Expert Advice on Choosing Your Wedding Wine

Stephane Colling, Food and Beverage Director at San Ysidro Ranch in Southern California, shared his best pointers for choosing the best wine for your wedding.

Host a Pre-Wedding Wine-Tasting Party
If hiring a sommelier is cost prohibitive, couples should simply head to the best wine store in town and say, "We're getting married, and this is our budget. What do you recommend?" Buy a few of their suggestions, and then invite friends over to test them.
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Always Consider the Season
The food that will be on plates should be a major influence on your wine selections. For example, at a fall wedding, you might serve meals that are a bit richer than what you'd eat at a summer affair, so a wine with more body is a better fit.

Forget the Old Food-and-Wine Pairing Faux-Pas
Twenty years ago there were all kinds of taboos about what can and can't be served with what. Nowadays, however, nothing is set in stone. A light red wine such as a pinot noir is just fine next to a halibut, or a chardonnay with a chicken entree.
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You'll Need One Bottle for Every Three Guests Per Course
This is a safe bet. Better to overshoot than leave guests thirsty. Few stores accept returns, so just save the surplus for future parties.

Sub in a Sparkling Wine for Champagne
It's less expensive, and you can find great ones from Napa. Or, go for Prosecco from Italy. Both are great in cocktails like kir royales. Try those by Bisson and Sorelle Bronca.

Opt for "Second-Label" Wines
Many winemakers produce a separate line that's not aged as long as their grand vins, or is made using fruit from younger vines. The standards are still high and the quality exceptional, but the price can be 25 percent lower -- sometimes far more. For example, if you love Mouton Rothschild, consider Mouton Cadet, which is a fraction of the cost.

Be Adventurous
Wines from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Slovenia, and even New York's Long Island offer great value. Greek wines, like Assyrtiko, are also coming up. The industry is going global, so there are now options that didn't exist a decade ago. You'll save roughly $10 a bottle for basically the same wine by venturing off the beaten path, and your guests get to try something new.

Choose Wines with Meaning
You could include a line on the menu about how you came to know each wine or Champagne and what makes it special to the two of you. Or, one or both of you could say a few words about each drink to keep it personal.

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