Choosing the wine

With our top tips, you’ll soon be toasting with the perfect tinto

Snooty sommeliers and worrisome wine waiters can make choosing a wine in a restaurant tricky enough, but picking wine for your wedding can seem even more daunting, especially if you want to impress without breaking the bank.

If you have the time, it might be fun to treat yourself and your husband-to-be to a wine-tasting course. Getting tipsy together can be a romantic pre-wedding experience and grooms are often more enthusiastic about tasting the booze then picking the favours, so it’s a great way to make sure your fiancé feels involved.

Laura Kent, branch manager at Oddbins, believes that it’s important to find a wine merchant you can trust and listen to their recommendations. “They should be able to offer you the opportunity to try some of their range so that you can feel confident in the quality,” she says. “For example, at Oddbins we offer free customer tastings on many weekends.”

The main aim is to choose something that you’ll both enjoy drinking on the day. “Keep it simple!” Laura recommends. “Choose a couple of wines that you like and will enjoy, and try not to worry too much about other people’s personal preferences.”

However, there are some guidelines worth noting in your quest for quaffable wine, as Julie Warner, from Glasgow and Edinburgh wine merchant Inverarity One to One, advises: “It is very difficult to please everyone at a wedding, but, we have found certain grape varieties and countries work better than others at pleasing the crowd. For example, the wine needs to be fruity so that it’s interesting, but not too intense. It should have good acidity so that it goes well with food and it should have a pleasant finish. Our favourite wedding wines at the moment are from the Chilean Santa Ema range, specifically the Sauvignon Blanc and the Merlot. Both of these wines are interesting but not overbearing and the Santa Ema Range is fantastic value for money. For the most part, very pungent wines and highly tannic wines should be avoided although it does, of course, depend on what food is being eaten.”

Which brings us nicely to matching wine with the wedding breakfast. If possible, you should ask your venue or caterers to let you taste a selection of wines when you taste the food, or, if you’re providing the booze yourself, take a bottle of one or two of your favourites along to the tasting session, so you can compare them with the different courses. “The best way to pair wine and food is trial and error but there are some fundamental rules to follow,” advises Julie. “Try and match like for like so if you have a full-bodied meal like carbonara, you would want to match it with a full-bodied wine say white burgundy like Meursault. Similarly a food with high flavour intensity should be matched with a wine of equally high intensity, for example, green peppers go really well with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. The old rule of serving white wine with fish and red wine with meat has long since gone. Fish and seafood suit wines with high acidity, as do high-fat foods like cheese. Red meats really deserve a meaty full-bodied wine with good tannins such as a nice Bordeaux.”

It’s a good idea to stick to one white, one red and one fizzy option for the toast or the reception as it keeps things simple and if the guests do want to have white to start and red with the main course, the option’s there. And there’s no need to provide a dessert wine. “By the time guests have had sparkling wine followed by white wine and potentially red wine then more fizz for speeches, a lot of people see the tea or coffee option as a welcome relief,” says Julie.

Traditionally, couples allow for two glasses of fizz on arrival, half a bottle of wine at the table and another glass of sparkling wine for the toast. Julie explains: “It tends to balance out quite nicely as some people will not be drinking and others will be filling their boots. We’ve seen weddings that have allowed for three bottles per person, so it really depends on how generous you want to be!”

If you’re worried that your guests could guzzle too much expensive champers, Laura Kent suggests opting for a vintage from a small independent Champagne house. “Some of these producers offer fabulous quality at surprisingly low prices,” she says.
Finally, remember to shop around. If you’re not happy with the wine list provided by your venue, ask to negotiate corkage. This should cost you around £10 per bottle, but be aware that this is probably less than the mark-up on the wine list. Cheers!

Julie Warner, retail and wine school manager at Inverarity One to One in Glasgow, gives us the pros and cons of fizz

• Champagne
Champagne is, of course, held in high regard however, apart from being hideously expensive it can quite often disagree with people causing heartburn and reflux. This seems to happen especially in situations lacking food, so think carefully before serving it at a reception. Champagne can also be very toasty and overpowering, which doesn’t suit everyone’s palate or it can be very sharp and acidic which again can be quite unpleasant.

• Prosecco
Prosecco is often very peachy with a sweetness to it, which can make it appealing as an aperitif, but can lose its bubbles quite quickly. Being Italian, it’s perfect if you’re serving antipasti before your meal, or having Mediterranean themed canapés. The classic Bellini is made with Prosecco, and adding peach juice to your guests glasses would be a thoughtful way to cut costs.

• Cava
Cava is made in the same way as champagne so maintains its bubbles, but it’s less complex on the palate so doesn’t have the toasty brioche notes. You could consider dropping a strawberry into each glass to enhance the smell and flavour of the wine or add a little crème de cassis and serve Kir Royal.

• New World sparkling wine
This is a relative newcomer and definitely worth considering if you’re conscious of cost, but don’t want to compromise on flavour. New World sparkling wine emulates champagne but at a fraction of the price. There is a sparkly to suit every palate.

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