It is a fact universally acknowledged that a bride and a groom on the verge of getting hitched and surrounded by a throng of family and friends, will probably suffer a massive collective taste bud malfunction. It’s called nerves. So, if you are considering to order fabulous wines for yourself to enjoy, and expecting a wine-charged epiphany on the day, you may well be disappointed. If your wedding, however, is one of those week-long affairs with people coming and going, and where you have the luxury to browse and sluice, then it is worth devoting some time to choosing wines that will please and excite your taste buds.
The main thing is not to over-intellectualise or try to second-guess what others want or expect. It’s your wedding, your vows, your music - and you can cry if you want to! Covering the bases is advisable; a wedding is not the ideal occasion to make a thrilling statement to friends and family about your uncompromising wine tastes. Even if you wish to declare your unswerving adoration for all things vins and naturels! On the other hand, it is your day, so you need to drink what you enjoy and feel like drinking.
How many different wines should you be pouring on the day? How much wine per person should you legislate for? How long is a piece of string? No two events are the same. How much people drink depends on whether it is a stand-up party that carries on for hours, or a more structured sit-down lunch/dinner. If people are driving to and from the wedding venue, then that automatically imposes a limit on consumption. Equally, if the guests are staying overnight in the hotel or locally then they might wish to drink more. If you over-order slightly, then you can start a cellar in your connubial home.
The way you budget for wine at a wedding demonstrates your priorities. Delicious food and wine are of paramount importance to many hosts – it’s not about ostentation rather it is about generosity and attention to quality. A beautifully prepared and presented meal with wonderful wines can be a memory to cherish, part of the foreground as well as the background. The best value wines are therefore not the cheapest, but the ones that deliver the best overall experience for you and your guests. But if you are catering for hundreds of people, then spending can spiral out of control and ordering in lots of amazing wines for a non-receptive audience is a luxury too far.
Fizz: Champagne is regarded as a celebration of serious intention, but so many champagnes, even the marques, are pretty indigestible (if we’re honest). A good grower’s champagne, however, made with grapes that have been farmed with care and attention, and with minimal or zero dosage, shows that you have sourced your fizz imaginatively, rather than default to the brand. These more vinous champagnes are also appealing with food. For pure jollity, however, we might suggest a pet nat. You can drink these frolic bubbles throughout the meal. With loads of primary fruit, youthful appeal and no added sulphur, these sparkling gems deliver value for money as well as being nourishing and moreish.
Whites and reds: Rather than getting bogged down in specifics, here are some general guidelines. Stay clear of oaky and alcoholic wines. Difficult to digest, they also tend to dominate food and coat the palate. Probably best also to avoid white wines with very high acidity, those with high sulphur, reductive reds and whites, and wines with naturally high VA. You are really looking for wines that are relatively understated, go with different types of food, but are ultimately satisfying and delicious.
Sweet/fortified: If you are on a budget then save any money you might spend on sweet wines and plough it into fizz, whites or reds. There speaks the voice of personal experience! I ordered a dozen bottles of Banyuls to go with a chocolate tart at my wedding reception and nary a drop was drunk. A good palate-cleansing fizz will do the job just as well. If you have to, invest in a nice single quinta or vintage port. The operative word being single, as in single bottle. There may be one person who will appreciate it!
Recommendations from Les Caves
Cracking Fizz Throughout the Day!
Pet Nat Vol 1 Fuchs und Hase, Austria or Spumante Metodo Classico Sullerba, Franciacorta, Italy
An Austrian petillant naturel from a young vintage from organically farmed vineyards on cold stony soils. Aromatic, yet complete and mouth filling. An alternative would be a wine from Franciacorta, partly fermented in amphora. A contrasting style, this is cloudy and leesy and bone-dry.
Push the Bubbly Boat out in Style
Brut de Brut Gran Reserva Recaredo, Penedes or “Resonance” Champagne Marie-Courtin
Proof that Spanish sparkling wines (we dare not call this Cava) can compete with the best of champagnes. Biodynamic farming, six years on the lees, beautiful hand-crafted wine. The Marie Courtin Resonance is organically farmed Pinot Noir from the Cote des Bars. Golden wine built on the flavour of the grapes rather than the yeasts or additions. Orchard fruits – apples, pear William, yellow plums with wild mint and bready notes. Think Chablis 1er cru with bubbles.
Aperitif and Utterly Shellfish Wine
Gallardia del Itata Moscatel Corinto, Chile or Muscadet sur lie Domaine de la Pepiere, Loire
With oysters or fish terrine – a brilliant mineral white from an ancient vineyard in Itata, southern Chile. You can taste the Pacific influence in this lithe, cool-toned white. The Muscadet is one of the best, a lees-aged version, combining shell-like freshness and a nice mouthfeel.
Chablis, not Chablis...
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Le Oche, San Lorenzo or Petit Burja Zelen, Burja, Slovenia
The wines of Natalino Crognaletti (Fattoria San Lorenzo) are aged on the lees and have great texture. This versatile organically-farmed natural white will go with seafood, grilled fish or white meats. The Zelen, from amazing marly soils in Vipava, Slovenia, is chalky-mineral and so drinkable.
Beaujolais-Villages, Domaine de Botheland or The Story of Harry Chenin, Intellego, South Africa
The Bo Blanc is not a classic Burgundy, but we love it. Not for seekers of utterly-butterly flimflam but something pure and authentic and, as it opens up, increasingly complex. And then a whimsically-monickered Swartland old vines Chenin, one that aced a recent Decanter tasting of Best Natural Wines. Beautiful Chenin with quince and apple fruit and glorious tension from the natural acidity. If fish is a wedding menu feature, especially salmon every which way, these two are go-to.
Johan Vineyard Chardonnay Statera Cellars, Oregon or Graf Sauvignon Muster, Styria, Austria
Rather than opting for a Chablis 1er cru we have chosen a single vineyard Chardonnay from a biodynamic vineyard in Oregon called Johan. The persistence on the palate is fantastic. Graf (meaning) Count is a prince amongst Sauvignons and one of the greatest versions of this grape we have ever tasted. These are both living wines, which means that they will develop in the glass, so if you are serving your guests vino in plastic beakers… maybe not!
Pinky and Perky
Apostrophe Rose, Domaine Les Terres Promises, Provence
Just because it’s pink doesn’t mean it's vapid. Maybe the one wine to please everyone would be a cracking Provençale rose. It’s dry, it’s refreshing, it’s pretty to look at and it accompanies just about everything from vegetables, to fish to light meats.
Bang for Buck Red
Malbec, El Albasto, Argentina or Reverte Garnacha Tinto, Navarra, Spain
I never thought I would type the words Argentinian Malbec and pleasure in the same sentence without a qualifying “not”! This is Malbec with an almost Gamay-esque lift to the fruit. Super elegant and you don’t need to munch a whole cow to appreciate it. The Reverte from vineyards in Navarra shows that Spain is capable of churning out the best-value red wines in the world. Explosive fruit, a seasoning of herbs and tannins, bristling acidity – a winner. Easy on the beef.
Natural Safety Harness
Bourgueil Trinch!, Domaine Breton or Blaufrankisch Horitschoner, Franz Weninger
A pair of naturally made wine that great uncle so-and-so who has crusted port for blood can drink happily. Cab Franc is the grape that Bordeaux lovers can get their head around. It says breeding and elegance and all those other abstract wine descriptors that we associate with class. The Blaufrankisch is Burgenland’s answer to Pinot Noir. It has red fruits, it has enough tannin, it conveys terroir and vintage. It also punches way above its price point. Oh, and it is naturally made, but won’t frighten the horses.
Meat and Veg Wines...or just meat
Like Raindrops, Jauma, S Australia or Rendez Vous Sous la Lune, Clos du Gravillas
A pair of Rhône rangers. The first from McLaren Vale (yes, also without sulphur) is a joyous celebratory (rain)drop of Grenache. Whole bunch ferment brings out youthful purple fruit notes. It is as if the grapes had been squeezed straight off the vine into the bottle. The romantically named Rendez Vous Sous La Lune is a Languedoc blend including Carignan, Syrah and Grenache. Really tasty and savoury, and perfect with lamb or roast pig.
Marry Me! Reds
Kelley Fox Mirabai Pinot Noir, Oregon or Teroldego Sgarzon, Elisabetta Foradori, Trentino, Italy
A beautiful Pinot Noir speaks of its origin so eloquently. It is also a most sensual, evocative grape. Kelley Fox’s delicate Mirabai has wild earthy aromatics, come-hither red fruits and a gentle clasp of tannins. Foradori’s amphora-fermented Sgarzon is the lighter and more lifted of her two clay Teroldegos with soothing gravelly freshness.
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