A Wine Pro Shares Her Favorite Bottles for Holiday Gifting

Whether a fan of red, orange or sparkling, these festive bottles are true winners

December 13, 2022 6:46 am
lineup of 4 wines to gift for the holidays
You can't go wrong with these
Champagne André Heucq/Stekar/Kabaj/Smallfry/Getty

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about holiday gifting, it’s that it’s very difficult to go wrong with a great bottle of booze (unless, of course, the giftee in question does not partake in alcoholic beverages). When attending a holiday soiree, you could bring the host a bottle of great whiskey or wrap up a fun new gin for the martini enthusiast. Or, if you’re shopping for a wine lover — no matter if they’re just getting into vino or consider themselves a connoisseur — a good bottle is always appreciated.

With so many wines out there, you might feel overwhelmed about which bottles are the best to gift this season. So to get some expert advice, we chatted with Katie Bruce, owner of The Buttery Bar in Brooklyn. The cozy Greenpoint wine bar was named after the butteries of the Middle Ages, which were typically monastery cellars that served food and drinks to passing travelers. Not only has Bruce owned and operated bars in the neighborhood for years, but she’s also a talented mixologist and really knows her wines — so we definitely trust her palate and opinion when it comes to her favorite bottles.

Whether you’re shopping for a white elephant gift exchange, New Year’s Eve host or simply a festive bottle for yourself, these four wines are delicious winners. 

Champagne André Heucq Héritage Assemblage in front of holiday lights
Champagne André Heucq/Getty

Champagne André Héritage Assemblage

“You can’t talk about holiday wines without including at least one Champagne,” Bruce says. “And while you don’t necessarily NEED an excuse to pop a bottle, it always punctuates a special occasion with a little extra oomf. Because Champagne is something you can definitely break the bank on if you’re not careful, a little planning and research goes a long way. I tend to like Champagnes that lean towards the ‘cupcake’ end of the spectrum versus the ‘breadier’ end — by that, I mean a little crisper, buttery, not too yeasty and with a clean finish. One of my constant faves is Héritage Assemblage. It’s non-vintage (NV), so the taste is consistent from year to year. And at around $50, it’s a very affordable option when you’re celebrating. Fun fact: it’s also available in magnums, if your friends enjoy bubbles like mine do.”

Stekar Oliver Red in front of holiday lights

Stekar Oliver Red

“It always feels like wine selections around this time of year tend to get really heavy,” Bruce says. “For less of a hangover, I think it’s fun to include classic, heavier varietals that are produced in lighter ways. I’m sure every holiday get-together will include a cabernet or merlot, but the Stekar Oliver Red from Slovenia is a cabernet sauvignon-merlot blend that you probably haven’t tried before. This wine only spends two days on the skins, which allows it to be fruit forward and bright instead of intensely tannic. You could almost call it a dark rosé with its ruby hue, and chilling it is always an option. This is a great wine for anyone looking to try something a little out of the ordinary, or even for your uncle who ‘only drinks cab.’”

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Kabaj Rebula wine in front of holiday lights

Kabaj Rebula

“Is it white? Is it orange? The answer is yes,” Bruce says. “If you’re unfamiliar, orange wine is a style of wine where white wine grapes are aged similarly to traditional red wine. Instead of pressing the grapes and extracting the juice (the traditional method for making white wine), the grapes are crushed and aged with the grape skins for an indeterminate amount of time. This gives the wine more complexity and body. There are lots of orange wines out there, and because there’s little to no regulation on the style from country to country, they all vary wildly. Because of this, there can be a lot of trial and error when finding an orange you like. But if I could recommend just one, it would be the Kabaj Rebula from Slovenia (yes, Slovenia again!). The orange wine style actually originated in Eastern Europe, so if you’re going to start somewhere, Slovenia is a good place. Kabaj has somewhat of a cult following because the people who love his wines really love his wines. This wine tastes like buttery tangerine with bright acid and a silky body. If wine can be sexy, this wine is the sexiest. And at $27 a bottle, she’s a cheap date, too.”

Smallfry 2022 Starry Starry Night Cinsault in front of holiday lights

Smallfry 2022 Starry Starry Night Cinsault

“Last but not least, if we’re escaping Europe, let’s go as far as we can,” Bruce says. “Australia is huge, and the wine regions there are varied and vast. While you might know about Aussie shiraz or riesling, there’s so much more worth trying. My current favorite is the Smallfry Starry Starry Night Cinsault, an easy drinking red with a hint of spice and balanced fruit. The wines on this list tend to be low in tannins but high in flavor, and this one is no different — it’s a light bodied red that holds its own in the colder months. Plus, it came all the way from Australia, so at around $30 a bottle, the least you can do is drink it.”


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