When planning a wedding, couples face a daunting number of decisions.
But selecting the drinks for your big day is probably the least stressful bit of planning you will have to do. What makes it even better is that you can do it together and it is also the perfect opportunity to involve other family members, so they too feel included. Many a father-of-the-bride or groom has relished the moment when his opinion has been sought on the important matter of what the guests will be drinking.
You probably have lots of ideas already, but we thought we’d share with you our Rocket Tips on drinks, because this is a great opportunity to introduce that little point of difference in your day, that little touch of class that says something about you and that you know your guests will love.
Don’t be too funky. Choose wines that everyone will enjoy. Avoid intensely fruity Kiwi Sauvignons, heavily-oaked New World Chardonnays or weird and wacky natural wines. Their charms may appeal to you, but they divide opinion and won’t suit all palates.
If you have a summer wedding, you’ll probably start with a cold dish that celebrates seasonal produce, possibly including ripe tomatoes and salads, or a classic cold fish dish like a crab salad. Italian whites are perfect with this style of food, because they are crisp and refreshing and have no problem with acidity in dressings. They also offer good value.
Great choices from the north of Italy include:
Soave Classico from the Veneto
Roero Arneis from Piedmont
Friulano from the North East, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia
If you want something with a little more body, you would also do well with a Vermentino or Vernaccia from Tuscany. Venturing outside Italy and there are some delicious alternatives for that summer maritime vibe, like an Assyrtiko from Santorini or Alvarinho from Portugal.
For reds, try to err on the lighter side (your guests will thank you for it…), so avoid anything over 14% alcohol. It’s always tempting to wheel out an impressive Bordeaux or Chateauneuf du Pape for the big occasions but on a summer’s evening, Loire reds like Chinon or Saumur-Champigny can be just the ticket. Morgon or Fleurie from Beaujolais are rewarding to drink, particularly if the price tag of your favourite village Burgundy is prohibitive. Pinot Noir from Central Otago is nearly always a crowd-pleaser. Dolcetto d’Alba, less well-known in this country but a favourite in Piedmont, would also fit the bill very nicely or a Sangiovese (Chianti) if you prefer the familiar.
For autumn or winter weddings, the ingredients in your menu may include mushrooms, squashes and root vegetables, so go for whites with more flavour. Perhaps a trendy Gruner Veltliner, a biodynamic dry Vouvray, a white Bordeaux or a blend with the Rhone grapes Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne. Now is the moment to unleash your white Burgundies – but we’ll leave you to decide whether it will be Macon or Meursault. Winter weddings are perfect for bigger reds too. Bordeaux is the perfect partner for roast lamb, but explore other regions too. Our favourite red for winter menus is a super-Tuscan from Bolgheri.
Some weddings can run for 10 to 12 hours, with champagne and wine flowing freely throughout, so the palate becomes jaded by the endless onslaught of acidity. It sounds obvious, but we always ensure that there are lots of bottles of iced water to hand, to refresh and invigorate. Another popular suggestion is to introduce something other than champagne when it comes to pudding and toasts, such as Moscato d’Asti, a divine sparkling wine that pairs beautifully with summer berries and steps up to the task of toasting the bridesmaids and pages if required. At only 6% alcohol, the bridesmaids and pages can even have a sip! When you move onto the bar after dinner, your selection of cocktails should consider the acidity of each drink and provide a balance of options. So don’t have too many “sours” based drinks, like margaritas, mojitos, brambles etc. A cool, cask-conditioned ale will be greeted like a long-lost friend by many people, after 4 or 5 hours of concerted wine drinking.
Classic cocktails have become classics for a reason, so our advice is not to get too funky. A classic with contemporary twist is fine, but if you can, just pay that little bit more for stunning glassware.
A cocktail in a beautiful glass, with a hand-carved ice cube and a thoughtful garnish, served by a skilled bartender with panache, is completely different proposition to a pre-mixed drink poured into a standard hi-ball or martini glass. Cocktails add sophistication to a wedding when they are done well. So we say – do them well, or not at all.
Many upmarket wines are packaged in needlessly heavy glass bottles. The production of these bottles and their transport takes a heavy toll on the planet. This is also a very good reason to support English winemakers. There is something lovely about sourcing locally for your wedding.
We are always happy to advise our clients on quantities, but don’t be shy when you order the wines for your wedding. Perversely, you will feel like you’re drinking for free as you finish the leftovers over the following months! And you can recall moments from the happy day with your beloved over that special wine. It is extraordinary how memories can be evoked simply by the taste or aroma of a wine.