Tony Eklof, originally from New England, has settled in Clonakilty after a career as a librarian at University College Dublin. His knowledge and passion for wine has been inspired by frequent visits to the wine growing regions of the continent, particularly Italy and France.
When it comes to choosing wine for your wedding reception there is really only one major decision to make. Should you go along with the hotel’s recommendations and choose from their list or should you go independent and make your own choices of wine? After that there are a number of smaller points to consider.
The advantage of going along with the hotel list is obvious – the ease and the convenience. Choose from the list and leave everything to them. Job done.
However, there are advantages to choosing and bringing your own wine to the event. First and foremost you get to choose whatever wine you like. You most likely will have to pay corkage, which should be around €10 per bottle, maybe a bit more for the bubbly. When negotiating the corkage don’t be afraid to haggle and the chances are you might get the hotelier to come down a bit in the price.
Most good outlets will let you purchase on a sale or return basis. One little tip here I came across is that if you are availing of this make sure they don’t put too many whites in the ice buckets, as the labels could get damaged and the unused ones back might not be taken back.
Personally I’m not a big fan of the ice bucket in any case, as I believe the wine tends to over-chill and lose some of its flavour.
If you choose your wine carefully you are quite likely to get better value even with the corkage, for example there are many good wines for around the €10-12 mark, so you are still likely to pay less than the ‘house wines’ on the hotel list.
For quantity, most experts recommend calculating a half bottle per person. As for which wine to choose, the first tip is to wait until your menu is decided, which will allow you match the wine to the menu choices.
I consulted with a good friend, Federico, who manages one of the O’Brien’s Fine Wine shops. He said New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is very popular for the white, as you have a good range to choose from and it is generally light and lively. For red, the important rule is nothing too light and flavourless or too heavy and strong in alcohol. You don’t want your guests falling asleep over the speeches! That leaves as popular choices, Valpolicella from Italy, young Rioja from Spain and medium-bodied French wines, but probably not Burgundy, as they tend to be overpriced. Bordeaux from some of the lesser regions such as Castillon can be a good choice in both style and flavour without the big price tag.
Finally, when choosing your bubbly, keep in mind Champagne may be the most famous but it is also the most expensive. There are many areas of France producing lovely sparkling wine at a fraction of the cost of Champagne, not to mention Prosecco from Italy and Cava from Catalonia in Spain.
Finally the websites of leading wine merchants offer sound advice on choosing wedding wines.
Have a look at O’Brien’s Fine Wines in Douglas, the excellent Curious Wines in Cork, or Bubble Brothers in the English Market. The latter advise that choosing your wedding wine should be ‘a pleasurable experience before things get too busy’.