Half-full Champagne glasses strewn around a banquet hall and centrepieces stained with spilled table wine are familiar sights at any wedding. No bride or groom wants their guests leaving early because the wine has run dry.
Vinomania‘s owner, Gurvinder Bhatia, says this impulse leads many couples to order up to three times more than they need. While certain factors come into play, such as whether beer and spirits are also being served, about half a bottle per head is a safe bet.
But probably the most challenging part of serving wine is just deciding which ones to pick when you’re trying to please a crowd with varying tastes and preferences. Bhatia suggests that couples, who are uncertain where to start, begin by going to a wine store rather than a liquor store. Knowledgeable staff can guide couples to hidden gems that will satisfy both their guests and their budget.
Couples may wish to narrow their options by identifying certain characteristics with fairly universal appeal. The Wine Cellar‘s Jason Somerville, an ISG-certified sommelier, says that many people are drawn to big and ripe flavours. To find these flavours, he suggests looking to hot climates and recommends robust reds such as Argentinian malbec and Australian shiraz.
When it comes to whites, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc are popular options and it’s preferable to give guests choices between sweet and dry whites. Bhatia’s simple recommendation is to look for well-balanced wines in which all the components – fruit concentration, levels of tannin, acidity, amount of oak, alcohol percentage, and residual sugar – are in harmony. He stresses, though, that high-quality wines aren’t necessarily always expensive. Spain’s Navarro Lopez, Argentina’s Don Rodolfo, Chile’s Emiliana, Portugal’s Aveleda, South Africa’s Ken Forrester, and Veneto Italy’s Fabiano are all wineries that Bhatia notes produce well-balanced and good value wedding options.
Though it’s not always possible to gauge the crowd’s preferences in large weddings, there are a few factors that a bride and groom can consider, no matter how diverse their guest list. When stocking a bar, the general rule of thumb is to lean a bit heavier on the red, as that tends to be a favourite with the general populace. A 60/40 ratio of red to white wine is ideal. The average consumer, according to Wine and Beyond sales associate Milo Kascak, also goes for sweeter selections. Consider the season as well – guests at warm-weather weddings, for example, may gravitate more towards lighter white wines.
The guest demographic may also have an impact, as Somerville explains that certain age groups have varying preferences. Baby boomers favour classic old-world wines such as cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot. Young guests, who are still developing a taste for wine, will generally prefer sweeter options such as a moscato or sweet German riesling for whites, and red wines such as Cupcake Vineyards’ Red Velvet. Having grown accustomed to a more diverse selection, young adults between about 24 and 35 years of age favour eclectic options. For these experimental palettes, Somerville suggests whites such as Spanish Godello, Austrian Grner Veltliner and Greek Moschofilero. For reds: Italian Aglianico, Argentinian Bonarda and Portuguese Touriga Nacional.
One thing couples may not need to worry about as much is pairing the wine with the food. For Bhatia, it’s simple: “If they get good quality wines that are well balanced, it won’t matter what’s being served – it’ll work,” he says. Somerville merely brings couples’ attention to the fact that there is generally a star and a supporter in a pairing. Couples who select an extravagant plated meal may want a simple wine to support the food, while those who choose more basic or buffet style fare might opt to showcase the wine.
What about the Champagne toast? For a large wedding, Somerville suggests considering the value options found in prosecco, cava and crmant. While it’s certainly fine to splurge on Champagne if the budget allows, Bhatia assures couples that selecting a more reasonably priced sparkling wine is completely acceptable.