Many thanks to Mike from Curious Wines for writing this post on choosing your wedding wine. It was originally posted here.
With over 80% of all couples now choosing to bring their own wines to their venue, choosing the perfect wedding wine has become a little bit more complicated than simply taking the hotel ‘house’ red and white.
For those big into their wine this process is undoubtedly one of the more pleasurable aspects of planning the big day; for others it can be an unnerving experience, bamboozled by flowery descriptions, confusing price promotion, and the sheer choice of wines available in the Irish market. For all couples, there’s the desire to please everyone with their choice, and the ever-more important matter of managing a budget.
We’ve put together our top tips for picking your wedding wine, aimed at making the process simpler, less stressful, and hopefully a bit more fun.
1. HOW MUCH WINE?
First things first, how much to buy. The general rule-of-thumb is around half a bottle per guest – equivalent to 2-3 glasses on average, bearing in mind some of your guests won’t drink any wine at all – so if you’re planning on 150 guests, you’re looking at around 75 bottles. In terms of a red/white split, this can depend a little on the season but somewhere between 50-60% white, and 40-50% red is about right.
Any service-oriented wine merchant will provide a consume-or-return option – i.e. whatever you don’t use you can bring back for a full refund – so, if you’re worried about running out of one or both, you can always buy a little more to be on the safe side, knowing you can return whatever you don’t need. (And yes, of course wedo!)
2. HOW MUCH TO SPEND?
There’s two real issues here: (i) what do we have to spend to get something half-decent, and (ii) what’s our overall budget?
We’ve spoken before on the implications of the high fixed duty rate on wine in Ireland, meaning that a €6 bottle of wine is almost 60% tax, whereas at €10, it’s a little over 40%. An extra €4 buys a lot ‘more’ wine in other words. The counter to that is that you’re buying a lot of wine in quantity terms. If your wine budget is €500 and you’ve the above example of 150 guests, you’re looking at €500 divided by 75 bottles. So, you either try to get the best wine you can at €6.67, or you allow a little bit more on your budget.
Generally speaking, €8 to €12 should get you a very acceptable quality of wine. Below that, the proportion of tax means there’s relatively little investment in the actual wine – of course on a sliding scale. On the flip-side, spending more than €12 comes down to how generous/indulgent/flash you want to be – will 150 people fully appreciate the extra expense of the Grand Cru Chablis that you and your partner indulge in at the weekends?
3. RECEPTION AND TOAST DRINKS?
The reception drink is now almost customary, celebrating the official ceremony and welcoming guests to the reception venue. Similarly, the official ‘toast’, often at the end of the speeches, will require another course of drinks to be considered.
For the reception drink, most hotels offer punch, cocktails or sparkling wine, so the option to bring your own bubbly will often be open to you as well. Weigh up the cost of the hotel providing this, versus bringing your own and paying additional corkage, and you can see fairly quickly which represents better value. For the toast, hotels can provide a bar service where orders are taken from guests during the meal. This is a nice touch, but you’ve got to weigh up the average cost of a pint of Guinness/gin and tonic/double brandy, versus the other option of more wine or bubbly.
Often, bringing your own sparkling wine can be much more cost effective, as you can get 8-9 glasses out of a bottle thanks to the smaller size of a standard Champagne ‘flute’. A toast for 150 people could be covered by 20 bottles therefore, although you may want to allow more the reception drinks, as people are more likely to ask for top-ups!
4. WHAT TO BUY.
Whether you’re a seasoned wine drinker or a tee-totaller, the type of wine you choose for your wedding can still be a tricky one. You’re catering for different ages, genders, tastes and wine-drinking experience – how do you pick wines that please everybody?
The first and best piece of advice is “you can’t”. What you can do however is pick wines that appeal to the majority – so-called ‘crowd-pleasers’. Stick with safe, dare we suggest middle-of-the-road, styles. Soft, fruit-driven styles dominate the core wine-drinking market, so no matter how much you love the earthy, barnyard flavours of Burgundy Pinot or the sweet muskiness of Alsace Riesling, you’re probably not going to appeal to the majority of your guests with those choices.
Get advice from your local wine merchant on some suggestions, then organise a tasting party to get a consensus – family, friends and/or the bridal party are good places to start. It’ll give you an idea of which wines appeal to the majority and it’s a good excuse for a fun get-together ahead of the big day.
5. WHERE TO BUY!
Despite the high duty rates and the proximity of France and, in particular, Northern Ireland, there are some compelling reasons to buy your wine in Ireland.
Firstly, there’s the accessibility, advice and recommendations of a good wine merchant. Judge them on their recommendations then decide are they good value versus, for example, the local supermarket (and we won’t get into that again!).
Secondly, back to point 1 on how much wine to buy, check before you buy and you should be able to return any unopened wine after the wedding, ensuring you don’t run out of red because everyone decided to have the beef main course.
Thirdly, many wine merchants will offer delivery to your venue as part of the service. This saves you having to organise collection and delivery in the last few days up to the wedding. (Yes, we do that too, and for free.)
Finally, there is further value in convenience when it comes to buying the wine. In comparing the cost of going to France or even Newry, factor in your time, the cost of transport, any meals or accommodation, and the risk of picking up 100 bottles of Chateauneuf du Vinegar if you don’t get a chance to sample what you’re purchasing.
NEED ANY MORE HELP?
All the pointers above are from our own experience, supplying couples all over Ireland with the perfect wines for their wedding day. We’re delighted to take enquiries and provide advice over the phone, or in person six days a week in our Bandon warehouse. For further details on the concierge service click here.
CuriousWines also launched their wedding wine survey and will be doing the draw for the winner in the coming weeks – now is your last chance to enter! If you haven’t already done so, take the survey here and be in with a chance to win a case of wine!