Winter wedding

Sparkling’s the traditional welcoming wine for a wedding but why not add a dash of cassis liqueur to make a classy and tasty cocktail called Kir Royale. Choose a dry, inexpensive sparkler. Lindauer (tastings) is a good choice, especially now the wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – it’s better than ever. It’s a perfect match with finger food.

Instead of choosing wines to match each dish I’ve matched wines to the tastes of a wide cross-section of guests. I assume that most will have a little of everything and simply choose a wine style that they like to drink.

To cater for all tastes you need a dry-ish white that will satisfy dry wine drinkers and those preferring something not so dry. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a good choice. My favourites (from most to least expensive) are Cloudy Bay ($29 – tastings), Dog Point ($25 – tastings), Astrolabe ($21.50 – tastings) and Wither Hills ($19 – tastings). Discounts for bulk purchase should be negotiated.

Thoughtful hosts might also offer a Chardonnay, although this is not absolutely necessary. There’s plenty of choice here. Some options at different prices are: Cloudy Bay 2005 ($35 – tastings), Saint Clair 2005 Pioneer Block 4 Sawcut ($25 – tastings), Spy Valley ($19.90 – tastings) or Saints ($17.95 but often discounted – tastings).

Unless your guests are all members of a local wine club I would choose one red that will please a wide cross-section of red wine drinkers. Pinot Noir is my first choice but it’s an expensive option. If your budget is tight Merlot is a good option (I call it poor man’s Pinot). My choice of Pinot Noirs at various price points are as follows: Akarua 2005 Gullies ($35 – tastings), Lowburn Ferry 2005 Skeleton Creek ($28 – tastings), Skeleton Creek 2005 ($21.95), Shepherds Ridge 2006 ($19.95 – tastings). You’re unlikely to find these at your local supermarket. Start by contacting them through their respective websites and ask for a quote on bulk purchase or a convenient local outlet for their wines.

It’s not absolutely necessary to offer a sweet wine with dessert but if you feel disposed to do so here are a couple of reasonably affordable options (both in 375ml bottles): Rosé Tree Cottage 2006 Semillon ($25 – tastings) and Spy Valley 2006 Noble Riesling ($19 – tastings).

Now to the delicate and important matter of how much to buy. Rule number one is: don’t risk running out. If you’re buying in bulk you should be able to negotiate very favourable prices which means that any leftover wine can be sipped with a smug look in the weeks or months after the wedding. If you don’t want surplus wine, no matter how little it cost, buy on sale or return.

Sale or return limits the outlets you can purchase from, for example distant wineries, Internet sites and some supermarkets may be reluctant to sell you wine and take back leftovers. Those that do will only take back wine without label damage – a reasonable condition of sale or return contracts.

How much should you buy? After allowing for wastage and the possibility that everyone suddenly wants to drink Sauvignon Blanc I would allow at least a bottle of wine a head. It’s unlikely that they’ll drink that much but it’s possible, and you don’t want to run out. If you’re offering beer and spirits you could probably throttle back the wine budget to ¾ a bottle per head.

In terms of mix I would allow two bottles of white and two of sparkling (if serving cocktails and using sparkling wine to toast the bride and groom) to one of red. Here are my calculations for weddings of various sizes assuming you are also serving beer and spirits. I’ve allowed a little extra to avoid running out of one particular wine. There will be leftovers unless your guests are all members of the Ponsonby Rugby Club.

25 Guests 50 Guests 75 Guests
Sparkling wine 10 20 30
Sauvignon Blanc 5 10 15
Chardonnay 5 10 15
Pinot Noir 5 10 15
Total bottles 25 50 75

First published in Taste Magazine NZ – Jul 2007.

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