If you're reading this, you're probably getting married. Or wish you were getting married. And you're probably wondering to yourself, what's the big deal? I like a good glass of wine, but people will drink whatever I serve them. This is probably true. But if you need one really good reason NOT to serve crappy wine at your wedding it's this: Drunk Bridesmaid.
You've seen her, I'm sure. Her complexion is the same shade as her sea-foam taffeta bridesmaid's dress, her eyelids as droopy as a newborn's and her gravity-defying up-do is starting to unravel. She's been pounding cocktails since before the ceremony. And no, it's not because she's jealous or regrets sleeping with the best man, it's because she wasn't offered any lower-in-alcohol alternative that was worth drinking.
Serving good, even great, wine at your wedding, even if you're on a budget, is not as hard as you might think, assuming that you have a wedding venue that allows you to bring your own wine. (Depending on where you live, this can either be nearly impossible or really expensive, especially if the venue or the caterer charges a corkage fee.)
Chiara Shannon, who leads up K&L's Personal Sommelier Service, recently posted some great, common sense wedding wine wisdom. Her four-point guide can easily be summed up in three words: Keep it Simple. You're never going to find a wine that everyone loves, not when people who tap a box of Franzia and call it good and those who drink Franck Bonville "Cuvee Belle Voyes" "because it's Tuesday" are both on your guest list. But if you choose wines that are food-friendly, that drink well young and offer good bang for your buck, there's a good chance you'll be able to avoid a drunk bridesmaid debacle. And if you pick wines that you like, chances are it won't matter so much even if it doesn't.
So if you're getting married, are thinking about getting married (or are just looking for some affordable wines that drink like every day is a celebration), here are some suggestions for Sparklers, Reds and Whites--all affordable, all currently in stock. Bring home a few bottles and set up your own tasting to decide what you like best, or reach out to our staff in the stores, online or by phone for even more suggestions.
If you absolutely must serve Champagne at your wedding, then there are no better values than the Franck Bonville "Brut Selection" Blanc de Blancs ($29.99) and the Ariston Aspasie "Carte Blanche" Brut ($24.99) Champagnes. The Bonville is made entirely from Chardonnay from vineyards in the Grand Cru of Avize. Mineral, passion fruit and citrus dominate this beauty. (I served the Brut Selection at my wedding in April and won dozens of converts, people who thought they didn't even like Champagne.) The Aspasie is a blend of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier, and it is balanced and elegant, with slightly richer, baked apple fruit. (K&L's Shaun Green poured this one at his wedding.)
Still, just because there's affordable Champagne doesn't mean you have to serve it. Especially when there are so many fantastic, non-Champagne sparklers available. Prosecco from Italy's Valdobbiadene or Conegliano--where the best Prosecchi come from--are generally on the drier side, with great fruit and minerality. The Cima da Conegliano ($15.99) has tart green apple aromas and flavors with a yeasty, dry finish. The 2009 Silvano Follador Valdobbiadene ($19.99) comes from organic vineyards, and it is clean, bright and unbelievably complex for the money. For a more floral, but extremely balanced and extra dry Prosecco try the Drusian Extra Dry, which is a steal at $14.99.
There are also incredibly well-priced options from elsewhere in France, including those from Limoux (in the Languedoc), the Loire and the Savoie, as well as Cavas from the Penedes in Spain. If you like rosé sparklers, then you should definitely try the Jean-Louis Denois Brut Rosé ($14.99). Its gorgeous salmon color is incredibly festive in the glass, and its creamy effervescence balances its strawberry and pomegranate fruit perfectly. The 2008 Antech "Cuvee Eugenie" Cremant de Limoux ($13.99) is always one of our staff's favorite sparklers, because it has the complexity you want for a special occasion and the price point of an everyday bubbly. Made from Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Mauzac, it's dominated by citrus aromas and flavors, with toasted honey and almond notes. It's not too acidic either, making it a great choice as a cocktail wine, but it's still substantial enough to enjoy with food. And, as if you needed a way to make your wedding day feel extra special, there are magnums of the gorgeous all-Chardonnay Limoux sparkler from J. Laurens for only $33.99, that's the equivalent of $8.50 a bottle!
For crowd-pleasing white wines, I suggest skipping many of the inexpensive California Chardonnays on the market; the buttery-oaky flavors tend to overpower food, and the style has as many detracters as it does fans. Sauvignon Blancs, like the 2008 Southern Lights Marlborough ($7.99), the 2009 Clifford Bay Awatere Valley ($7.99), the 2008 Wildhurst "Reserve" Lake County ($8.99) and the 2007 Patient Cottat Loire Valley ($10.99--which I also served at my wedding) are fresh and fun, but far from simple. They pair well with everything from fish to chicken to prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, have grapefruit and stone fruit aromas and flavors and none are so herbaceous so as to be confused with some kind of clear wheatgrass juice.
If Sauvignon Blanc isn't your bag, there are a remarkable number of lesser-known varietals and blends that are sure to wow your guests. I love the 2008 Perrin & Fils "Reserve" Côtes du Rhône Blanc ($7.99) from the Rhône Valley's Perrin family, who also make Ch. de Beaucastel. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne, the wine is nicely balanced with great weight and a zingy lemon note to complement the stone fruit aromas and flavors. The 2009 Tierra de Luna Torrontes-Chardonnay ($7.99) from Mendoza is incredibly appealing, with the zippy florality of Torrontes and the extra heft and green apple qualities on the palate from 20% Chardonnay. This is the kind of refrehsing and fun white that wins over the people who are adamant that they don't like white wine. And if you need something that will engage the wine geeks and the neophytes alike, you can't go wrong with the 2008 Posta Arignano "San Severo" Bianco ($9.99) from Puglia. This blend of Bombino Bianco, Trebbiano and Verdeca is refreshing on its own, but plenty interesting to enjoy with your dinner, too.
And if you absolutely can't live without Chardonnay, there may be no better value right now than the 2007 Laboure Roi Bourgogne Blanc "Maximum" ($9.99) at half its original price. Most of the fruit here comes from Meursault, with about 30% from the Mâcon, and it is fermented in a combination of French oak and tank. It's the perfect New World meets Old World Chardonnay, with all its elements in lip-smacking balance.
When it comes to wedding reds it's important to remember one thing: Bigger isn't always better. First of all, high alcohol wines will force you to cede any ground you might have gained in the effort to avoid Drunk Bridesmaid, and you've come this far. Higher alcohol wines also deaden the palate, meaning your guests are less likely to enjoy your delicious dinner or seven-tiered wedding cake. Try, instead, to choose a red from a part of the world where they generally enjoy their wine with meals.
The 2007 Château de Montfaucon Côtes du Rhône ($9.99) is a perfect example. A blend of classic Rhône varietals--Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Carignan--from the stellar 2007 vintage, it is earthy and floral on the nose, with vibrant blueberry, plum and blackberry fruit on the palate and utterly fantastic. Other delicious Côtes du Rhônes that fit the bill are the 2008 Domaine de la Maurelle ($8.99) and 2007 Perrin & Fils "Reserve" ($7.99), both of which offer hints of mineral and forest floor notes to complement their bright red and black fruit.
There are a surprising number of early-drinking and affordable Bordeaux that are sure to impress your future in-laws, such as the 2005 Peyraud ($10.99) from the Côtes de Blaye, which is 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet from the incredible 2005 vintage. Because it is fermented in concrete and undergoes a shorter-than-usual maceration, the wine isn't overly tannic, emphasizing, instead, it's beautiful fruit. The 2006 Grand Bateau Rouge ($9.99) is also a fantastic, early-drinking Bordeaux from the folks at Château Beychevelle. Balanced and fresh, the tannins here are still a little firm, which means this would be even better if you were getting married next year!
Almost everybody loves Pinot Noir and it has an affinity for richer pork or red meat dishes, but pairs well with fish and poultry too, making it a go-to varietal for weddings. (And if you know someone who doesn't like Pinot, maybe you should reconsider inviting them to your wedding, they sound like a pain). The 2008 Domaine Anne et Arnaud Goisot Bourgogne Rouge ($12.99) drinks like a wine three-times the price, with good structure and fruit, which puts it at the top of any list of wedding wine values. It isn't crazy complex Burgundy so it doesn't need a lot of time to come around either. The 2007 Domaine de Cousserques Pinot Noir ($9.99) and the 2008 Castle Rock ($9.99) from Willamette Valley are a bit bigger-boned than the Goisot, but full of pure Pinot Noir character.
Okay, I realize now that I can never cover all the possible wedding wines in one post--the number of great, affordable wines I I haven't even touched is daunting; I haven't even mentioned reds from Italy or Spain or Argentina or the US. So I will leave you here, 1500 words into proving that there's really no need to serve bad wine at your wedding, even if you're on a budget. Oh, and maybe the sea-foam green bridesmaid dresses aren't such a great idea either.