The wine you serve at your wedding is a small detail that can make a big difference on your special day. Here are a few tips to pick a wedding wine that’s perfect for you.
1. Decide from where you will select your wine
Step one is to decide from where you will select your wine. Some couples have a specific wine region that is meaningful to them.
For instance, the bride grew up in Napa Valley, or the couple’s first overseas trip was to Burgundy. Maybe they even have a specific winery that they like to visit. Or perhaps they’re hosting their wedding at a vineyard.
If you have a specific wine region or winery in mind, that’s terrific! It will only make the day more meaningful for you and your guests. But it also means that you should pick your wine before you pick your meal.
Here’s why: Some wine regions or wineries simply may not have a varietal that pairs well with the main dish or dishes you choose. A bad pairing will not make your special wine appear in the best possible light. Therefore, you should select your wine first, then build the rest of your menu around it.
2. Meet with your caterer and winery
If you do have a particular wine in mind, let the caterer know and encourage them to connect with the winery. The winemaker should have experience pairing their wines and will be able to make suggestions.
If possible, arrange a tasting so you can try some pairing options, and pick the one you want to present to your wedding guests.
3. Let the food guide your choice
Some couples couldn’t care less where their wedding wine is made — that’s fine too. They have the freedom to choose the wine that will be the very best pairing for their meal and their guests.
Your caterer should be able to help you choose, but it’s good to understand the basics of wine pairing.
4. Make a good match
The number one rule of wine pairing is geographic pairing. Matching the location of the cuisine with a wine from that same area. So, for example, if you are having an Italian-inspired pasta dish, a bold, red Italian wine might be a good choice. If you are featuring seafood, a lighter wine from a coastal region is a better option.
Firstleaf developed a helpful graphic that shows the best wine pairings for common wedding entrees.
As you can see, heavier red wines are usually associated with heavy dishes. For lighter dishes like pork, chicken, and fish, you want a lighter wine. This doesn’t necessarily mean choosing a white wine — there are lighter red wine varieties as well.
The best-known of these lighter reds is pinot noir. Many exceptional pinot noirs are made in the US, primarily in California. You can usually find pinot noir bottles in the $10-$20 range fairly easily.
When it comes to choosing white wine, your choice will really depend on the preparation of the dish. Whites run the gamut from dry to fruity, spicy to sweet — when in doubt, talk to your caterer and get their recommendation.
5. Go with the most drinkable option
It can help to keep your guest list in mind when you’re choosing a wine. Are you picking for wine connoisseurs? Or are your wedding guests more likely to have wine only on special occasions?
The most popular red wedding wines are cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. The most popular white wedding wines are chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. Wineries all over the world make these varieties, so there are plenty of choices.
Why are they so popular? Because they are the most well-balanced or drinkable. Many other wine varieties are intentionally made to be spicy, or extremely full-bodies, or with other characteristics that can turn off the casual wine drinker. The popular varietals listed above are usually enjoyed by all.
Your wine enthusiasts might enjoy a bold pairing like a spicy Tempranillo or a fruity Riesling. But sporadic wine drinkers may want a more accessible wine, like a chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon.
A little work, a big payoff
This may seem like a lot to take in for something as basic as the wine you’ll serve with dinner. But a couple of hours in the weeks leading up to your wedding to make an informed, sensible choice, is going to make you feel a lot more confident on your wedding day.
Put yourself in the moment. When the dinner toasts start to flow, and you see all your guests with their wine glasses up, about to drink to your happiness — you really want to know that the wine they’re about to taste will be as sweet as the toast they just heard.