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Weddings & Wine: The Key Events

Wedding Wines

These days, much like everything, weddings have a habit of racking up a nasty bill. Many will be wondering how you can keep wedding costs down, but, the simple truth is that it can be tricky, particularly where food and drink are concerned. I’ve spent a bit of time discussing and leading wine tastings during my days at Majestic Wine so have a good idea of how to manage wine choices, food pairings and head count to bottle ratios on a budget (half a bottle per person is about right). Not to mention, with my own wedding taking place in August this year I’m actually putting these theories to the test!

Ultimately, no matter how well you have planned the ceremony, reception, speeches or evening entertainment, the right choice of wine inevitably stumps many couples to fit into both their budget and what they actually want. I’ll share my tidbits of wisdom and hopefully make the process seem somewhat easier. Importantly, remember that choosing, tasting and buying wine is exciting and fun. Treat it as a chance to explore and show your guests a little bit of you.

What is the best wine for a wedding?

You’ll need wine to strike all the key events on the big day: The reception, the Wedding Breakfast and the Toast.

The Reception

The start of the day calls for something light and drinkable to get the social stimulation off to a start. Prosecco is a very easy option here and in fact a very good one. There are few people out there who turn their nose up at a glass of bubbly, Prosecco or not. It’s always worth putting a few beers out on ice as well for those wishing for a less acidic start to their day.

There is also an important distinction to make here between Summer and Winter weddings. A Summer wedding might want to offer guests Pimms to soak up with the sun and really add a fantastic mood to the day. Winter weddings could get creative and offer mulled wine or mulled cider to again hit the seasonal mood and add to the atmosphere. It’s up to you how complex you wish to make the drinks offerings, but it’s always worth having at least two options for your guests. I’ll leave the soft drinks to you.

The Wedding Breakfast

Dinner planning and wine is usually the tricky bit - most people get about as far as “White and Red”. The key piece of advice I can offer is make sure it is something you have tried yourself. If the only advice you leave with is this, then that’ll do. A lot of weight is put into food and wine pairing although this is honestly something I’ve never been too sold by. Usually because when I eat, I eat the plate having had only 2-3 sips of my glass, so the wine and food pairing element is never central to my enjoyment. I suspect a lot of people will find that to be the case when having a delicious meal. But, if for you this is a super important element, then check our handy guide here, under the “Food & Wine Matching” tab.

Wedding Cheers Image

Red Wine
As I said, pick something you have already tried and know you like. My main advice would be avoid your heavy reds with lots of oak and alcohol (avoids family feuds breaking out). You want something that will be a crowd pleaser. Think Merlot, Pinot Noir or Primitivo as some examples of easy drinking, light-medium bodeid reds. You could do well with a super light Beaujolais even.

If you want to minimize price but retain value, steer clear of France (although that isn’t exactly possible for Beaujolais in fairness). French wines tend to be on the pricier side where value for money is concerned. Sure, you may be able to get a generic Southern French red for £6 or so, but it will taste rubbish. Instead, look to somewhere like Chile where you can get a better wine for the same price. It has some of the best value wines on the market thanks to a number of trade deals made by their wine body which means that the wine can be both cheaper and better tasting. Equally, if you spend a pound or two more on the Chilean bottle than the French alternative, I’d argue that the actual wine in the bottle is of quality above and beyond the price difference. Other New World countries are rather good at this too, but Chile is king for me.

White Wine
Although I do enjoy a bit of oak and lees action in my whites, for a wedding I’d recommend going with lighter, crisp styles of wine much in the same thinking as the reds. Start your search with a NZ Sauvignon Blanc, the UKs favourite wine. With a stat like that you can be sure to please almost every guest. If you are a bit more adventurous, the crisp whites of Italy will float your boat. Gavi is good but not as adventurous as you can get. Something like Fiano is a fantastic option with its floral and stone fruit flavours. Equally Vermentino can provide a lovely lemony, zippy light white to provide some Italian excellence. Inoffensive but more exciting!

Contrary to my red advice, French regional whites are actually pretty good value for money. I always find that whites done on a budget are much better than their red counterparts. There are definitely reds in here to suit every person, just not always my favourite pick. But, try and see for yourself here.

Just remember, for both the white and red options, make them on the lighter-medium intensity side of the spectrum.

The key piece of advice I can offer is make sure it is something you have tried yourself. If the only advice you leave with is this, then that’ll do.

The Toast

Lots of people, (particularly older, demanding Grandparents) might insist upon Champagne as the only option for a celebration. Don’t be fooled. Champagne is all well and good, but it has a brilliant way of being expensive, at least if you want Champagne that doesn’t taste like thin acidic water.

That said, if you really must insist upon Champagne, which to be clear, is not a bad thing, then you do have good options still. It might just be that you are more willing to stretch the budget. Have a look here at our Champagne offers and pick up an unexpected bargain. Depending on when you are looking, you may be lucky enough to find Veuve or Laurent Perrier on offer.

Some more patriotic drinkers will be looking at English Sparkling which has a range of quality and a lot of superior wines to Champagne these days!

For the Non-Champagne priced toast there are a myriad of good choices. One of my top picks for inexpensive ‘Champagne method’ sparkling is Graham Beck. It was picked for Mandela and Obama’s wins giving you an idea of the quality. It tastes like Champagne, and a good one, just without the name and thus the price tag. You’ll get it for under £12 on offer. There are a number of other South African “Cap Classique” (Aka Champagne-made) wines on the market which you ought to look out for too but this is my favourite so far.

I couldn’t leave out Prosecco either. After all, it is England’s most preferred bubbly and indeed we are the worlds largest market for it. So, it is safe to say you won’t let your guests down with Prosecco because they likely drink it happily already. More to the point, if you opted for Prosecco for the Reception then this is an easy repeat and takes away some hassle.

Now, you do have some choice of quality when it comes to Prosecco. The standard DOC style is the mainstay which you’ll know through brands like Mionetto, Canti and La Gioiosa. But, for a wedding you might wish to elevate your Prosecco to a more premium version, the DOCG. The DOCG towns are pronounceably named Conegliano-Valdobbiadene but even if you cannot say or spell them, you will at least vaguely recognise the name on the shelf. If I was forced to pick my favourites I’d go with Valdo Oro Puro Prosecco Superiore, La Marca Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry DOCG and La Gioiosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore. Definitely get your hands on these to try if unsure. I’m someone who doesn’t really go for Prosecco but am always pleased to see these.

So, there we have it. The three key events and drinks occassions for your wedding wrapped up and done in exaclty the same way I'll be doing my own wedding. With any luck, this will give you a push to get out and try your wedding wines and give you some helpful guiding pointers to what to look for, budget or not. If you already have a good idea of the wines you are looking for, then use our search bar to find the absolute best price for the bottles you want and get shopping!

David Andrews, DipWSET

David Andrews, DipWSET

David brings great enthusiasm to the wine industry, starting with Majestic Wine in 2019 and now joining us at Winesdirect in 2023. He has completed his WSET Diploma qualification and looking forward to share his expert knowledge and tidbits of the wine world.

As an industry enthusiast and expert, David also writes a regular blog on instagram. Check it out here @oinosattheoikos

Read more articles by: David Andrews

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