When it comes to wine provided as a gift, presentation and intent come in many forms. From the simple dispatch of a bottle of a general-purpose branded glugger from the local ‘offie’ in order to repay a favour,  to the provision of a barrel of Port to the new-born heir apparent, the present of wine holds the key to undiscovered and unrequested joy.

Wine like spices, fabrics and precious metals, have been part of a civilising global trade since time immemorial. Wine, then as now, has constantly featured as a currency with which to barter or flatter in equal measure. It was a sop to please kings and courtiers alike as we travelled to increasingly distant shores in search of alternative commodities or the potent expression of ambassadorial power.

Domestically, the fruit of the vine continues to play its part in rewarding simple favours from feeding the cat or watering the odd pot plant whilst on holiday, to a corporate gift oiling the wheels of day-to-day commerce. A bottle of wine is neither overtly practical nor embarrassingly price tagged, it indicates to the bestower and the bestowed  that we are civilised, individual and share the same pursuit of enlightened pleasure.

When my father was alive, I hinted unceremoniously of tales of high born Victorian gentlemen ‘laying down’ a Pipe of Port, for their first born son. From the Portugese word for barrel – pipa. we anglicised the term pipe to describe a medium sized oak cask with sharply tapered ends, filled to the brim with 145 gallons of finest Port. The son’s responsibility, usually when reaching manhood at the age of 21 [my own son would not be so patient] was to have half the contents bottled for his own cellar and sell-on the remaining, now vintage, port to create funds to purchase a new Pipe for his own offspring. Civilised indeed although my father never quite rose to the bait. I had to be satisfied with a fountain pen and a monthly delivery of Encyclopedia Brittanica, adolescent scarring; they don’t know the meaning of the word!

As a wine merchant I am frequently tasked with the transmission of the odd bottle, or case, on behalf of our customers, to their own unsuspecting colleagues. Never having met the recipient, I hope that their present is welcomed but I do wonder whether my choice of robust reds may end up in the hands of a white wine drinker or worse;

Champagne to someone who hates bubbles, still I guess on these occasions it is not strictly my problem. In these egaliterean and illuminated times such selection needs more address as wine drinkers become more selective and noticeably more knowledgeable. One social aspect of the vinous gift crops up frequently at this time of the year, that is; the wedding list. Wine clearly fits the bill on this celebratory occasion for the bride and groom, as their extensive list will generally offer the cash strapped invitee the ability to ‘pick and mix’ according to their budget without fear of publicly offering the noticeably least expensive item. Do we go for the Addis brush set or the Waterford Crystal?

As more and more couples live together before tying the knot or divorcees meet over a red carnation at Waterloo station after a speed dating evening on luv u lots.com  the one thing they have in common, is the likelihood of an already well established home, or two. Toasters, fluffy towels or a canteen of cutlery are more than likely to be in place. The nuptual linen draw is probably at bursting point and nobody is likely to stump up for a soft top Porsche being the only outstanding luxury missing from the new found love match, I know because I tried this one on. The only response I got was a distant, doddery Aunt who thought I meant porch and was more than happy to have one constructed for the back door!

For the bride and groom, approaching an experienced wine merchant and tasting and selecting the wines they both like, is a simple and well trodden procedure. A wine merchant worth his salt will then arrange for all the guests to contact him directly and slowly put together the list contents and deliver in good time to the selected love-nest. No false modesty need be considered as the price and more importantly the number of bottles, will be left entirely with the guests themselves. The happy couple can select wines for everyday quaffing, special favourites for early evening chilling, fine Burgundy and Bordeaux for Sunday lunch, adventurous New World stunners for exciting dinner parties, sherries for the adventurous tapas-minded, Port for a visit from the new in-laws, Champagne for the hoped -for anniversaries and simple fizz for outdoor parties; the list is endless. In effect wines that would take an age to amass arrive on your doorstep all at once providing a ready built cellar for years to come . Bride and groom get the cellar of their dreams, guests can select only what they wish to pay without embarrassment, and possibly the permission of their bank managers, and everyone will be safe in the knowledge that they have contributed to one of the finest starts to a new married life I can think of.