Grape Variety

You don’t have to blow your budget to get great wedding wine. Look beyond the classics and you’ll find consistent quality in other corners of the world

Champagne, Wine & Other Drinks - champagne_RGB.jpg

Wedding wine can really test your allegiances. You might be a fully paid-up member of the Burgundy brigade, but do you love it enough to lavish Montrachet on your guests for six hours (and then go home and cancel your honeymoon)? Our advice: don’t do it. There are some great party wines on the market that will keep guests happy without burning through your budget – you just need to know where to look.

FIZZ Of course you want something with inherent pizzazz to get the whole party going. And nothing does that quite like Champagne. The downside is that the Champenois really know how to charge and this isn’t a place where it’s easy to cut corners. Cheap Champagne can taste really, well, cheap. So, consider how important the word ‘Champagne’ on those bottles is – because you get far better value for money from elsewhere in the wine world.  A premium prosecco (avoid cheapies) is a good bet – and Chardonnay/Pinot Noir sparklers from the New World overdeliver, too. Alternatively, English sparkling is excellent – and you might be able to source it yourself (see box).

WHITE Burgundy is the traditional choice here – and unless you have deep pockets and a good eye for quality producers it’s a bad one. Burgundy is a minefield, with hundreds of tiny producers all capable of making great, awful or indifferent wine from the same vintage. Chablis and Sancerre are a bit more consistent, but generally overpriced. What you want is a wine that offers good all-round food-friendliness (which rules out Sauvignon Blanc) and has a bit of elegance as well. The budget option would be South African Chenin Blanc (reliable, hugely drinkable); the more upmarket version an Australian Chardonnay from a cool climate region like Margaret River or the Yarra Valley/Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Reinvented since the syrupy, over-oaked 1990s, it’s a wine style that’s turning heads at the moment.

RED Bordeaux isn’t a bad bet here – provided  it’s from a reliably good vintage like 2009. But most venues will probably be pouring wines from less superlative years, which makes it more of a lottery.  Avoid Burgundy, but if you want something French, there’s some great stuff coming out of the Rhône now at reasonable prices. The South of France is exciting, too. The most reliable option is a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon (ideally from the  Maipo Valley), which combines crowd-pleasing smoothness with a bit of finesse at highly competitive prices.  

STICKY Sauternes is the classic option, and makes a nice statement. But dessert wine is a) expensive and b) rich. Probably better to  go with a (cheaper and less sweet) Coteaux du Layon from the Loire. If you want a  full-on sticky, look to a Rutherglen Muscat from Oz

This was first published in Square Meal Weddings 2012