Whether you’re celebrating a birthday or a house-warming, wine is a classic go-to gift. And with the holiday season already looming, we could all use a refresher on choosing the right bottle. What’s too cheap? What’s too expensive? Will it suit the occasion?

That’s where Samantha Payne comes in. The in-demand wine consultant and journalist, who’s based in Sydney, has 16 years’ experience as a sommelier. She’s also a passionate lover of good drops – and understands the intricacies of gifting them.

“Take into consideration who you’re gifting it to,” says Payne. “Everyone’s personal preferences are so different. If you’re looking for that personalised gift, you really have to know the person. So close friends, family members and people you spend a lot of time with – know what they like to eat and the sort of flavours they like to drink.”

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For example, a meat lover will appreciate a solid, tannin-driven red, while a vegan or vegetarian is better suited to an organic or minimal-intervention drop. And of course, mimosa-ready bubbles are perfect for the unabashed brunch lover. But of course, you should still try to avoid the obvious choice.

"Don't play it safe, pick a variety that isn't mainstream,” advises Dan Murphy’s in-store wine merchant, Rob Aitken. “Varieties like albarino, fiano, gamay or even mencía can make for exciting gifts and will be a great conversation starter."

With that in mind, Payne singles out five exceptional wines (listed here from best value, at around $20, to most expensive) available in-store and online now at Dan Murphy’s – and explains what makes each one shine.

Under Wraps Geelong Shiraz 2015
If you've got a savvy eye and a bit of time to scroll, you can find yourself some great deals. Sitting comfortably around the $20 mark, this medium-bodied Geelong shiraz is a great buy for a 2015 wine. “This is amazing value,” Payne says. “The fact that it’s got five years of age on it makes it a show-stopping gift that looks really impressive without breaking the bank. It makes it look like you’ve spent more than you have.”

Ideal for a house-warming offering or gift for someone you don’t know that well, a shiraz has the benefit of being one of Australia’s most widely loved styles. This one is aromatic and approachable, thanks to Geelong's cool climate.

Jim Barry Jim's Garden Riesling
A light and bright all-rounder from Australia's spiritual home of Riesling, Clare Valley, this is also great value – and a delicious reminder that good rieslings are dry rather than sweet, especially in Australia.

“Riesling is awesome for summertime because it’s dry and has these citrusy characteristics,” says Payne. “It’s like the lemon sorbet of the wine world: palette-refreshing and perfect on hot summer days. You can throw pretty much anything at it – seafood, chicken, cheese platters. It’s perfect beachside or poolside wine. That’s why everyone loves riesling, because it’s really easy drinking.”

Petaluma Croser Vintage Sparkling
Crisp with just a hint of melon, this sparkling from the Adelaide Hills is ideal for Christmas or Boxing Day – or even just a casual brunch – especially if Asian food is on the menu.

“Everybody loves getting a bottle of sparkling,” Payne says. “Croser has been consistently making outstanding sparkling for decades. It’s a name people recognise as synonymous with quality in Australian sparkling. And it’s not made in a tank: it’s actually bottle-fermented – like you do with champagne, but at a third of the price.”

Fleurs de Prairie French Sparkling Rosé
A juicy rosé from the Provençal region of France, this one is subtle and mineral-driven rather than intense and acidic. That makes it ideal for the day after a big night – during the silly season or any time.

“This is my pick for spicy food and cheeky hangover curries the next day,” says Payne. “It’s just a little French rosé: light, dry, refreshing. It’s your ultimate pick me up. Provençal-style rosé tends to be lighter and delicate, so it really isn’t fruit-forward at all. Especially for spicy foods, you want something really subtle.”

Bannockburn Geelong Pinot Noir
A berry-and-oak-kissed pinot from the cool-climate region of Geelong, this is more of a splurge but well worth it. And you’ll also be supporting Victoria’s embattled small winemakers.

“This is the ultimate flashy gifting wine,” Payne says. “Geelong produces more structured and delicate wines. Bannockburn has been around since the late ’70s, and $65 for an outstanding pinot with lots of family heritage is a really great gifting wine. It’s light, it’s approachable, it goes with a lot of things.”

And if you’re thinking that reds are for winter and whites for summer, keep in mind that there’s a relatively new “chilled reds” category in play these days.

“Australians tend to drink our whites too cold and our reds too warm,” says Payne. “There’s a plethora of lighter bodied reds now that actually suit being put in the fridge or ice bucket for 20 minutes just to chill them down: pinot noir, gamay, cab franc, sangiovese, tempranillo. And they’re just lovely.”

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Dan Murphy’s. Dan Murphy’s find the lowest prices then beat them – that's their lowest liquor price guarantee. Get it in time for Christmas! Dan's makes it easy to shop your way with express delivery, standard delivery and pick-up. Terms and conditions apply. See here for more details.