Picture / Babiche Martens

Tips For Choosing Wedding Wines

Getting married? Here are some useful tips for selecting the best wines and Champagnes for your big day

Having celebrated my own wedding earlier this year, I had a chance to put my own wine tips to the test. I’m pleased to report it was a vinous success, so this year’s advice comes personally tried and tested.

If you love wine, choose a venue where you can BYO. Selections provided by venues can be limiting and preclude putting on wines which have a relevance to you. Supplying your own wine can also work out more cost effective if you’re on a tight budget.

Work out your budget and stick to it. Drinks can make up a significant chunk of the wedding bill so it’s worth working out what you can afford at the very start. One of my best friends used the “Best Budget Buys” from one of my annual Top 50 wines of the year to make her selections, which went down well. Check out this year’s list online and you’ll find a great pinot noir can be had for under $25, with a host of exciting reds and whites under $20. If you buy in bulk there’s also a chance to get some money knocked off the bill.

Make an appropriate selection. First, think about the food being served and aim to choose wines that will complement this. If there’s a range of different dishes among the party it’s worth selecting a couple of whites and reds for the tables. It’s worth considering more versatile styles, such as a dry  riesling or lightly oaked chardonnay in the whites, with a pinot noir and fuller bodied red, such as a merlot blend, shiraz or even something Spanish. Unless you’re confident that your guests have a definite preference in one direction, it’s worth splitting it evenly between reds and whites. I was almost caught out by the fact that I thought my guests leaned more towards red, but given it was a balmy summer’s wedding, more whites and sparkling wines were consumed in the end.

Buying the bubbles. French Champagne is not essential if you don’t have the budget. New Zealand makes some excellent methode  tradionnelles, and there are some great value low-priced sparklers from France and Spain you can go for.

Don’t risk running dry. One bottle will yield five medium-sized glasses. Everyone will need one glass of bubbly for the toast, then the rest depends on the drinking habits of your guests and the length of time wines will be available. A conservative guide is to allow half a bottle per guest. Knowing my wine-loving friends and family and the length of our reception, I went for half a bottle of pre-ceremony bubbly, three-quarters of a bottle each with the meal and another half for later. Thankfully, for the livers of my loved ones, I did have some bottles left.

Make use of sale or return. Good wine stores should offer to take back unopened leftovers. They may even loan you some decent glasses for the big day.

Sort out the stemware. If you’ve chosen some lovely wines, it’s worth checking out that the venue will be serving them in similarly splendid stemware. If it’s small or chunky glasses, consider outsourcing. The boat we hired for our wedding didn’t permit glasses, so we opted for unbreakable Govinos — flutes and wine glasses — which unlike most polymer glasses have a shape designed to enhance the appreciation of wine.

With guests attending from around the world, our wedding was very much about bringing them to our home, so serving almost solely New Zealand wines made sense to us ... although I couldn’t resist slipping in some good French Champagne for the toasts!

Post ceremony bubbles
Quartz Reef Methode Traditionnelle NV

Dinner selection
Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Riesling
Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay
Churton Estate Pinot Noir

Cheese wine
Mazuran’s Directors Port

For the toasts
Champagne Dom Perignon
Assorted local wines throughout the evening

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