Holiday Wine Buying Tips for the Beginner (Via Master Sommelier Virginia Philip)

Clean Plate Charlie isn't above formulating a holiday "wine plan" that consists solely of driving to Naples, pulling up to Trader Joe's, and loading the car with cases of Two Buck Chuck. But in case you want to class it up a bit at your holiday mixers, or when giving vino as a gift, Virginia Philip has a few easy, novice-friendly tips.

As a master sommelier and owner of Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy, Philip has made a living of explaining the art of wine consumption to people of all walks of life (and wine tasting experience). Her tips, after the jump.

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Create a budget: Seems straight-forward enough, but finances can get pushed to the back of the mind when you're met with a sea of choices and perhaps a few too many swirls and sips while sampling the goods. "Know exactly what you want to spend before you start," Philip said. Write it down if it will help you to stick to the plan.

Know your audience: Whether planning for a party or putting together a gift basket, do your homework about who's going to be drinking the stuff. Buying for someone who isn't gaga over red? "Don't get them a big bodied Bordeaux," Philip said.

Have an alternative to red: Whether you choose a prosecco or traditional champagne, you can't miss with something "bubbly on board." When planning a party, even if you're exclusively a red drinker, keep some white zinfandel or riesling on ice for folks at the gathering who may prefer a lighter drink.

Match food to wine: No, this doesn't mean you need to perfectly pair your wines with every bite on offer (though, it certainly doesn't hurt to ask a wine specialist at the store for advice on suggested food pairings) but rather, take into consideration how much people will have to eat. If it's just light bites or drinks only, go light with the wine to avoid overwhelming guests. If planning a full sit-down dinner, feel free to delve into the fuller bodied bottles.

Need some personalized wine shopping assistance? Virginia Philip Wine Shop & Academy -- which celebrated its one-year anniversary in November -- is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Call 561-721-6000.

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Tricia Woolfenden