Some parts of wedding planning are fun, others not so much. In our opinion, choosing the best wine for your wedding fits firmly in the former category, and can be loads of fun! After all, in order to make the final decision you’re going to have to do some serious tasting, right?!
Bring. It. On.
That being said, choosing which wines to serve up at your big day can also be a bit challenging. You want to find vinos that will please everyone’s palette, including those few guests that fancy themselves wine aficionados.
If you’re like a lot of couples, you probably also want to avoid breaking the bank on your wine bill.
Lucky for you, we’ve got your backs on this one. The team at Love & Lavender is stacked with wine savvy staffers.
We’ve put together this handy guide to help you choose the best wine for your wedding, no matter what your budget. So relax, pour yourself a glass of your favorite vino, and keep reading! We even included a list of staff picks at the end.
Tips for Choosing Wine for Your Wedding
Before you make any final decisions about the wines you’re going to offer at your wedding, there are a few things to consider such as the venue, the season, or the reception meal and toasts to name a few. It is important not to overlook these nuances. Of course, figuring out your budget ahead of time will help everything else fall into place.
Here are some of the key items to take into account:
Wines to Go With the Season
People tend to prefer certain types of wine over others, depending on the season. For example, if your wedding is outdoors and during the summer, white wines and even rosé will be a big hit. Conversely, red wine is ideal for cooler months.
Whether they occur outside or inside, summer weddings can be hot, and wines on the lighter side are generally more refreshing than reds. Rosés and whites both help make the heat a little more tolerable, ahem, especially after the first three glasses Depending on the weather during springtime, this can apply then as well.
For fall, winter and cool spring months, your guests are more likely to gravitate towards reds.
Now here’s the wrench in this rule – it’s not a hard and fast rule. Some people love their whites no matter what the season, and some are always going to opt for red. That’s just people being people.
The key here is to use the season as a guide for the proportion of white vs red wines you buy.
Wines for the Wedding Reception
The best wine for your wedding reception is one that will satisfy most people. Yes, it’s as simple as that.
The meal is a large part of the reception, and you want your wines to complement the food. Some wine varieties tend to go better with certain meats than others. The traditional rule of thumb is whites with white meat and reds with red meat, but there are plenty of exceptions.
Ask your caterer for direction on dinner wines or visit the wine store and source out a sommelier that can help you out.
At the very least, you’ll want to have one red and one white regardless of the time of year. If possible, two of each is even better, especially if you offer up both dry and sweet varieties. If you want to include rosé, you can include it as a red or white, or let it be a category of its own.
If you hit the nail on the head with your wine selection, you may just get Uncle Jim up on the dance floor to show off his break-dancing moves! Now THAT’s the sign of a wine selection gone right.
Wines for the Champagne Toast
One of the more significant events of your big day, other than the actual ceremony, is the wedding toasts that take place during the speeches. Champagne or sparkling wine is usually most suitable for toasting. Ideally, you want enough for each drinker to have at least half a glass per speaker.
If your crowd is more enthusiastic about champagne, you may want to get enough bottles for people to one or two small glasses per speaker.
It is always better to round up rather than down, as there are plenty of ways to use up leftover bottles. Plan to keep them for yourselves or give them away as gifts, and you won’t have to sweat about overbuying a bit.
How Much to Budget for Wine
It can be daunting to think about how much you will spend on wine for your wedding. Luckily, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Start with around 15% of the reception budget and be sure to consider less costly wines. Price is not always an indicator of quality, one way or the other!
One useful tool for giving you an idea of what to budget is a simple ‘how much wine for a wedding?’ calculator.
All you need to do is put in the number of guests, how long the party will be, and the average number of glasses per hour your guests are likely to consume. You can always adjust the answer to better suit your wedding party, but the wedding alcohol calculator gives you a base to work with.
Another thing to consider when budgeting for wine is what other booze you’ll have on offer. If you’re planning to serve up buckets of beer and it’s an outdoor summer wedding, you might find guests gravitating more towards those APAs than the Pinot Grigio.
Tips to Save Money on Your Wedding Wine
No matter what your budget, we reckon you’re probably game for saving money on your wedding wine.
How you can save money on wine really depends on the restrictions (or lack of) in your jurisdiction and at your venue. For example, if you’re hosting at a private space, you may be able to buy the wine yourself. On the other hand, if you’re having your wedding at a venue with in-house catering, it’s very likely you’ll have to purchase your wine through the caterer/venue.
Some venues will allow you to buy your own wine, but will charge a corkage fee that could be as much as $15. A good rule of thumb is that if the wine costs less than the corkage fee, it is worth going through your caterer.
Here are some more tips for saving money while buying wine for your wedding:
- Buy by the case – this will usually get you an automatic 10% discount, which could go higher the more cases you purchase. Do this whenever possible.
- Sign up for eNewsletters and mailing lists – Both online stores and brick and mortar shops promote sales through their mailing lists. Take advantage of them and stock up to save even more money.
- Buy larger bottles of wine – Larger bottles of wine can take you a long way not only at the point of sale but also regarding the corkage fee.
- Consider storing cases away before the wedding. Sometimes wine shops will allow you to keep your boxes with them if you do not have a cellar.
Best Wines to Please a Crowd
In our humble opinion, the best wine for a wedding is something drinkable and affordable. And you want to make sure you and your future spouse enjoy it, because if there are leftover bottles someone is going to have to drink ‘em up!
When it’s finally time to decide on a wine, several varieties are well known as all-around crowd-pleasers. Rosé is its own thing, but something on the drier side is ideal.
Best Types of White Wines
When it comes to white wine, something light and not too oaky is the way to go. These wines tend to be more refreshing but can still range from dry to sweet. The following are a few of the most popular white wines for weddings:
- Chardonnay: Chardonnay is creamy, rich, and can have an intense flavor. Try to go with a lightly oaked variety or one that is unoaked altogether. It is drinkable on its own, but also pairs wonderfully with shellfish, veal, chicken, pork, white fish, and vegetables.
- Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris: Both the Italian and French takes on this wine are light and firm with notes of melon, sweet-spicy, and pear. They pair well with pasta, fatty fish, chicken, and shellfish.
The Italian variety, Pinot Grigio, has good acidity with more of a steely flavor; Pinot Gris, on the other hand, has a richer aftertaste and more complex flavors.
- Riesling: This aromatic, crisp type of white wine ranges from very sweet to very dry and works well with almost any type of food. Riesling often has a mild mineral flavor.
- Sauvignon Blanc: Suitable for weddings all year round, Sauvignon Blanc pairs well with many foods such as oysters, cheese, vegetables, chicken, and seafood. Crisp and light, it has an earthy yet refreshing flavor.
Best Types of Red Wines
Sophisticated and classy, red wine is always popular for weddings. With a wide range of sweetness levels and flavors, it should be easy to find a variety that will suit your wedding. This list of the best red wine for your wedding does not include all your options, but it’s a good starting point:
- Zinfandel: This bold red wine has a high alcohol content and intense flavors like black pepper or chocolate. Zinfandel goes beautifully with barbeque, red and grilled meats, and spicy foods.
- Pinot Noir: With fewer tannins and a lighter body, Pinot Noir goes nicely with a good variety of foods.
- Syrah/Shiraz: Shiraz is ideal for grilled or red meats, lamb, game, or pork. This red wine is fruity and earthy with dark fruits and flavors such as leather or tobacco.
- Cabernet Sauvignon: As one of America’s favorite wines, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with a Cabernet Sauvignon. It works best with heartier dishes, such as duck or red meat. Blackberries, plums, and black currants are typical highlights of this red wine.
Best Types of Bubbly Wines
Unless you plan to serve bubbly for the whole reception, you will need less of it than white and red. That does not mean, however, that you should give any less attention to which bubbly you choose. After all, this is the wine your guests will be toasting to you with and you want them to keep smiling after their first sips!
- Sparkling Rosé: Sometimes made from a white and red wine combination, sparkling rosé usually has a fuller body.
- Prosecco: Dry but still sweeter than others, this Italian sparkling wine is aromatic and fruity, sometimes with notes of peach or flowers.
- Blanc de Blanc: Derived from Chardonnay, Blanc de Blanc has a delicate and light flavor.
- Cava: Balanced and fruity, this Spanish wine tends not to be as sweet as Prosecco.
Love & Lavender Staff Picks
There are two things we adore here at Love & Lavender:
- (okay, babies make the list too!)
Take the first two above and we’re over here swooning at the possibilities. So, in the interests of science, we just had to share our top picks for wedding wines.
After a great deal of arduous tasting by our staff, here are the bottles that won us over:
Yellow Tail Bubbles – “Don’t be deterred by the label! Yellow Tail may not have the best reputation when it comes to whites and reds, but their bubbly is quite lovely. Offering up soft floral notes and a light, fruity finish, I think it would be perfect for a summer evening wedding. I first discovered it thanks to my wine connoisseur friend, who had been told that it’s very, very similar to Veuve Clicquot. As a big fan of Veuve, she didn’t believe it for a second. Well, her husband set up a blind taste test. She was certain after tasting them both that she knew which was the Veuve … she was wrong!” -Shannon
Segura Viudas Brut Cava – “Awesome on its own or mixed (it makes a mean French 75, so if you’re planning on doing a cocktail bar, this is a good go-to). It’s quite dry, with the acidic notes of pineapple and citrus, but has tropical fruit and floral aromas. so it’s really well balanced and easy to sip.” – Laura
Freixenet Italian Rose DOC – “This Spanish bubbly is the epitome of ‘pretty in pink’ and would be perfect for the first toast to the new couple! Besides the stunning bottle and pretty colours, this Charmat method glera/pinot noir blend is also delightfully delicious. It offers up light and sparkling notes of red berries and subtle hints of crisp apples. Refreshing in every way possible.” – Mary
2018 Bogle Chardonnay – “I can drink this wine with anything. It probably plays well with others because it’s an almost half and half oaked/un-oaked combo. In other words, half of the grapes were aged in stainless steel tanks and the other half in oaked barrels. The result is a full-bodied wine with really great, velvety texture. If you have guests who prefer white regardless of season or menu, this is your guy.” – Laura
Matua Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc – “This one’s perfect for a beach wedding! An all-round crowd-pleaser, it delivers fresh notes of citrus and tropical fruits complemented by grassy and mineral tones. I like to pretend I’m sitting on a beach in New Zealand (where the wine is from!) when I sip a glass.” – Meredith
Bella Sera Pinot Grigio – “Not all Pinot Grigios are created equal and in my humble opinion this Bella Sera is one of the best at its price point and a real crowd-pleaser. Italian in origin, this crisp white offers up notes of pear and apple, and would pair great with cheeses and appetizers. Definitely has a ‘summer wedding’ vibe to it!” – Andrew
Mont Gras Carmenere Reserva – “This red is bold and smooth. A less familiar grape, but a crowd-pleaser that will have your guests feeling spoiled. Great paired with rich meat dishes and the perfect elixir for getting folks on the dance floor!” – Mary
2016 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir – “Vibrant but not too tannic, it’s got lovely red berry aromas and a subtle cherry/spicy slow finish. This one stands up to pretty much anything you order off the menu. If I had to give my opinion of what it pairs best with I’d say cheese. But I think, like with all wines, it goes best with the foods that represent its region. It’s amazing paired with salmon, mushrooms, and game meats, but you can serve it with anything and everything and people will love it!” – Andrew
Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon – “Oh how I love it when my glass of wine features flavours of chocolate and a slight smokiness. It’s pure bliss in a bottle, that’s what this cab sav is. Dry and medium to full-bodied, with soft tannins and a long finish, this wine pairs especially well with beef dishes or heavier poultry meals. It also, obviously, goes well with rich, chocolate desserts!” – Shannon
And, last but not least, we felt it pertinent to include the response we received from one of our teammates, Heather, when we asked for her wine selections:
“I have nothing to contribute, really. A palate doesn’t get more unsophisticated than mine. I’ll typically drink whatever the cheapest red on the menu is and think it’s delicious as long as it’s not too wine-y.
I don’t know the difference between Pinot and Merlot and don’t care, and buy wine exclusively based on how cool the label is. I’m really your ideal wedding guest because I won’t wince if you put crap wine on the table!”— Heather
Cheers to Choosing Great Wedding Wines
There you have it! We’ve given you everything you need to go forth and find the best wedding wine for your upcoming nuptials. Now all you have to do is taste, taste, and taste some more!
Cheers to a grand wedding day filled with merriment, love, and good drinks.