Wedding Wines

What to serve your guests that will keep everyone happy, but not bust the budget

Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 01:00

C hoosing the wines for a wedding is sometimes left on the backburner while other seemingly more important decisions are made. Frequently, it is the father of the bride who makes the call. However, selecting the right wine can be fun and will make a big difference on the day.

It is traditional to offer the guests a glass of something sparkling when they arrive. A glass of good Champagne is the perfect wa y to kickstart the event with style, but it can be costly. A good bottle of Champagne costs €30-€50, or even up to €90 in a hotel

. Possibly better stick to Prosecco, or even a sparkling wine cocktail such as Buck’s Fizz.

Try to select a white wine that has little or no oak-ageing and not too much alcohol. Sauvignon Blanc (which I will cover in greater depth next week) would be a popular choice and perfect with a wide variety of dishes. Chile and New Zealand produce the best-known examples, but the Loire and Bordeaux in France also offer great value. If you fancy being a little bit adventurous (and you do want your wedding to be special after all) a dry Riesling from Germany, Alsace, Austria or Australia would also do very nicely, as would an Albariño or Godello from Spain or one of the many local white grapes from Italy. With red wines, you want to avoid anything too muscular or tannic. Try to match it with whatever main course you are serving. Beef or lamb provide a perfect backdrop for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo. Pinot Noir would be great, but can be pricey. However, I would be tempted to plump for something a little lighter such as a Valpolicella or Beaujolais. Both of these can be happily sipped on their own as well as with a variety of foods.

It is traditional to serve Champagne with the toast alongside the wedding cake. However, the sweetness of the cake is likely to kill off the flavours of a good dry Champagne – a sweeter Champagne, usually labelled demi-sec, would be much better. An even smarter alternative would be a slightly sweeter Prosecco, or best of all a light sparkling Moscato – they are a mere 5-5.5 per cent alcohol, and taste of freshly squeezed grapes.

If you are having your wedding in a hotel, you may be obliged to buy your wine through them or pay a corkage charge. If you intend serving the hotel’s wine, make sure you get to taste a sample of each, ideally with the food you will be serving and preferably at home with a couple of friends. Some venues are happy to let you bring your own wine for a nominal (or no) charge; others charge corkage ranging from €10-€20 depending on the venue. Any negotiations should take place before you place a booking deposit; some couples look only at the food and hire costs. Wine can make up over 30 per cent of the final bill, so it is worth finding out the cost before you commit to a venue.

If you are providing your own wine, it is certainly worth doing a blind tasting. Invite a couple of friends along (preferably not wine experts who might be too opinionated), taste, and decide on your favourite wines.

When buying wine in quantity you can expect a discount, 10 per cent is standard on a case or more. Also keep an eye out for promotions in the multiples. Supermarkets and chains such as O’Briens run wine promotions offering discounts of 20-25 per cent on all wines, from time to time. I would allow anything from half a bottle to a full bottle per guest, bearing in mind that some will not be drinking.

There is no shame in buying less expensive wines for a large wedding. There are plenty of very good well-priced wines available. Most people will be so wrapped up in the occasion they will appreciate a decent wine, but possibly not the subtleties of a fine wine. This week, I feature four reasonably priced wines, including several slightly off-beat options.

Not everyone likes wine, so have a few beers on hand; lager is probably the most popular, but go for a selection from the growing band of Irish micro-breweries. And remember that some will not be drinking alcohol. Make sure you have a few interesting non-alcoholic options.