Couples naturally want their wedding to be perfect, from the fit of the dress to the awe factor of the cake.
Highballs and punch ladled from big bowls have long been staples of wedding ceremonies, yet many of today's brides and grooms seek more sophistication in the beverages they serve at their reception, with wine playing an increasingly large role. Whether you're planning a party for 20 or 200, the questions are still the same: Which wines to buy? How much of each? What does it cost? Can we personalize the experience somehow? And where can I go for more information? We've answered all your questions in 20 money-saving, stress-reducing tips, organized into five categories to help answer all your wine questions.
Please note: Buying wine in bulk-by the case-can save you money. But not all venues or caterers allow the client (you) to choose or bring the wine, so check with everyone involved before purchasing.
Red, White, or Rosé?
Although sparkling wine is a wedding fixture, consider also serving one red and one white still wine if the reception includes a meal or hors d'oeuvres. Professional wedding planners advocate serving equal amounts of red and white wine-if only so you don't disappoint half the crowd. For those who want to pour just one wine with the meal, there is a happy compromise: dry rosé, a wine that's refreshing and also substantial enough to drink with sturdy foods.
White Wine Top Picks
Look to Sauvignon Blanc, which is a super-versatile white that goes splendidly with seafood, chicken, eggs, vegetables, and salads. The citrusy 2007 Geyser Peak California Sauvignon Blanc and 2007 Matua Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand are tremendous values at around $12 per bottle, and they're often discounted. Or go with popular Pinot Gris (also called Pinot Grigio in Italian), such as the 2007 Nobilo Regional Collection East Coast Pinot Gris from New Zealand ($13) or the 2006 Four Graces Dundee Hills Pinot Gris from Oregon ($18). Both are juicy and flavorful. Chardonnay continues to be the top-selling wine in the U.S. , yet the toasty, buttery versions can overwhelm food and lack the refreshment quotient required for spring and summer, when most weddings take place. Look for unoaked or lightly oaked versions, such as the 2007 Valley of the Moon Russian River Valley Unoaked Chardonnay ($16) with its juicy pear and apple flavors, and the 2006 Beringer Stanly Ranch Carneros Chardonnay ($20), which is elegant and crisp.
Reds Wine Top Picks
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular red wine in America , built for hearty meats. It can be expensive, yet two wines stand out for their exceptional value and deliciousness: the 2005 Charles Krug Peter Mondavi Family Yountville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($26) and the 2005 Three Thieves The Show California Cabernet Sauvignon ($13). Each has the richness and structure of wines that cost many times as much. Silky Pinot Noir is more flexible with food than Cab is, though it, too, can be pricey. Bargains include the 2006 Belle Vallée Willamette Valley Whole Cluster Pinot Noir ($16) from Oregon , the 2006 Sebastiani Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($18) from California , and from Burgundy , the 2005 Domaine de la Croix Jacquelet Mercurey ($23). All three are supple and softly tannic.
Sweet white Zinfandel is fine for the patio, but weddings call for a more serious pink wine. Dry rosé is crisp and fruity, without the sweetness of white Zinfandel and other blush wines, and it pairs beautifully with salads, poultry, pork, tuna, salmon, and even sirloin. Rosé also hits the spot in both warm and cool weather, day and night. Top affordable bottles include the 2007 Beckmen Vineyards Purisima Mountain Vineyard Santa Ynez Grenache Rosé ($18), the 2007 Frog's Leap La Grenouille Rouganté Napa Valley ($14), and the 2006 Mas de Gourgonnier Rosé ($16) from Provence , France .
More on choosing the right wedding wines:Sparklers
How Much to Buy
Sonoma County wine writer Linda Murphy, the West Coast correspondent for Decanter magazine and jancisrobinson.com, is the former wine editor at The San Francisco Chronicle and the former managing editor of WineToday.com, The New York Times's wine Web site.
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