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Wine Guide for Couples

by  Maria C. Hunt on March 30, 2012
Wine Guide for Couples

Planning a wedding involves making so many decisions about everything from the dress and the site to the vows and the guest list.

By the time they get down to figuring out what wines and drinks to serve, many couples can be overwhelmed, especially when they're trying to fit everything within a budget. These days, there's no shame in trying to save money wherever possible.

"Since we've had a few years of downturn, even people with money got on this bandwagon of 'I'll set a budget,'" says The Party Goddess Marley Majcher (May-jerr), a Los Angeles-based party consultant and caterer who has produced events for Snoop Dogg, Kimora Lee Simmons and Tisha Campbell.

No matter what kind of wine couples prefer, joining their favorite winery's club can be a good way to save 20 to 25 percent on a large wedding wine purchase.

Majcher and a couple of savvy sommeliers shared some more great ideas to help brides and grooms navigate wedding wine decisions with ease.

Pick Wines That Complement Your Cuisine and Your Crowd

Since wedding guests have diverse tastes in wine, Ryan Williams, the sommelier at Ana Mandara in San Francisco, selects wines he knows will please most palates.

The bright, citrusy flavor of sauvignon blanc has broad appeal, so does a slightly richer pinot blanc or light chardonnay done in neutral oak.

"The no-brainer for most Asian cuisine is riesling, but a lot of people are skeptical because their last experience with riesling was Blue Nun," says Williams. But once they taste fine rieslings in a variety of sweetness levels, they realize how the aromatic and sheer wine complements Vietnamese cuisine.

When it comes to red wines, Williams says cabernet sauvignon has cachet, but its big bold alcohol and tannins make it a tough match for Vietnamese cuisine.

"I normally go for softer tannins with a good amount of acidity," says Williams. "Pinot noir and sangiovese go over well and if they want something fuller we lean toward merlot or syrah."

Spend Your Wine Budget Strategically

No matter what couples spend on wine, it's smart to use some simple strategies so those wines have the most impact.

Don't try to serve 10 different kinds of wines in an effort to please everyone.

"Pick a couple wines that you really like and serve those," says Majcher. "The more choices you have, the more bottles that are open."

Another old host's trick — it dates back to Biblical days — is serving the best wines first.

"You serve the best wines right out of the gate and halfway through dinner after people have had a couple glasses, then go to a back-up," says Majcher. After people have been drinking for an hour or so, their palates aren't as discerning.

Be Creative with the Champagne Toast

Champagne is a lovely and traditional touch at weddings, but savvy couples know it's not the most affordable choice when it comes to bubbly.

Many couples who wed at Cavallo Point, a Sausalito resort The Knot named one of the best places in the Bay Area to get married, opt for a well-made sparkling wine instead.

"Go out and buy yourself a prosecco, a lovely cremant or cava," says Gillian Ballance, Cavallo Point's sommelier. "They're so popular right now because the quality is high and the retail price is somewhere in the $20 range, making a greeting or a toast far more within a budget."

Instead of pouring from large bottles, Ballance says younger couples like filling large punch bowls with mini 187 ml bottles of bubbly on ice, so guests can serve themselves. Choosing colorful bottles that come in bright shades of pink and blue such as Pommery Pop or Nicolas Feuillatte One Fo(u)r, makes the champagne display part of the decor.

If couples aren't into bubbly, Majcher says they may let guests toast with whatever drink they have in their hands.

Of course, if budget isn't a concern, guests will be wowed with freely flowing Champagne. Williams says Ana Mandara hosted a recent wedding where the groom's parents wanted to serve nothing but prestigious cuvées such as Dom Perignon and Cristal.

Create a Tasting Bar to Showcase High-End Wines

It takes some finesse to find a way to enjoy collectible wines at a wedding without uncorking expensive bottles for guests who aren't into wine. Ballance had a groom who wanted to drink 2006 Kistler Durrell Vineyard Chardonnay and other expensive wines at his wedding, but wanted to make sure only the guests who were interested in it had a taste.

"We set up a tasting bar and he could pick vintages of Kistler that we couldn't provide," Ballance says. "If people were interested they could go taste some older wines. It was a cool way to deal with that because he wanted to drink some of those wines for a celebratory occasion, but he didn't have enough to pour it for 150 people."

If you decide to bring your own wines to a venue such as Cavallo Point, be sure to inquire about corkage fees.

Make it Personal with Special Wines, Signature Cocktails and DIY Touches

Majcher says couples are making everything in their weddings all about them, from the colors and setting to the food and drink choices.

"It's all about personalization," says Majcher. "If a couple loves prosecco because they went to Venice, that's what they're going to serve. Or if they got engaged in Paris, then they'll have French wines."

The signature cocktail trend is still going strong, with more couples deciding to serve a special drink that captures their favorite flavors or the color of their wedding. Martini bars are also popular and the do-it-yourself ethos is influencing weddings too.

"I'm seeing lots of signature touches like rimmed sugar on glassed or floating flowers or ... using metallic sharpies to write on the wine glasses," Majcher says. "That might be a fun activity and it's a great favor. I love favors that people are going to use."

Wedding Worthy Wines for Your Special Day:

Zonin Prosecco, about $12

Esterlina Cole Ranch Riesling, about $15

Poderi San Lazzaro Polesio Marche Sangiovese, about $15

Honig Sauvignon Blanc, about $16

Husch Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, about $18

Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, about $19

Artesa Carneros Pinot Noir, about $25

Atalon Merlot, about $24

If you have any questions about your upcoming wedding wine selections, leave them in the comments section below and we'll be sure to answer them.

Maria C. Hunt

Maria C. Hunt

Maria C. Hunt is an award-winning food and drink editor and the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009). full bio



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