A guest post from my fiancé, as he knows much more about wine than me.
Now, no sniggering at the back, please – if I ask you what you think of when you think of the morning after a wedding reception, what springs to mind? The DJ was rubbish? Who managed to get gravy on my jacket? Who was it that I promised to give piano lessons to for free? Maybe that’s just me.
All of the above thoughts are probably coupled with a hangover, at varying levels of severity and intensity. Drink is a big part of weddings, and given that weddings are now more a test of endurance for guests than a short afternoon out, getting your wines right, and more importantly, getting them to match your budget, is key. Every wedding has guests with unquenchable thirsts, or ‘professional drinkers’, and we’re starting to think about how to keep them running like well oiled machines at our reception.
I read an account by a wedding planner who said that for a wedding at the height of summer in the 21st century he budgets a staggering two bottles of champagne per person. Stood in the sun, some will drink 1.5 bottles during the pre-dinner reception, and the rest is allocated for toasts during the speeches. I don’t think I’d be making much sense by the meal if that were me. He went on to say that guests who want to save money will serve spirit-based cocktails – it sounds more expensive, but guests won’t get through quite as much of the expensive stuff.
The dirty word to anyone planning a wedding is ‘corkage’. Yes, if I was running an establishment of course I’d charge it too, but it’s frustrating to want to be able to give your guests good wine, which you’ll have paid c.£5:99 per bottle wholesale for, only to have anything between £10 and £16 per bottle shoved on by the reception venue. What is more annoying is that they’ll be quick to lead you to their lovely selection of house wines, the cheapest of which will probably take the enamel of your teeth, having cost them about £2.99, a bottle which they’ll sell at £14.99.
There are some ways around corkage. Firstly, if there are some seasoned professional drinkers amongst your wedding party, then go for negotiation on corkage when booking your wedding. Getting £4 per bottle off corkage could end up saving you a huge amount of cash. My top tip would be to check if your venue corkage stipulates the size of bottle. I bet it doesn’t. Once everything is signed off, buy magnums and jeroboams of champagne and wines. Sneaky. I’m sure that once a venue has been bitten once this way, they won’t fall for it again. Don’t tell them I sent you.
Finally, and most importantly, make sure you get back your empties and the corks. I’m sure your caterers and venue are the most honest people in the world, but Google it, and you’ll be horrified how many venues try to shaft clients by fiddling the numbers of bottles that were drunk. I’m not suggesting that you physically then get rid of the empties, but if the venue know how carefully you’re going to audit them, they’re less lightly to try and fiddle you.
As we’re planning a wedding of our own, we’ve been testing a few wines lately. What a tough life. Top of the tree for me is Virgin Wines, who sent us a lovely case to try out. As a man who will normally stick to French wines, I have to mention a couple of wines from different regions that took my eye.
The 2013 Pinot Grigio from 16 Little Black Pigs is a really good wine. Named after the small herd of black pigs that roam at the back of their winery in South Eastern Australia, it’s a crisp, vibrant easy-drinking white that’ll slot in to most occasions and food choices. Secondly, another 2013, this time a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cot blend from Fundo Liguai de Huelquen in Chile. Oz Clarke says that if you’re buying on a budget you should always go for Chilian. Well, at £19.99 you’ll imagine just how special this is. It’d take a deep pocket to give all your guests this red, but as a wedding planning session wine, it was perfect.
I Heart Wines also sent us a few bottles to try. They look great with their uniform design and Jo was very keen on the fact that they had hearts on them – cute for a wedding, although possibly not the very first thing to consider when choosing wedding wines. The highlight for us was the I Heart Prosecco – it was very light and extremely drinkable, and would be ideal for toasts and welcome drinks.
You can buy six bottles of I Heart Prosecco from Tesco for £60, making it a very affordable £10 a bottle; a great value alternative to champagne that your guests will love.
We still haven’t decided on food for our reception yet, which will definitely govern the wines we choose, but until then, we’re happy tasting what will sponsor the fuzzy heads that will accompany our guests the day after our wedding.
Header image – iravgustin/shutterstock. We were sent wine from Virgin Wines and I Heart Wines for the purposes of this post. All opinions are our own.