Add a personal touch to your gift basket

Creating your own gift basket can be rewarding, but before you decide on which wine or cheese to include, there are a few things to consider
Wednesday, December 15, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:41 a.m. CDT, Saturday, June 28, 2008

There are an overwhelming number of choices involved when choosing the perfect wine for a gift and accompanying it with the correct cheese, sausage and crackers.

Many take the easy way out and buy a prepacked gifts basket, but for the more adventurous, there are some key elements involved to create the perfect basket.

Choosing a wine is the first step in creating a gift basket.

Sarah Cyr, co-owner of the Wine Cellar and Bistro, said there are a few factors to keep in mind when deciding which wine to include. She said if the giver is unaware of the types of wine that recipient enjoys, merlot, cabernet, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay are the best staples.

Cyr recommends a $20-$30 wine for a gift basket, but a lesser-priced basket could include a Spanish or Chilean wine that tastes great for $12 or less.

She said the wine could act as a conversation piece during dinner.

“When someone comes in to buy a bottle of wine, I like to tell them a little story behind the wine to make a good conversation piece,” Cyr said. “It’s good to know the blend of the wine and the types of grapes that are in it.”

Marilyn Elasser, manager of the gift shop at Les Bourgeois, said there are many types of wine and gift baskets to create. At the gift shop, customers are able to create baskets with the assistance of employees.

“The ultimate gift basket has a wine opener in it, a nice thing to include,” Elasser said.

She said the types of cheeses and sausage depend on the type of wine in the gift. A more original type of basket could include a sweeter array of goodies.

“You can put a dessert wine with chocolates and candy or an aged cheese like Roquefort,” Elasser said.

Tess Warner, an employee at the Village Wine & Cheese store on Broadway, helps customers create gift baskets. “We like to start off with a theme, like Italian,” Warner said. “We would then add an Italian wine, Chianti, and add some pasta or pesto. Sometimes people prefer nonalcoholic baskets and will use a breakfast theme with coffee, tea, and scone mix.”

All baskets may vary in price, Warner said.

“The main price point begins with which bottle of wine is chosen, then to keep it down in price you can just add a few 40-cent chocolates,” Warner said.

For the more average-priced baskets, a customer might choose a lower end bottle of wine costing $12 to $15.

“Red wines are usually accompanied best by the harder cheeses because they take the edge off the tannins,” Warner said.

Sharp cheddar or a stronger bleu cheese are a few examples of appropriate cheeses.

“The reds are also complemented well with chocolates,” Warner said. “Or you could add salsa or artichoke dips for a more picnic-type basket.”

White wines could go with a softer cheese such as brie.

“You don’t want to pick a cheese that overpowers the wine,” Warner said. “Goat cheese also works well.”

In either red or white wine baskets, crackers and spreads are good additions, Warner said.

“The only thing that really affects the baskets is the cheese and wine; other than that you can pick and choose,” she said.

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