How to Choose Wine for Your Wedding
Take the stress out of choosing wine for your wedding with our pro tips.
1. Work out a realistic budget
Some people prioritise cascading floral arrangements, others a spectacularly photogenic venue. If wine is your great love (after your fiancé of course) then a daisy chain and rustic barn will suffice if it means you can divert the budget to suitably celebratory wine. Decide how much the wine matters to your day and be realistic about what this element will cost. Perhaps you don’t need caviar on those blinis after all.
Your budget doesn’t just need to focus on quality: getting the quantity right is important too. You know your own friends and family better than any wedding planner, but as a rule of thumb it is safe to work on the basis of roughly one bottle of fizz per person and half a bottle each during the meal. Will a lot of people be driving, or are they all staying on site? What other drinks will be available, especially after the meal once the dancing starts? Don’t forget to factor in enough bubbles for any toasts.
2. Match the style to the occasion
Is your wedding a Hawaiian-themed summer beach affair or a winter wonderland in a chilly castle? Choose wines that will fit the season and wider mood of the day. Deep winter might call for the comforting embrace of Côtes du Rhône, Rioja or a buttery Chardonnay; on the other hand, sweltering summer sun means your guests may well be craving the peach-infused sea spray of Albariño or crunchy brightness of Loire Cabernet Franc. It’s surprising how celebratory good quality, dry rosé can feel at any time of year.
When it comes to weddings, crowd-pleasing wines are more important than any highly specific food matches. That said, if you’ve pushed the boat out to serve scallops and beef wellington, it makes sense to choose wines that will complement rather than clash with these showpieces. You may love the pungency of Marlborough Sauvignon or a hefty Argentine Malbec, but will all your guests? Consider leaving the boldest aromatics, high alcohol and firm tannins for another day.
Then there’s the consideration of numbers. Providing refreshment for an intimate gathering of 30 close friends and family is a rather different proposition to catering for a 200-person extravaganza including all your old work colleagues and a sprawling family tree. It can feel more rewarding – not to mention affordable – to serve those really special wines at a smaller event where you know they’ll be appreciated. That mature grand cru Burgundy might just be wasted on the table packed with your raucous hockey club chums, however much you love them.
3. You don’t have to stick to the classics
Chablis is popular for a reason, but high demand means there are plenty of weaker examples floating around and you may well find better value elsewhere. There’s good Chardonnay to be found in almost every corner of the world these days, but South Africa in particular is home to plenty of serious examples that punch well above their weight on price.
Your grandparents may expect to be served Bordeaux, but if there’s a wine or region with more personal resonance then don’t be afraid to choose it. Perhaps you both enjoyed a wonderful adventure in Chile, love skiing in Austria or are heading to Tuscany for your honeymoon. Wouldn’t it be special to reflect those special moments in your wine selection?
Then there’s the politics of fizz. Champagne may be the ultimate celebratory drink, but if your budget’s tight then it’s sensible to look elsewhere. Good French crémant or South Africa’s Méthode Cap Classique are both likely to deliver more pleasure for the same price as that under-ripe, supermarket Champagne from a brand you’ve never heard of. Consider a compromise: pour good quality Champagne for the toast or when people first arrive at the reception, but then switch to cheaper fizz as the party hits full flow. It’s a safe bet most guests won’t even notice.
4. Be a savvy shopper
Forward planning is your friend here. Supermarkets often offer tempting cut-price deals so do some research and, once you have a specific wine in mind, be ready to pounce when the offer opens. Popular favourites and the more expensive wines have a habit of selling out fast.
If you’re less sure of which wines to choose, then put yourself in the hands of a good independent specialist retailer. Not only should they have well-trained staff able to advise on your specific needs, but also an interesting, varied wine selection that caters for a range of budgets. Many retailers will be happy to let you taste a few wines before committing and, if you’re uncertain about the volume required, then it’s worth asking whether they can offer sale or return.
5. Don’t forget to factor in any extras
Choosing the right wine for your wedding is the fun part. But don’t overlook other, related factors that may affect your budget and enjoyment. Does the venue charge corkage if you bring your own wine? Whether you’re hiring glasses or they’re provided, it’s worth checking their quality. They don’t have to be top class Riedels, but if you’re treating guests to something half decent then you’ll want to avoid anything too small or thick rimmed. Finally, if you have a particularly lively bunch of friends, then discuss the policy on breakages in advance. No-one wants to return from honeymoon to an unwelcome, unexpected invoice.
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