How to choose the wine for your wedding

When it comes to buying wine, if there’s one time you need to get maximum bang for buck it’s when you’re getting married. It’s the most important day of your life, so you want something special to share with your friends and family; but you’re on a strict budget, and need to keep the price down to a minimum. Because if your friends are anything like mine, you’re going to need an awful lot…

When you could still pay in francs, the best option was to jump in a car/van/removal lorry and nip over to France. This is still the most fun option, but it’s rarely the cheapest any more. The exchange rate against the euro is none too attractive these days, and the expense involved in travel will negate the benefit of the cheaper bottles. And it’s still easy to find some pretty rubbish stuff in French supermarkets, so without a recommendation or the means to sample lots of options, you’re generally better off buying in the UK.

There are three types of wine to consider. The first is a celebratory sparkling wine to offer guests on arrival and for the toasts. Secondly, you’ll need a red and a white to go with the meal. Lastly, you might want to indulge in some sweet wines to go with cheese or dessert. For the best deals on bulk champagne and wine orders, it is often easiest to talk to bigger retailers. A few to consider would be Majestic, Waitrose or an online wine merchant like Slurp.

Choose your fizz first, as this can have a big impact on your overall budget. Plan for around a third to half a bottle per person. It would be wonderful to serve a top champagne like Bollinger or Louis Roederer, but the difference between this and cheaper alternatives could be £20 per bottle. If you need 50 bottles that could mean a total difference of £1000… There are good cheaper champagnes out there, but like all the wines you are considering, test out a bottle before you buy the whole consignment. Try the refreshing Benedick Grand Réserve Brut from Lea & Sandeman at £18.95, or the richer Forget Chemin Carte Blanche at £21.95 from Champagne Warehouse. There are also many excellent non-champagne sparkers out there that would do the job perfectly well, such as Crémant de Limoux or Crémant de Loire from France, or New World fizz like the reliable Jansz (Australia) or great value Lindauer (New Zealand). Prosecco is always an option, but it can be a bit light in flavour for an occasion such as this.

As for the red and white wines, it’s worth thinking about what food you’ll be offering. It’s a bit of a generalisation, but as a rule of thumb if you’re serving beef or lamb, go for wines with powerful flavours. If you’re going for chicken or pork, something more medium-bodied is often a good bet. And if it’s fish or veggie, opt for something light to medium in flavour. If you cater for half a bottle per person, you should have more than enough to see everyone through the meal. In terms of value, some smart areas to explore are southern Italy, southern France, Portugal or Chile. The classic wines of famous areas such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo or Chablis can be breathtaking, but you have to spend a lot more here to get a good example. The best from these regions are, however, hard to beat. Once you’ve made a decision, why not see if they have the wine in extra large bottles, like magnums or jeroboams? If you can’t have large format bottles at a wedding, I don’t know when you can.

At the end of the meal it’s always a treat to have a sweet wine with dessert or cheese. Because they are so diverse, matching wines with cheese and dessert can be tricky, so it would be a good idea to offer at least two. Some good options would be a port (good with blue cheeses and rich desserts including chocolate), a golden sweet wine like Sauternes or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise (good with fresh fruit desserts), and a sweet oloroso sherry (good with many cheeses – and wedding cake). Since these wines are so intensely flavoured, you don’t need much – a bottle should go around at least six people.

If in doubt, order a few extra bottles. It’s always better to have some left over to take home, rather than running out and having to send some drunken ushers on a late night mission. Have a great day!