Benjamin Mitrofan-Norris on July 5, 2016 1 Comment Even the most cynical among us would probably agree that for most people, weddings are a big deal. Indeed, for billions of us worldwide, they’re more or less the biggest deal there is, and hundreds of stressful, panicked and excited hours are spent planning them. The closer the date looms, the more there seems to be to meticulously arrange and think about. Venues, clothes, guests, rings, food…the list stretches endlessly, and everybody planning a wedding wants to achieve that perfect balance of making the day a special and romantic one for the couple, while also displaying a flawless sense of taste and style to the friends and gathered family attending the event. After all, weddings are meant to be memorable, and are fundamentally supposed to be an occasion of happiness, elegance and exquisite style. One of the key components of any wedding which often finds itself overlooked, however, is the wine. I have little doubt that you, like me and everyone I know, has at some point attended a wedding where the wine list seems little more than an afterthought, something cobbled together and bought in bulk, with no attention paid to the impression and impact the drink can have on the day. It may be that for many people, this is fine. Not everyone, after all, is quite as enthusiastic or passionate about good wine as I am. What is safe to say, however, is that nobody really likes bad wine, and everybody appreciates that little extra effort in picking the perfect wine for a wedding. Whether it is a decent, sensible matching with the food, or a touch of elegant, oenological exoticism, well-chosen wine doubtlessly adds an element of sophistication to any event. On that point, here are a few reliable tips for selecting wine for a wedding — be they big, white, flamboyant affairs or small, classy, intimate ones. Did You Know You Can Buy Your Perfect Wedding Wine on Amazon? Please Stand for the Bride and Groom The initial drink of the day is bound to be some sort of toast or welcoming drink, designed to get everyone in the mood for celebration, and to mark the entrance of the couple and their guests. According to (relatively recent) traditions, we’re expecting to provide the crowds with Champagne for this part of the wedding. However, more and more people are beginning to seek out alternatives which deviate somewhat from the norm. It has often been stated that many of the big Champagne wineries of France have, over recent decades, developed something of a monopoly in the market for sparkling wine, and they’ve been increasingly accused of resting on their laurels in terms of quality and finesse. The fact of the matter is, there are so many alternatives to the big brand Champagnes, which are not only delicious, but can also add a touch of edgy sophistication to your day. If you’re determined to go for something with ‘Champagne’ on the label, why not branch out a little, and try a Blanc des Noirs? This is a deeper, sexier and more sultry blended Champagne, made only from black grapes (while still being a ‘white’ sparkler), and which is gaining an increasingly devoted and fanatical following due to its exquisite flavor and drinkability. The big hitter in the world of fizzy wine over the past few years has been Prosecco, and it isn’t difficult to see why. A fraction of the price of Champagne, with a fun, fruity and lively character, it’s a great drink to provide in large quantities at a wedding, and a sure way to get things going with a bang. Often cheaper again is Spanish Cava, a traditional sparkling wine which is really finding its feet these past few years. Sparkling wines other than Champagne are truly back in fashion, and most New World countries have their own take on bubbly, and organic and biodynamic numbers are making waves on the international wine scene, too. Cometh the Day, Cometh the Wine One of the main factors to think about when planning a wedding reception is how appropriate your wine list is for your event. You want your celebration to flow smoothly, with all seeming to blend in with your theme and with the overall atmosphere of the day. As such, take some time to think about the probably climatic conditions your wedding will enjoy — in the sunny, summery months, it’s a safe bet that people will be hankering for a crisp, clear, refreshing set of white wines, while in the cooler autumn and winter months, something deeper, darker, and more complex and full-bodied would seem fitting. The same idea also can be applied when thinking about your venue. Is your wedding to be an outdoor one, or an indoor one? On top of this, do think about whether you are choosing your wine to suit a themed wedding, or are you more keen to focus on making a good pairing with the food you’re serving? Do you want crowd-pleasing wines, or are you up for choosing something a little more exclusive and niche, to challenge your guests and show off your eclectic tastes? Undoubtedly, quantities are something key to consider. Running out of wine is almost as much of a disaster as the bride not turning up at the altar, so please make sure you’ve got enough. You know your guests’ drinking habits far better than I do, but the majority of wedding planners urge people to aim for roughly half a bottle per guest. Do your sums, and calculate the bare minimum you’ll need on the day. A Marriage Made in Heaven Matching food and wine for a wedding can be a little difficult, as it’s likely you’ll be serving more than one kind of dish. If this is the case, most sommeliers would recommend sticking to a set of good, rounded and versatile reds and whites. You’ll need to think about those wines which can fit with many different dishes, and which can stand proud and hold their own through both a starter and main course, without overpowering the flavors or drowning the subtleties. Probably the two grape varietals which are the ‘safest’ when it comes to versatility and flexible are Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache or Shiraz. The Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp, clear and fruity wine, which holds a decent acidity and mellow orchard fruit flavors — perfect for dishes with chicken, fish or cheese. The reds, on the other hand, manage to be spicy and savory, while not being too heavy. If you’re after more of a wider range of wines for your guests, I’d suggest covering all bases by putting together a four wine combination list, which ranges from light to full-bodied in both red and white styles. A good example which would work well for most events serving food would be a Pinot Gris and a Pinot Noir for your light-bodied, drinkable wines, and a top-quality Chardonnay and a New World Shiraz for your full-bodied, serious wine drinkers. This way, you’ll be able to meet the needs of even the fussiest distant relative. If you’re serving a fish or shellfish course, in my humble opinion, nothing quite beats a Viognier, which has a delightful, oily floral character that is always magical alongside white fish and shellfish dishes. Whatever you decide to serve with your food, make sure you get the chance to try it first. As you are probably well aware, the quality of wines varies pretty dramatically from winery to winery, and from year to year. Most wine stores and suppliers have special wedding/event services, and the good ones will only be too happy to give you the chance to try before you buy. Bring Out the Cake Ah, dessert. Dessert wines always manage to seem like something of a little luxury, and it goes without saying that when serving cake, a good dessert wine is the metaphorical cherry on top. One of the best things about serving dessert wine for a wedding is that generally people won’t drink more than one small glass (they are rather rich, after all) and so, you can probably afford to splash out a bit on something special, in smaller quantities, for your guests. When pairing with cakes — and especially cakes which have marzipan and candied fruit as a key component — the undisputed champions of the world of dessert wine are the French Sauternes and Hungarian Tokaji wines. Both botrytized wines (those made with withered, rotten grapes), these amber-colored beauties, dripping with flavors of dried apricots, dark honey and roasted nuts will close your wedding meal with a genuine flash of Old World elegance and charm. If you can’t get hold of such real treasures, any botrytized wines will probably do fine, as would an ice wine. Your guests won’t be forgetting them in any hurry. No matter what you eventually decide upon for your special day, the bottom line is that well-chosen, interesting wine is never unappreciated at any event, or at any time. Make sure your day has the drinks it deserves, and enjoy the memories they bring.