K&L Personal Sommelier Service Online Newsletter - June 2010 Edition
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Wedding Wine Wisdom
April showers bring May flowers, and May flowers bring...WEDDINGS.
Ushered in by the purple bloom of the Jacaranda trees in late May here in California, the bewildered to-be's and their well-intentioned assistants populate our aisles throughout the long summer season, seeking the holy grail of wine pairing: the perfect wines for the Big Day.
Specifically, wines that are palatable to a diverse group of people with varying tastes and sophistication; that are drinkable alone as well as food-friendly; that are of high quality and reflective of personal taste; that (and here's the kicker) fit the criteria of the, ahem, budget. And, if you're like the vast majority of the to-be's out there, budget means around $15/bottle or less per bottle. $20 or less if you're lucky.
As a fellow wine lover and (fairly) recent newlywed myself, I know from experience how emotionally charged, anxiety-inducing and terrifying the decision of which wines to serve at your wedding reception can be, given all these restrictions. There's questions of quantity and quality, snobs to impress and grandma to please.
Your reputation as a wine lover is at stake!
I get it.
But whereas the words "we're planning a wedding" and "budget" might make other sommeliers turn up their nose and run the other direction, helping people select wines for their wedding is one of the reasons I'm in this business. To me, it's the ultimate wine pairing challenge because it is more than just matching flavors and textures. Personality, mood, ambiance - all these things matter. The wine is the liquid representation of the spirit of the event - it's a big deal!
But it doesn't have to be stressful, exhausting, or disruptive process. If you heed these four basic tenets, you'll be wedding wine-wise in no time:
1. One-One-One. Although it is tempting for wine lovers to consider offering multiple options to 500 of their nearest and dearest, I strongly advise channeling your collective wine saavy and sticking with the magic trio of one white, one red, and one sparkling for the evening. Not only does this simplify the logistics of service, but it makes for a more relaxing experience for the guests (the less decisions the better). And, no - nobody is going to "expect" more from you (that's all in your head).
2. Befriend the Budget. If your guests are like most guests I've observed, they will guzzle a $50 bottle at the same rate that they would a $10 one, so stop pining for that cult Cab and let the restrictions set by your budget lead you into creative territory. With the availability of high quality wines from all over the world in the under $15 price range today, there is absolutely no reason not to take advantage of this opportunity to serve the unexpected. Albarino? Blaufrankisch? Why not? You'll save time, effort, and cash, and you'll be more likely to garner a wine compliment or two from your oenophile in-laws. (Chances are, that $50 bottle was overpriced swill anyway.)
3. Pair Big Picture. Especially for large events, rather than focus on a certain wine pairing with a certain dish, it's best to take a step back and offer wines that are accessible and could be consumed pleasurably at any point in the evening. Yes, I know this is hard for us wine lovers, who have a tendancy to get hung up on food-pairing minutia ("it MUST be the [insert obscure sur-lies aged white wine here] with the chicken! [sob]") but in reality it is likely that there will be guests consuming the red with the chicken and the white with steak, and mixing the Champagne with gin, despite extreme efforts to steer them otherwise. It's a party, after all. Rules will be broken. Remember that.
4. Taste! I stongly advise purchasing at least 2 or 3 different sparkling, white, and red options - all priced within your budget - to taste objectively at home before committing to your larger order. Ask around, and be open to suggestions from your local retailer or favorite sommelier. Brown-bag the contenders, and taste them group by group, first by themselves, and then with food should you so desire. If you feel like sharing, invite some friends over and have a blind wine tasting party. After tasting each group, rank the wines in your preferred order. Compare notes, and commit to the prevailing wine BEFORE removing the bags. Commit and don't look back. Mind-changing post un-bagging is strictly forbidden.
Luckily, there's never been a better time to shop the market for wedding wines. Dare I suggest that this project can be FUN? Seriously, I've consulted with many a bride and groom, their parents, friends, and wedding planners, and all you need to do is keep an open mind, relax, and let this be an opportunity to learn and try something new. Your guests will thank you!
Let's just hope it doesn't rain.
Personal Sommelier Service | Tastings
Looking for wedding or other party wine suggestions? Email Chiara at Sommelier@klwines.com