Random thoughts on the world of wine, presented in no particular order.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wedding wine.

It's summer, and that means wedding season; perhaps you or someone you know is planning a wedding?  A few tips for dealing with the wine aspect of it:

The general rule of thumb is that each adult will have 1 drink per hour.  That's an average, taking into account your teetotaler cousin Julie, and your lush of a brother-in-law Chris.  Over a long party (more than 3 hours), in fact, people will tend to drink a bit less than that, but it's a good place to start.

You get about 4 pours and a splash from a normal wine bottle.  Therefore, for a 3-hour long reception, plan on 3 bottles of wine for every 4 guests.  For toasting, you get about 8 pours out of a sparkling wine bottle, so plan on a bottle for every 8 guests or so (unless you intend on having a sparkling wine throughout the reception, in which case treat it as you would wine, as people go through bubbly faster).

Now, if this seems like a lot of wine -- I mean, let's face it, I'm saying "get 75 bottles of wine for 100 people, plus 12 bottles of bubbly for toasting, for a 3-hour reception with 100 people,"-- remember that I'm trying to overestimate the amount of wine people will drink; that way, you don't run out.  Most wine stores will take returns with a receipt, provided they can resell the wine (so don't dunk them in ice, which will make the labels peel).  If they don't have a return policy... you might want to consider another store.

As for the debate of how much red/white should you get, figure about 50-50.  In our hypothetical reception, I'd get around 3 cases of each.   When selecting wines, plan on a red and a white -- a cab and a chard, a Chianti and a pinot grigio, whatever.  But only one (or at most two) of each color -- keep it simple, make your life (and your bartender's life) easier.

As for the quality of wine -- don't skimp, but don't feel the need to pull out top-flight wines for a wedding reception.  Most people really aren't paying attention to the wine at that point, so why waste bottles of $50 cab, when $10 cab would do just as well?

Similarly, for the toast, Champagne is nice, but expensive.  Why not toast with Cava, or Prosecco, or Cremant?  The quality level of many non-Champagne sparkling wines is very high (and most people can't tell the difference between a Prosecco and a Champagne, really), and they're much less expensive.  Also, why limit yourself to brut?  If you're toasting with wedding cake, try something sweeter!

Of course, you may want a couple of bottles of good stuff for the head table -- a nice Champagne, a top-shelf cab, whatever.  But that's more of a splurge for the bride and groom than anything else.

So, how do you budget?  Again, consider the hypothetical wedding above -- 100 people, a 3-hour reception means about 7 cases of wine.  If you've got a $1000 budget for wine, it means you've got to keep it under about $12 a bottle (and, if you worry that this is too much money for an event -- it's $7 a person.  Or, roughly what an open bar will charge you for a glass of Beringer.).

So what would I choose for a wedding like this?  Let's go with a standard merlot/chard/sparkling mix; for the merlot, there's any number of good California and Washington wines that fall under that price point.  My favorite here would be one called Buffalo Grove -- it's light, friendly, and hits a lot of people's sweet spots.  Coming in at $6 a bottle, or $64.80 a case (with a 10% discount), we've got $194.40 in cheap reds.  A good bottle, for the head table, would be something like Twomey, which should run about $50 or $60, so let's call the red $250 total.

On the white side, there's even more choices.  Again, trying to keep it under $12, a favorite is Cupcake, a Central Coast chard that's got plenty of cream, a little oak, and nice ripe pineapple flavors.  At $10-ish, it's $108 a case, so $324 in cheap whites.  Add a bottle of Mer Soleil, at $35, and we can call it $360 in whites.  Running total: $610

Finally, there's the bubbles -- here, we'll go a bit over the $12-a-bottle mark.  For general consumption, I'd look at something like Louis Bouillot, a very nice Cremant de Bourgogne, that runs about $16 a bottle for either the brut or extra dry (slightly sweeter).  A case will run $172.80, so call it $175.  The running total at this point is $785, which yields a lot of wiggle room for a really nice bottle of Champagne for the head table.  A personal favorite would be Feuillatte's Palmes D'Or vintage, which comes in at about $120 a bottle.  So, there, for just over $900 (out of a budget of $1,000), is a wedding for 100 people.

And, the best part is, since we've over-estimated consumption slightly, the likelihood is that the happy couple will either have some wine to stock away in their new household, or a nice little return of $100 or so when they come home from the honeymoon.

No comments:

Post a Comment