Planning a menu for a wedding and choosing stations for cocktail hour can be a daunting task as it is. Some choices are based upon the happy couple’s personal preferences, some are based on exciting food trends, some are old standbys, and some are recommended by the caterer. So the next challenge for the couple is choosing the wines to be served at their wedding, and what a challenge it can be! Fortunately, there are some basic guidelines for choosing.
Depending on the facility, the couple may or may not feel it is necessary to upgrade from the standard “house wines” offered. The couple may wonder whether their guests will be able to taste the difference and if the upgrade is worth considering. It is important to remember that the catering facility probably will not be offering their very best selections as “house wines,” and so if the couple feels they can afford the upgrade, choosing good quality wines for the most special night of their life together is usually money well-spent.
The first wine to choose is the Champagne or sparkling wine for the toast. Often, the catering facility will offer a domestic sparkling wine. There are many good quality domestic sparkling wines, such as Domaine Chandon and Roederer Estate – both are owned by prestigious Champagne houses in France. For a unique sparkling wine, try Italian Prosecco or Spanish Cava. If the couple would like to upgrade to a true Champagne from the Champagne region of France, they may wish to consider a non-vintage Champagne from one of the many spectacular and dependable producers in France, namely Veuve Clicquot, Moet & Chandon, Pol Roger (most recently served at the Royal Wedding), or Louis Roederer. A vintage Champagne will be very costly but is quite an extravagant touch.
In addition to choosing which Champagne or sparkling wine to serve, the couple will need decide if the sparkling wine will be served only during the toast, or if it will be served throughout the evening. While serving sparkling wine throughout the wedding can be costly, it seems many guests choose to enjoy the sparkling wine during cocktail hour and with their dinner, and it is certainly an option worth considering.
Dishes that include fish and poultry often pair best with white wines. Usually the couple will have stations that include fish and poultry during cocktail hour, and the dinner menu generally has a choice of fish and sometimes poultry as well. For guests choosing these dishes, white is their best bet. So which white wines will the couple be choosing from? Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the most popular choices, as well as Pinot Grigio. Chardonnay is usually a bit more substantial in texture and sometimes in flavor than Sauvignon Blanc, making it a bit more difficult to pair with a variety of dishes. Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, is very versatile due to its crisp and clean nature. Many American and French producers make a lovely Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, and if the couple prefers Italian wine, a crisp lemony Pinot Grigio is the way to go.
The final choice for entree is usually some type of steak dish, and there are often stations at cocktail hour that include beef or pasta with red sauce – and to pair correctly with those foods, the couple will need to choose a red wine. There are so many to choose from, but the most practical are often Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot from California or France, although the fruitiness and spiciness in a Syrah or Zinfandel can be a fascinating alternative. Pinot Noir is a good choice as it is a somewhat lighter, elegant, versatile red wine and can pair well with steak but can also pair with a poultry dish, while Cabernet Sauvignon, which is more full-bodied, is an excellent pairing with steak. If the couple is considering Merlot, for a sleeker wine, perhaps choose American, and for a more full-bodied red, go with a French selection. For an Italian alternative that pairs well with red meats and very nicely with pasta dishes, the couple may consider a Chianti which generally consists of Sangiovese.
Choosing wines for a wedding may seem like a very difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be stressful – the couple should consider their choices and seek guidance from the catering facility manager, with quality in mind, and the wines served at the wedding can become one of the highlights of the event.