When is it appropriate to give a wine and cheese basket as a gift? There's no real etiquette to it. Any time you want to give a gift, a wine and cheese basket is appropriate. They're easy to buy, they go with any occasion, and even the most persnickety person will appreciate getting a nice basket of something yummy.
You can find a wine and cheese basket for the wine connoisseur or for the wine newbie. If you know your recipient loves wine, pick something a little fancy and out of the ordinary; if they're not well-versed in wine, then something nice but a little more common is appropriate. The same is true for cheese. There are some outstanding cheeses available for the cheese enthusiast, and some for people who think anything other than cheddar is "fancy."
But there are a few times when a wine and cheese basket will really hit the mark.
* Corporate gifts - Since a wine and cheese basket is seen as a high-end gift item, as compared to, say, a box of golf balls or a t-shirt that says "my boss is going to buy your company for $500 million, and all you get is this lousy t-shirt," pick out a few wines and complimentary cheeses ("hey, nice office. I like what you've done with the place. Have you lost weight?") and ship them off to your favorite C-level executive.
* Housewarming gift - Home buying is such a momentous occasion in a person's life, especially a first-time home buyer's, that you want to help them celebrate the occasion. There are a whole lot of firsts in the new house: first dinner, first spill, first repair. With a nice wine and cheese basket, you can help your new home owners celebrate with their "first wine in our new home."
* Ambassador/goodwill gifts - Okay, not everyone is going to be the ambassador to a new country, and that's not what we're saying. Many states have their own winery, and some even have their own signature cheese or cheesemakers. Put together a wine and cheese gift basket from your home state, and give them to international clients or clients from another state. It shows that you're proud of where you're from, and that you have more than (pick one: corn/tumbleweeds/earthquakes/smog) there. Don't make the classic mistake of buying a wine and cheese basket from your client's home state. They can already get those products there, and the product may have a reputation as being. . . well, not very good. You may end up doing more harm than good by giving them a wine and cheese basket with not-so-good wine in it.
There's also more to a wine and cheese basket than just wine and cheese. Most baskets usually contain a bottle of wine and some different cheeses. But the nicer ones also include crackers, chocolates, sausage, and other little delectables. Some even include a cutting board and cheese knife. Pick a nice basket of stuff you think your friends or clients will enjoy, and go to town.
Your typical wine and cheese basket comes with only a single bottle and a couple types of cheese, but you can find fancier, more ornate baskets
Rather than picking a mish-mash of stuff, try to create a theme for your wine and cheese gift basket, whether it's your own state's goodies, or if you're going for a country theme, like French, Italian, Spanish. Australia and Chile also have some nice wines and cheeses, so don't be afraid to think out of the box, uh, basket on this one and do a little culinary exploring with your wine and cheese basket.
While it is possible to run to your local wine shop and mega-cheese outlet, sometimes it's just easier to visit one of the wine and cheese basket companies and pick one of their selections. They'll take care of everything for you, including assembling and shipping. No mess, no fuss, no worries.