Mar 23 2009

Wine at Weddings: Some Guzzle, Some Savor

By Brett Ashley McKenzie

Too often at weddings the table wine is guzzled like tap water, and brides and grooms can only look on in horror as guests young and old Cha Cha Slide with perilously poor balance. In many cases, wines provided by reception halls are less than top notch, therefore offering little to savor and becoming nothing more than an alternative to the Miller Lite and vodka tonics being poured at the open bar.

When wine coneisseurs wed, the vino offerings are as important as the entrees, the cake… and possibly the fashion.  Some cut right to the chase, choosing to marry in a reputable wine bar, a restaurant with a wine list of biblical proportions, or at a favorite vineyard. For the rest of us, however, getting guests to appreciate–and not simply chug–the painstakingly paired and selected wines requires more creative measures.

1. Work with the Catering Director to Spice Up Your Selection

Most catering directors don’t anticipate couples in the current economic climate will be looking to add costs to their wedding reception, and therefore the wine offering tends to be similar to what you’d find at Dominick’s or Jewel-Osco. But if you do want to see a more sophisticated selection, simply ask.

For my own upcoming May wedding, we learned this first-hand at our food tasting. My father asked if we were being served authentic Champagne and was informed that it was Prosecco. My family took many trips to France in my childhood, and French wine is significant to us, so we asked for an upgrade. The catering director was happy to comply, and offered either a higher end French sparkling wine for an extra $5 a bottle, or a $10 per bottle corkage fee if we decided to bring our own Champagne in. We are still trying to decide which option to choose, but the fact that we aren’t strictly limited to one option is great.

2. Work It Into the Table Decor

If the dinner wine was selected because of its significance to the bride and groom, include the anecdote somewhere on the table. If individual menus are being printed, list the wine at the top and a few sentences about the selection. “The groom proposed to the bride over a bottle of this very same NV Duval Leroy Cuvee Paris Champagne,” or “With your spring greens and poached pear salad, please enjoy the bride’s favorite white wine: the 2007 Gustave Lorentz Pinot Gris from Alsace, France.”

Not only does drawing attention to the wine selection alert guests that this is something more sophisticated than they could find at 7-11, but knowing that you went to great lengths to share an important wine with them will make them feel honored.

3. Pair for the Course

Knowledgeable wine buffs love  sharing facts about favorite wines with others. Provide little cheat index cards for the dinner servers. As servers deliver the first course (soup, salad, appetizer, etc.) and table wine to the table, they can read from the index card and educate your guests on the selection. For instance: “The bride and groom have paired the candied walnut and goat cheese salad with the 2007 O’Reilly’s Riesling from Yakima Valley, Washington. This clean Riesling with notes of melon and citrus dispels the myth that all Rieslings are sugary sweet, and will perfectly compliment the flavors in your salad.”

For the main course, since many brides and grooms offer choice of chicken, beef, fish or vegetarian, have the servers bring around a white and a red wine, and say simply, “We’re recommending the 2006 Wall Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa with the filet mignon, and the 2007 La Terre Chardonnay with the grilled salmon.” This way, no one is confined to any one wine, but they hear the recommended pairings and will pay closer attention to how the wine stands up to their meals.

Now I’d like to pick YOUR brains. At my wedding reception–only eight weeks away–we’re serving a filet mignon with zucchini-wrapped shrimp, a hay-roasted organic Amish chicken, and a vegetarian pasta dish with a tomato-based sauce. I’ve got my ideas, but I want to hear yours. Since the beef dish includes shellfish, what would you recommend? What whites would bring out the flavors in the chicken? What should we serve with the vegetarian pasta?

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