Wines For Your Wedding
Choosing the right wines for your wedding can be one of the more stressful items on the wedding ‘to do’ list; generally the happy couple have a good idea about venue, food, and theme, but, frequently, the organisation comes to a stuttering halt, when the subject of the wine comes up.
I say this with the experience of years of practice, with friends calling to ask advice for the planning of their big day. In fact, this has happened to me very recently; my stepson is marrying, a lovely, highly efficient and organised Scottish lass; her wedding planner and organisational charts (wedmin as she calls it), are jaw droppingly detailed, down to the exact time to light the candles for the evening reception, and who’s collecting what and when in the 2 day run up to the event.
Yet, even her magnificent plans faltered when she reached the ‘wines for the wedding’ part of her planning, and the inevitable phone call to me was made.
It’s a scary process if it’s unknown territory, but it needn’t be.. with a little help, and a few basic rules, it can be one of the fun elements of the planning programme. So here are a few tips to help:
What Types Of Wine To Serve At Your Wedding?
There are 3 main ‘drink’ events during the day; the welcome reception, the meal, and the Toast. So aim for a light, refreshing style of Champagne, or sparkling wine to welcome your guests, then a white and a red wine to go with the meal.
Finally for the toast, either have more of the same sparkling wine as the reception, or splash out of a fuller, richer style of sparkling wine for the guests to toast the happy couple.
How Many Bottles of Wine?
This is always tricky, and getting the balance and volumes right is not easy. You don’t want wine to run out for your guests, but at the same time, most couples have a budget to work to, and also don’t want to overply their guests with drink.
On average, there are 6 glasses to one bottle; if you assume that everyone will be drinking when you do your calculations, then you will have ample, as some inevitably won’t.
Work on 2 glasses of sparkling wine per person for the reception, one glass for the Toast, and probably half a bottle per head (up to 3 glasses) of still wine for the meal – this will be ample, probably too much, but will cover all eventualities. In terms of a white/red split, it will obviously depend on the time of year, but in high summer, plan for 60% white, whilst for the rest of the year a 55/45 split is probably about right.
What Other Drinks Do You Need?
Don’t forget lots of soft drinks for children and non- drinking adults. Make that selection fun as well with some stylish, non alcoholic fruit drinks and grown up fruit cocktails.
Many wedding parties like to serve Bucks Fizz or Kir Royale as the reception drink, in which case you’ll need lots of orange juice, or a few bottles of Crème de Cassis… or ring the changes and use Crème de Mure, a gorgeous blackberry version of the blackcurrant cassis drink.
For refreshing cocktails, in the Summer look no further than Passion Pimms, a mix of Pimms, lemonade and the passion fruit juice (vodka optional), and in the winter, mulled or spice wine is a popular winner.
How & When To Serve Them?
The sparkling wine, or Bucks Fizz should be served, chilled, in champagne flutes when guests arrive. The fizz will warm up quickly , and lose its bubbles, so make sure it is very well chilled.
The fizz for the toast should also be served chilled, and in champagne flutes, not ghastly champagne coupes! Brief the waiting staff to prepare and serve at the end of the meal, with sufficient time before the speeches, so that there are no interruptions.
Serve white wine chilled; as far as red wine is concerned, serve at room temperature, unless you have selected a lighter, fruity style of red, such as a Beaujolais or light Pinot Noir, in which case, you could just chill down very slightly, to bring out the fruit even more.
The All Important - What Wines Should I Choose?
Once you have the budget and the amount of wine you need, sorted it, it’s time to make some choices.. if you’re buying from a wine merchant, go in, take their advice, and ask to taste a few wines before you make your choice – wine shop staff are very friendly, generally very knowledgeable, and most will have a selection of wines open for tasting. Many will offer discount on volumes, or sale or return deals. Some will provide glass hire, or glasses free of charge.
If you prefer to buy from a supermarket, then plan ahead, and start looking out for the good deals several months ahead. Check on price comparison sites, such as Wines Direct, and when you see an offer, get in there quickly, as the best ones don’t last for long… it’s often a good idea to talk directly to the store manager and see if they can order some in for you.
In terms of style of wine, remember that the main purpose of the Day is to celebrate YOU and your wedding – the wine and food are the support act, not the main event – so ensure you choose wines that are fresh, fruity, approachable and easy drinking.
Champagne and Sparkling wine – you don’t need expensive, flashy champagne at a wedding; no one will really appreciate it. Spend your money wisely, and look out for the best deals on Champagne around – most supermarkets and wine merchants have some cracking Champagne deals on throughout the year.
My recommendation would be to have a small quantity of good value Champagne for the Toast, and buy case loads of easy- drinking, good quality sparkling wine for the Reception.
Prosecco is a natural winner for weddings – it’s light, easy-drinking, refreshing, crisp, and fruity; it’s not heavy, or hard work, and best of all, it’s not too alcoholic, as you don’t want to swamp your guests with high alcohol wines. Cava is another good option, especially mixed with orange juice, or in Kir Royale.
There are some superb sparkling wines out there, but certainly give Champagne a run for its money. Australia and New Zealand are producing some great fizz, try Lindauer, or one of the big brands’ sparkling versions – these would also be good for the Toast.
If you’re feeling patriotic and the budget’s not too tight, then celebrate your English heritage with pride, and serve one of the several multi-award winning English wines, which are now knocking the socks off Champagne in wine competitions worldwide - Nyetimber, Ridgeview and Chapel Down are all excellent options.
For Champagne, check out offers on the brands, or look for the lesser known, but frequently better exclusive brands. These are Champagnes that are usually bought exclusively for one supermarket groups or wine merchant, and are frequently better made and generally better priced than the big names; many of these are, in fact award winners, and get higher marks than the famous brands in blind tasting competitions.
Moving on to white wines – keep it fresh, keep it light; so no heavily oaked whites, nothing too sweet, or too acidic. You want liveliness and fruitiness, with a dry flavour, and a wine that will go with the main course as well as the starter. Most wedding parties will serve a fish, or vegetable starter – there are dozens of lively, vibrant whites around – play safe with Sauvignon blanc, from New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, or Southern France; if you want Chardonnay, make sure you opt for an unoaked, or at the most, very lightly oaked style – Chile is producing some top styles.
Italian whites are always good, be it the safe option of the gentle Pinot Grigio, or a more quirky but fresh, crisp white from Sicily, or southern Italy – Fiano, or Greganico for example. Spain offers lively Sauvignon style Verdejos from Rueda, and the delightfully tangy Albarinho ( although this will be a bigger pull on the purse strings). From southern France, try Picpoul de Pinet, a Cotes de Gascogne, or another fresh southern French white; if you want to go more traditional, and serve white burgundy, or Chablis, once again, make sure you keep away from the heavily oaked ones, as these are quite polarising in terms of tastes.
Red wines – the main message is to steer clear of overly dry, or tannic reds, and also heavily oaked, or very highly alcoholic reds ; they are not easy drinking wines, and will either result in drowsy ( or alternatively very raucous guests), or guests who feel they have been chewing on a log, or a sappy twig!
The best red wines for weddings are those that are slightly lighter, and naturally fruitier in style; or ripe, bold, but velvety new World reds.
Pinot Noir is always a winner – soft, raspberry scented, and velvety it goes with most red meats and chicken, and is silkily smooth; new Zealand Pinots can be pricey, so look further afield to Chile which do some great value ones.
Go for juicy, fleshy reds, if you can’t stretch to Pinot Noir prices – Beaujolais is a good summer red, but make sure you try before you buy and find a good one; the same is true with the spicily fruity Cotes du Rhone. There are also some fantastically fruity reds from Spain, such as Garnacha, or a soft, young Rioja ( avoid the older, oak ridden ones for weddings), and Italy offers some lovely gentle reds in the form of Dolcetto from northern Italy, or richer, fuller but still velvety reds, such as Primitivo or Nero d’Avola from the south.
If rich, fruit-filled, velvety New World reds are the thing for you, then again, look for options with soft oak, that are for early drinking – Chile and Australia are the natural countries to go for, but make sure you don’t buy a 15% Shiraz or Carmenere blockbuster. Keep it soft, keep it fruity, and welcoming; ask your wine merchant, or, once again, keep an eye out for offers on the top Australian brands, which are generally reliable, try a bottle and then snap up the wine!
Follow these few simple rules, and that’s one major item that stressed out bridal couples can cross off their list!