Don’t be daunted by choosing your wedding wine list! Here’s all you need to know about choosing the perfect wedding wine.
Choosing your wedding wine can seem like a daunting task. How much do you need? How much will it cost? To solve all your wedding wine dilemmas, we spoke to Sarah Knowles, who joined The Wine Society in March 2014 and passed her Masters of Wine qualification in 2015, who gives her advice as well as some of her favourite wedding wine options.
Your Complete Wedding Wine Guide
How do you begin to choose which wines to buy/serve?
Choosing wines for a wedding can be tricky for many reasons. Trying to select wines that will potentially be served all day, with and without food, and to a wide range of guests with individual tastes can mean that couples opt for wines that they know will be crowd pleasing.
A great way to select wines is to order a case, invite the wedding party over, and try the wines together. Making a fun evening out of the decision can add to the whole wedding and garnering various family and friends’ opinions may also help.
You could also taste with an expert to help guide you, for example, The Wine Society offers tastings at our showroom in Hertfordshire to member couples looking for the right wines. This sort of service can really help widen the wine styles you consider.
If you really do have a favourite wine – make sure you include it in your day, mine was a particular Champagne, and now whenever my husband and I have it, we call it our ‘wedding wine’ and share an extra toast!
Also don’t forget sweet and fortified wine; we had port with cheese in the evening, which I decanted into decanters bought at charity shops.
I also went to a great wedding where the dessert was fresh strawberries and cream, and we all had a glass of Moscato d’Asti – the perfect sweet sparkling match – and the glass that we could all also keep for the toasts (the fact that it’s lower in alcohol may be a plus point too, particularly towards the end of the day!).
Moscato d’Asti Sourgal, Elio Perrone 2021
How much wine should you buy?
You know your guests, make sure you count for those who might be driving or not drinking for any reason, and account for children, but then also try and total up the amount across the wines you really think your guests will drink.
Opting for a bottle of head of red or white wine, plus toasts might be a bit ambitious if you also have a bar serving beer, or G+Ts, or have a wedding cocktail etc…
The rule of thumb is half a bottle of wine per person for the meal. You’ll also want a couple of glasses of fizz each before sitting down. Obviously this does slightly depend on the crowd though. If you’re expecting a particularly thirsty bunch, you might want to up the quantities of wedding wine a little.
You also need to establish what people will drink after the meal. Will there be a bar serving other drinks? If not, then you’ll need to provide further beverages to keep thirsts quenched. Bear in mind that there are five glasses of wine in a bottle and six flutes in a bottle of fizz. This makes it relatively easy to work out how much you’ll need.
For peace of mind though, it is worth buying from a retailer who offers sale or return such as the Wine Society. That way you can over cater and take back what isn’t used.
What wine trends are you seeing in 2022 and 2023 weddings?
English sparkling wine is gathering popularity as the fizz of choice for toasting the happy couple, and I suspect in this Platinum Jubilee year this trend will continue.
Nyetimber Brut Classic Cuvée NV
That said, prosecco has just had a wonderful quality vintage in 2021 and the wines have never looked as good, so I suspect this trend will continue too…
For weddings in 2022 and into 2023 I suspect the trend of offering a rosé as well as a white and red will continue, with Southern French the most popular, but with great value to be found in Italy and Spain too.
Côtes de Provence Rosé L’Echappée Belle, Mas de Cadenet 2021
Wedding cocktails are also on trend pioneered by Pimms, but with white Port and tonic or vermouth and soda, with fragrant herbal and citrus garnishes hot on the heels for a more individual and foodie take.
Greek whites and Italian reds are also starting to appear on more wedding tables as these naturally food friendly styles offer an alternative to the more classic French staples.
Does price matter?
Weddings can cost a lot. The Wine Society offers wines at a huge range of price points from £5.95 all of which are endorsed by their expert buyers.
There can be great value to be found under £10 and fantastic fine wines under £20. Price in itself doesn’t have to be the deciding factor in your selection of the wines; if you have a budget in mind then our advisors will be able to find the right wines for you.
To save a little at my own wedding I really wanted Champagne for the toasts and for the initial post ceremony drinks. However, later in the afternoon, I swapped the Champagne out for a fantastic, but less expensive, sparkling wine which went down a storm!
Which styles of wine would you recommend pairing with each part of the day?
To start with there is no right and wrong as to what to drink when, and with what at your own wedding. If you love red wine with fish, then do it, it’s your day.
However here are a few tips that helped me at my wedding:
- Don’t forget a few bottles of good Champagne to sip on the morning of the big day and of course for any photos! We then had Champagne (and cups of tea) served immediately after the vows which really set the pace for the afternoon
- As we had the photos, and guests waited for the wedding breakfast, we had Champagne, white wine and G+Ts available, along with plenty of chilled water and flavours of San Pellegrino available for those not drinking. We also made our speeches and had the various toasts before the food – and while most guests still had their flutes in hand
- At the ‘breakfast’ we had two whites: a super fresh Loire Sauvignon and a richer Kiwi Chardonnay along with two reds – a juicy Southern Rhône option and a more structured Rioja Reserva – open on the tables with a little tasting menu that I printed so that guests could help themselves to the one they fancied or to all four over the course of the meal
Sauvignon Blanc ‘Pure Vallée’ Vin de France, Famille Bougrier 2021
The Society’s Exhibition Rioja Reserva 2017
- After the meal, we had a fuller Argentinian red and a crisp Italian white at the bar along with any leftover fizz from earlier and a keg of local golden ale, which all went well with the evening bacon baps!
- We also had two areas set out with our favourite food and wine pairings – an Old Fashioned with jam doughnuts, and Port and cheese
- Throughout the day we had tea and coffee also available, as many of my family would really rather a cuppa than most other options(!), but I also tucked away a particularly special whisky for my husband and his friends as a surprise at the end of the night
Really, my best advice would be to think of the various sections of your wedding, and not be scared to change the drinks as you go, to create different moods for your guests.
Also don’t feel the pressure to offer a full bar if you are unable to use the venue’s own. Limiting the choices to those that you like, so long as there is a good range of soft options, is fine for your big day.
Would you recommend serving Champagne or sparkling?
I would definitely advise including a fizz on your big day as nothing says celebration quite so much as sparkling wine. If your budget allows, there is no getting away from it, Champagne is delicious. However, it’s not the be all and end all, if you have a large guest list or are working to a tighter budget there are some fantastic sparkling wines available.
Champagne Jules Camuset Brut NV
Prosecco has just had a brilliant vintage and the wines are singing. French Crémant can offer a Champagne-like sophisticated style, and Cava shouldn’t be forgotten as an example like The Society’s Cava arguably offers the best value of any fizz.
The Society’s Cava Reserva Brut NV
Whatever you choose to serve, try to make sure the venue really chills it down before serving as so often this is really the difference between weddings where a warm toast – however good the wine – can be a little disappointing…
How do you decide what matches well with the food you’re serving?
There are lots of theories when matching wine with food. However, if you have some personal favourites, go with that, it’s your day. If not, though, when tasting your wine options at home, perhaps think of cooking the main ingredient from your menu to pair alongside – see what you think works best.
The other simple advice is often to pair food with wines from the same region so if you’re having duck, think south west France for example.
A light white will go with most starters, and likewise a medium bodied red is unlikely to clash with any meat-based main courses – just perhaps aim for a richer red if you’re serving a particularly hearty main course.
How can you make more sustainable choices?
Small things you could do are look to wines in lighter weight bottles, or wines that have been bottled in the UK, both of which will have saving CO₂ emissions in transport and manufacture.
Choosing reputable growers may also ensure that you are selecting with winemakers that care deeply for their team and are fair employers.
Some regions are also better certified than others with 90+% of New Zealand’s wines being certified as produced sustainably. Though the wines have travelled a long way, they are shipped by a large sea container these wines although travelled along way are not actually as bad in CO₂ emissions as you might think.
Most wines from Italy are also shipped by train, which offers a significant carbon saving compared to road freight, whereas, of course, choosing “local” wines from an English selection could also help from a sustainability position.
What makes the best wedding gift?
I have often given friends and family a case of Champagne for their wedding, with a card that I once received that said that “you need to keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge at all times so that when you next have a moment to celebrate the bubbles are already chilled!”
Wine and spirits can also be a great gift for family and friends who have helped particularly towards your big day. The right bottle of malt whisky, gin, rosé, chardonnay, or pinot for the right person can show that you have taken note of their favourite tipple and thought of them on your big day, also giving them something to take away and toast you with at a later date.
Wedding favours can be a minefield, but have you thought about making your own sloe gin or rhubarb vodka…?
Finally, a thoughtful gift for the couple in question, or key family members, might be a membership to The Wine Society – £40 for a lifetime share, with £20 credit off their first purchase, it is something longer term that might really hit the spot.
What can you serve for guests who do not drink alcohol?
There are great non-alcoholic wines now available – we list a great sparkling one from the producers of our Society’s Champagne.
Gratien and Meyer Festillant Sparkling Sans Alcool
However, think about cloudy apple juices, or elderflower cordials, perhaps put out a tray of fancy softs (e.g. San Pellegrino) or flavoured tonic waters.
A simple way to offer an Instagram ready soft is to add a signature garnish to beautiful jugs or carafes of iced water such as pink grapefruit, lemon and blood orange slices, springs of mint and pomegranate seeds, wild rosemary, cucumber slices or summer red berries. And don’t forget tea and coffee….
We spoke to Sarah Knowles, who joined The Wine Society in March 2014 and passed her Masters of Wine qualification in 2015. She is responsible for Champagne, North America and Italy, as well as overseeing the portfolio of sparkling wines and spirits.
More Wedding Wine Advice
Wedding Wine Cost
Your budget will understandably dictate what quality level you go for. There are two key aspects to consider, though.
Firstly, unless your friends and family are budding connoisseurs themselves, there is no need to go overboard. The wine really is not the focus – how many people are going to spot the difference between a £15 and a £25 bottle of wine?
Secondly, if you can stretch to £10 a bottle, you will get something considerably better than at £5. Buy a bottle for £5 and a much larger percentage of the cost goes on duty, the cork, and the bottle. The wine itself usually accounts for about 45p of the total cost, but buy a £10 bottle of wine and the cost of the wine is more like £2.80, which is obviously more than six times as much!
Which Wine is Right For us?
Champagne is always a winner but it is relatively expensive, so if your budget is a bit tight, you might want to consider saving the Champagne for the toasts and serving a less expensive fizz on arrival. There are plenty of other good value options around – Prosecco, Cava, Crémant de Bourgogne, or a new world Champagne imitation. They’ll cost you far less than a Champagne and, frankly, a lot of them are not that far off in terms of quality.
When it comes to choosing your wines, the best bet is to aim for something very quaffable – you don’t want to stop guests in their tracks with a heavy red or a rich, oaky white. Much better to go for a light, fresh white and a medium-bodied red.
If it’s summer, you might also want to consider serving a light, dry rosé. The pale Provence rosés are popular at the moment and tend to go down well when they are offered alongside fizz.