Whether or not you're celebrating Rosh Hoshanna tonight, or just the fact that it's already Wednesday (thank you, shortened holiday work week), you'll want to do it with a bottle of Franck Bonville "Brut Selection" Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($29.99) (assuming that you drink non-Kosher wine). This is my favorite Champagne in the store for a couple of reasons.
Entries in Wedding Wines (3)
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.
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
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