You may know your own wine tastes, yet may have no idea how to select wine for the hundred—or hundreds—of guests who will attend your wedding reception. Don’t worry, it’s not that difficult. And if you are holding your wedding/reception at a Virginia winery, you can rely on the winery’s special events planner to help. They’ve done it many times before.
Consider your reception a celebration party, where you, as a good host, will provide food and drinks for all to enjoy. Therefore, it is best to keep your refreshments in the middle-of-the-road territory and offer a variety to please personal palates. Here are several tips to guide you through the wine selection process.
Several Ways to Select Wine
The most important factor when selecting wine for your wedding is your personal taste. Most couples come for several tastings, often bringing along their bridal party or family members, before selecting their wedding wines. Select what you like, but provide a small variety of options that will account for your guests’ tastes as well. Be sure to taste every wine you will be serving. If you fall in love with a particular, but pricy wine, consider serving that wine for the bride and groom or the wedding party table only.
To make the wine tasting process fun, hold a blind tasting by putting the selections into paper bags by variety, and tasting without knowing which is which. Taste two or three reds, comparing them against each other, and two or three whites and rosés. You could also split the wine-selection process by assigning the groom and groomsmen to choose the red and the bride and bridesmaids to choose the white wine. Put the parents into play by having them select the sparkling wine for the toast.
Another way to select wine is by season. People tend to drink heavier wines and more reds during the cooler months, and lighter wines, whites and sparklings, in the hotter ones. For a fall or winter wedding, consider offering a 50-50 mix of red and white wines, while for spring and summer weddings, offer a one-third split between white or rosés, sparkings and reds.
Which wines to serve can be determined by the time of day. At daytime weddings, people drink less and prefer lighter wines. For evening weddings, pull out the bold selections.
Wine selection can also be made based on the menu served at the reception or cocktail hour. For rich meats, choose a full-bodied red; for fish or chicken, select a light red, white or rosé wine that complements rather than overpowers the meal.
Planning a Champagne toast? Opt for different styles ruled by the time of day and venue. For an outdoor or daytime wedding, choose lighter options like Prosecco or a sparkling Rosé. If the wedding is held at night or inside, consider a classic French Champagne.
Different wineries have different policies as to a minimum purchase of wine, and as to whether beer and spirits can be brought on site with a Virginia ABC one-day event or banquet license.
“Our minimum wine purchase is one case, or 12 bottles,” explained Ross Forry, marketing coordinator for The Winery at La Grange in Haymarket, VA. “There might be a number of people at the wedding who don’t drink and we don’t want to force a purchase. We leave it up to the wedding party to choose the amount and types; they know their guests better than the venue will.”
“We recommend that they don’t overwhelm their guests with options—keep it simple with perhaps two or three different wines” Forry advised. “Once they decide on their wine, they can prepurchase it and we will hold their cases here for them.”
A rule of thumb is to buy approximately one bottle for every two guests. If your reception will run long, is an evening event, or it is a very hot day, increase your purchase amount to as much as one bottle per drinking-age guest.
To keep your wine consumption in check, instruct the servers to offer an approximate three-ounce serving instead of filling the glass to the top. This calculation can keep wine from going to waste and ensures that it remains at optimal drinking temperature.
When Do I Serve Wine?
Some weddings feature a cocktail hour, while others provide wine only during the meal, whether it is a buffet-style serving or a sit-down dinner. It is completely up to the bride and groom how they want to design their wine service. Most wineries allow the wedding party to set a wine budget and track the number of bottles served up to the budget limit. When the limit is reached, the wedding party or wedding planner can decide whether to extend that budget or cut off wine service.
Keep in mind that wineries may also offer better pricing for volume purchases. If they don’t offer a discount, ask for one. And any pre-purchased wine left over is the property of the bride and groom. Start your own wine cellar or offer bottles as bridal party gifts. That way, you can toast to your love with reminders of your wedding again and again.
The Winery at La Grange
Haymarket, VA 20169