How to choose what wine to serve at a wedding

18-06-2012
 
If your upcoming nuptials are this summer then no doubt you have the venue booked, the invites delivered and the dress and flowers paid for.
 
But what about the tricky task of choosing what wine to serve to your guests? There are five key moments at a wedding when drinking is encouraged, but really the decision lies on your budget and number of guests.
 
If you have 80-plus guests coming to your wedding, then this might severely limit the per-bottle budget you have imposed, but it is worth remembering that buying in bulk is a guaranteed money-saver. If, that is, the venue will allow you to bring your own wine.
 
Post ceremony
On a hot summer's day, don't expect your guests to last out during the wedding ceremony, through the photos and all the way to the reception venue without some form of a tipple.
 
Bucks fizz is a good idea, ensuring that your guests aren't completely sozzled by the time they get to the dinner thanks to the majority of orange juice in the cocktail, but it still gets them in a celebratory mood.
 
Many guests will not want to start drinking just yet though, so make sure there are plenty of soft drinks ready on a tray once as people leave the wedding venue.
 
Drinks reception
Here, you need to find the perfect wine to match your canapes. The obvious choice is something fizzy, but don't feel the need to splash out on Champagne. Prosecco is a great food and wine match to most types of appetisers, but as this is a patriotic year, why not serve up some English sparkling wine or add a summery twist with sparkling rose.
 
Wedding breakfast
This is when food and wine matching gets more complicated. As fun as it is to pair a wine to each course, this is not only expensive but you also have the challenge of pleasing a large number of people's tastes.
 
Usually, a single red and a white option will suffice, but you can go one step further and make sure they are the right ones for your dishes.
 
Sauvignon Blanc is a good crowd-pleaser and its versatility will often pair with a seafood starter and chicken for the main.
 
In contrast, a Chardonnay might not be to everybody's tastes and it is unlikely to match both the starter and main courses.
 
As for your choice of red, a Pinot Noir is a failsafe and reliable option. It is very food friendly and is not too overpowering to put off guests who are not as accustomed as you are to drinking!
 
If your main course is a dish of rich meat like beef or game, then you could be a bit more daring and serve a Cabernet Sauvignon.
 
Toast
Save the best stuff for the most enjoyable/teary part of the evening! If you want to guarantee some laughs, cries and applause for the speeches and the toasts, then bribe your guests with some good quality Champagne!
 
This is when you can stretch your budget a bit more; after all you only ever serve one glass each.
 
However, if you plan to serve dessert during the speeches, then try to find a bottle of fizz that matches. Don't pick anything too dry, as it could make the dessert too bitter, so avoid Brut and try instead a slightly more sugary wine.
 
Another idea at this time in the evening is to offer dessert wine or liqueur. It adds a bit of a twist on the traditional wedding breakfast and can sometimes be cheaper than serving another glass of Champagne while people finish up their meal.
 
Rather than offer the entire array of the drinks cabinet, select one whisky and a couple of other options such as Baileys to get the night off to a start.
 
Partying into the night
This is when you really can budget on your drinks. It is customary to put a limit behind the bar or even cut off the free drinks entirely. But if you want to be the ultimate hosts, then you can select all house spirits, one lager and one ale that comes under the wedding tab.
 
As for wine, this is also when you can bring out the cheaper stuff. When there's no food to match it with all your guests really want is a drinkable wine they can enjoy, so make use of buying in bulk and you'll be remembered for having that free bar!
 
Photo courtesy of epSos.de
 
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