It’s the week of my office’s Yankee Swap, and for many years, I’ve been honing my strategy regarding the gift that I will contribute. To refresh you on the rules of Yankee swaps, everyone puts a wrapped gift on the table and picks a number out of a hat/bowl/whatever. My office’s stated gift cost range is $10 to $15. In the order of the numbers selected, participants take turns choosing a gift and unwrapping it. They then have the option to either hang onto the gift they unwrapped or switch it with any other gift already unwrapped so far. At the end, whoever picked 1 gets to choose whatever he or she desires. You want to get number 1.
So, say there are three people playing. I have number 1, Lily has number 2, Cricket has number 3. I go first, and unwrap a cool remote-control car. Lily unwraps a live scorpion, which she doesn’t want, so she swaps her gift with mine. Cricket unwraps a box of chocolates and keeps it. Then, because I’m number 1, I get to have last licks: I can choose any gift from the floor. However, because Cricket is my boss and Lily is my boss’s boss, I decide to pretend that the scorpion is the gift that I wanted most, and choose not to trade.
Anyhow, at these events, you could argue that the polarity between the great gifts and the stinkers is what makes it most exciting. Will you go home with the chocolate or the scorpion? Part of the strategy is, in fact, trading your gift for something “okay” but not one of the coolest gifts on the floor, so that nobody with a higher number than you is tempted to trade with you.
I have long since given up trying to come up with the coolest gift in the room. My taste just isn’t mainstream enough. And after once getting stuck with the very worst gift (a wind-up ornament that played an annoying tune), my strategy lately has become to just get a bottle of wine. It’s never a waste of money. Plus, it’s now, thankfully, something I can buy locally.
The question is, what’s the best wine for a Yankee swap? I’d be remiss in not recommending, based purely on versatility, either a Riesling or a Pinot Noir. Those two are easiest to pair with wide varieties of food and are great on their own. At that price range, I think it’s easier to get a pretty good Riesling, which is the wine variety that commonly inspires the realization, “Oh, I don’t hate white wine, I just hate overly oaked and marketed California chardonnay!”
By the way, the way I finally got myself to remember that “Burgundy” is mostly Pinot Noir and "Bordeaux" is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon is that “Burgundy” is a color and “Noir” is a color. To further confuse things, in Britain, they might call Bordeaux “claret,” but once you’ve figured out that Bordeaux means Cabernet Sauvignon, you can remember what claret is, because "claret" starts and ends in the same letters as “Cabernet.”
Anyhow, for a Yankee swap, my best recommendation would therefore be a Riesling, either from Alsace or from the Pacific Northwest. That’s what I would recommend.
What did I actually choose, this year? In the end, I didn’t go with a sensible choice, which is nothing new. Instead, I simply chose something I like a lot: this Muscato d’Asti I found at the General Store. Muscats are often good values, especially for dessert wine. This one is $12. Perfect with apple pie.
La Pineta, Sorì Gramella Moscato d’Asti
My accompanying poem, which you too may use if you gift this wine to someone:
Drink this cold, with apple pie.
It’s sweet and slightly fizzy.
But share it with a friend or two;
Too much could make you dizzy!