You did it. Huge congratulations to you two! Now, it’s time to celebrate. Good thing you’ve planned this wedding well. Those sips that the waiters are prepping to deliver to your guests are going to be well received, so don’t be surprised if you’re asked about the labels.
If you’ve just written a hugely successful software program or sold your new patent design for beaucoup bucks, go directly to the top, entertaining your friends and family with lifestyles of the rich and famous Champagnes, and top drawer White Bordeaux brands. If your plans are a bit different, there are some very attractive options.
For the single most important sip of the day, that all-important toast to the happy couple, Champagne is the favoured choice. If money is no object, go directly to one of the iconic houses and splurge for lush, creamy, toasty bubbles that pleases everyone. There is no substitute for an exceptional Champagne, but there are some that come close.
Sparkling wines from the Crémant de Limoux appellation in France are a modern style wine variety from the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains. These well made wines are a bit fresher than traditional Champagnes, with a lighter, leaner body, and hints of apple. Made from a blend of Mauzac, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay grapes, in the traditional méthode champenoise, they employ the same second fermentation as true Champagne to pump up the bubbles. At about a third of the price of comparable Champagnes, they afford plenty of pours for a thirsty crowd.
Italy’s Prosecco wines made in dry and extra dry versions from Glera grapes might also be a good choice. While not made traditionally, the bubbles are still there, and the taste is fresh and fruity.
What goes with what? After you’ve got a menu figured out, it’s time to decide on labels. If you’re simply serving cake, or some divine chocolate confection, choosing a dry or an extra dry version of Champagne from one of the top houses should do the trick.
There are a number of special grower Champagnes designated with a tiny “RM” on the label, for “Récoltant Manipulant,” made by a small group of grape growers that also produce the wine at the vineyard. These champagnes, while not widely known, are every bit as sip worthy and a little less spendy. You will make no sacrifices here, and may discover a new favourite. You will also look quite savvy. Produced in small batches, however, you may find it difficult to put your hands on enough bottles for an enormous guest list.
You can also get rave reviews from a demi sec sparkling wine hailing from Italy’s Piedmont region. It will nicely balance the sugar in the dessert, and not seem bitter. If you don’t mind giving up on bubbles, Germany’s Gewürztraminer Vendange Tardives, or late harvest style wines will also leave your sweet tooth, and your budget, intact.
A menu featuring meat or heavily spiced dishes call for a big red swirl, like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Red Burgundy. There is no shortage of exquisite names from Napa in California or the at the top of the heap from Pauillac in the Bordeaux region of France. Options that are a little less dear include Italian Primativo, Australian Petite Syrah, Grenache or Syrah from the Languedoc Region, or a Spanish Reserva Tempranillo. Plavac Mali from Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast was discovered to be a direct DNA match to Zinfandel and Primativo, delivering some lovely sipping wines with a slightly smaller price tag.
If you’re serving chicken, vegetables, or seafood, you’ll want to select a delicious white. Nothing beats a buttery Sonoma Valley Chardonnay or a French White Burgundy, but a few come very close. Consider a Mâcon-Villages White Burgundy, which is the French equivalent to Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc, or a Chardonnay from the Russian River or Anderson Valleys of California.
If you have the time and the budget, consider a casual tasting party well in advance of your I Do date. It will help you decide on the wine list while scheduling some much needed fun amid the planning.
When you do decide, make sure you buy enough wine so that no guest goes thirsty. As a general formula, divide the number of guests by 2.5 and that should give you the total number of bottles you’ll need. If you prefer, consider that each guest, for planning purposes, is expected to drink two glasses of wine for every two hours the celebration is in full swing.
Winter guests will drink more red wine than summer guests, and indoor wedding celebrations find red more popular than outdoor venues. Do a 50-50 split for reds to whites for a winter or indoor wedding, and a 30-70 split for reds to whites for an outdoor, summer wedding. If you’re also serving cocktails, buy 30 percent less than advised above. Note that most wine stores offer a discount for buying by the case.
For the toast itself, divide the guest count by 8 to ensure everyone can clink with a generous half full glass of bubbly. Now, it’s time to work on the toast.