thought, not the price.

If you don’t know your host’s wine preferences and have no idea what to buy, again, buy a moderately priced pinot noir. It’s a safe all-around choice—a red that is tasty and subtle but not too full of tannins (tannins make your mouth water).

The Etiquette of Giving Wine

When in doubt, go with something else. If you are unsure if your host drinks alcohol at all, opt for gourmet treats or sweets as a hostess gift instead. While dry households will know how to turn away or pass along a bottle of wine, there’s nothing wrong with opting for something else on your first visit.

Don’t expect your host to serve your wine that night; he or she may have selected specific wines to pair with the appetizers, meal, and dessert.

Do put attach a small card, as your host may receive a few bottles (wine gift bags are optional). Consider sharing why you bought that specific bottle of wine on the card: “I know you love Gewürztraminer. I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoy your company. Happy Holidays from Bob.”

Don’t forget to take the price tag off! There is no shame in giving an inexpensive bottle of wine, but you don’t need to advertise it.