Christmas is a week away and I can hear you moaning that the guy (or girl, but is it ever really a girl?) who digs wine is incredibly difficult to shop for.
I'll never understand this way of thinking. This person should be the easiest one to shop for. There is, unless hints are dropped otherwise, one thing to purchase for the wine fan in your life.
"But I don't know what to buy..." Dude, screw that. It's incredibly simple. Here are four ways to approach it.
1) Look for "shelf talkers." These are index card sized descriptions of wines; they're normally reviews from Wine Spectator or Robert Parker. This doesn't guarantee the receiver will love it, but if one of the pros gives a wine 90 points, it probably won't completely suck.
2) Sparkling wine. Few people dislike it and with New Year's a week away, it will most likely be put to good use. Don't feel compelled to go with Champagne, plenty of domestic producers (I'm partial to Iron Horse in California and L Mawby in Michigan) make fine bottles.
3) Go offbeat - go for a less popular region (Romania? Michigan? New York? Missouri? New Mexico?) or varietal (Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah are somewhat obscure while still relatively easy to find).
4) If you're going to spend $25+ don't hesitate a bigger name - you'd have to be real snobby to bash the Raymond or Mondavi Napa offerings. Spending more? Silver Oak. Spending more than that? Chateaux Margaux. Spending more than that? We should be friends.