wedding wine

Monday, June 15, 2009

An old friend got married on Saturday – beautiful ceremony, gorgeous surroundings, flowers everywhere, lots of good food, music and wine. The wines fit the occasion – not too fancy, just right for an outdoor summer setting, a nice mix of sparkling, white and red. But… as long as you are buying wine in case quantities, why not mix it up?

Instead of 12 bottles of the same wine, get four bottles each of three different wines. When Mrs. G and I had our own wedding, I raided the cellar and didn’t have any two wines that were the same. That may be a bit extreme, but really, isn’t it just more fun to give your guests a chance to try a lot of different flavors instead of three or four? If you are worried that choosing so many different wines is beyond your abilities, then delegate. Any good wine shop will have someone on staff who can pull together a fun mix. Just indicate the total number of cases, the percentage of bubbly, white and red, and the budget (either a total budget or a per bottle average).

A few years ago I did a Top 10 Wedding Wine Tips column in the newspaper. Worth a read if you are in the midst of wedding planning, or know someone who is.

PG’s Top Ten Wedding Wine Tips:

Tip #1 – Pick a wine theme. How about “Hometown Wines”? Where are the bride and groom from? You might select wines from each of their home town regions. Of course, this works best on the West Coast, but everyone is from somewhere that produces something – wine is made in every state of the union and on every continent save Antarctica. Another way to theme: when purchasing your wedding wines, organize them in groups of bride wines and groom wines. Use the occasion to show how together, they are far better than alone. The bride’s wines could be white and the groom’s red; or the groom’s dry and the bride’s sweet. Put your imagination to work.

Tip #2 – Ask the parents and/or older relatives and friends if they would like to clean out the cellar and donate some older wines. If you have anyone among your friends and family who has been collecting wines for any length of time, I guarantee that they have more than a few bottles that should really be drunk, but are waiting for a special occasion. Well, here is that occasion. Serving older wines at your reception will make for some very interesting and unique moments, I promise. Which leads me to…

Tip #3 – Negotiate corkage fees well in advance with your caterer. Depending upon who is catering and where your event is being held, the corkage fees can range from zero to as much as $20 or $25 per bottle. If you are being asked to purchase the wines on site, you are going to pay dearly for them. You’ll save a lot of money if you provide the wines. Just be sure that any per-bottle corkage charge has been clearly agreed upon. That should be part of the overall bid for the venue, the catering and the service. You will really save money if you find a venue that will agree to waive all corkage fees.

Tip #4 – If you are working with a caterer, make certain that he or she can provide a dedicated wine steward for your event. This person will see that your wines are properly chilled, that there is plenty of wine open at all times, and that guests have an easy time getting their glasses filled. If there is to be a special Champagne toast, your wine steward can coordinate that as well. An agreed-upon hourly rate, plus a tip for good service, should give you a clear idea of the cost.

Tip #5 – Rather than rent wine glasses, you may be able to purchase them new. Rental wine glasses are expensive, generally not very good, and often smell of dishwasher detergent. You’ll use them once and never see them again. If you look around at any of the big box retailers, you’ll find glasses that are as cheap or cheaper than rentals. You might even use tumblers, which can work for all but the most expensive wines. Best of all, when the reception is over, you bring them home and you have a lifetime supply of your wedding tumblers.

Tip #6 – When stocking your wine bar, plan on a mix of white wine, dry rosé, red wine and bubbly. Figure on a half bottle per guest, and don’t buy more than three bottles of the same wine. Always buy in case quantities, from a wine seller who will give you case discounts on mixed lots. Be sure to stock plenty of water (still and sparkling) and non-alcoholic alternatives as well.

Tip #7 – Don’t bother worrying about matching the wine with the food. Much easier to have a nice assortment of wines and let your guests explore on their own. Let them do the matching; it’s more fun and less hassle. And it’s another reason that you are far better off with a range of wines, not cases and cases of a single brand. One exception here: if you plan to serve bubbly with the wedding cake, it should be a sweeter style. The best choice would be an Italian spumante, moscato d’Asti or Prosecco. Not the sugary California stuff!

Tip #8 – Somewhere in the mix of wines should be a few special bottles. The wine steward/bartender can keep them under the counter for you. The bride and groom, the wedding party, and perhaps a few close, wine-loving friends can be offered a glass of something a cut above the party wines. Discreetly of course.

Tip #9 – If you want to be really sneaky, buy a few bottles of a super premium wine sealed with a screwcap. Make sure your inexpensive wines are cork-sealed. Most guests will avoid the screwcapped wine, thinking it’s the cheap stuff. Hah!

Tip #10 – Stash a bottle of really good Champagne in the bridal suite. Even if everything else that’s poured is plain old party wine, make sure that the last toast of the night is the best of the night.


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