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Choosing wedding wine

Now that Valentine’s Day has been and gone, you’ll doubtless be thinking of moving to the next level and getting married - so I thought I’d contribute a few thoughts on the subject of choosing wine for a wedding.

The first thing is that the day is not normally treated as a wine tasting event. All those people coming together to celebrate your marriage will mostly not pay a very great deal of attention to the wine you serve them; it just needs to be pleasant to drink and in keeping with any food on offer. In my view, this means you don’t need to add the wine to the list of worries: find something you like that you can afford: that’s it.

I do recommend the hardest bargaining possible, though, over corkage, the service surcharge imposed by restaurants and hotels, which corresponds directly to the number and type of bottles opened. Sometimes this charge is used to dissuade the wedding from bringing in its own choice of wine; sometimes it is an apparently arbitrary way of maximizing the revenue from your festivities. I do not disapprove of the principle so much as the extremes to which the practice is sometimes taken.

Whichever of the bridal couple is the better at getting his or her way should make the strongest possible argument for every possible reduction in the corkage levy at the earliest possible stage in negotiations with the venue where the wine is to be served. This means you will have as much of your wine budget as possible to spend on wine no matter from where you buy it.

If the venue’s house wine is good, then you may as well keep things simple and buy that. Many couples, however, prefer to make their own selection, and this is where the advice of a wine merchant may save time and nerves during the planning process. I usually suggest that, if there’s time before the big day, couples take away two or three possibilities and share them at home, perhaps with in-laws or bridesmaids and groom’s men, to see what finds favour. I try not to give in to requests to open bottles for tasting, because I believe you should make your mind up at leisure, perhaps over a few days, even on one or two separate occasions - not standing up in a shop while the sales assistant hovers.

I suggest you give serious consideration to the excellent sparkling wines available before investing in champagne for the whole gathering. I’m more than happy to help you choose a fabulous champagne for your wedding day, but I don’t think it’s compulsory when there are very, very good alternatives to be had for less.

How much to buy? You can expect to get five glasses of still wine from a standard 75cl wine bottle, or six glasses if it’s a sparkling wine. Who your guests are and whether or not and at what stage there’s a bar available will determine how many glasses you should allow per head: you might take two and a half as a working figure. That’s a bottle between two people.

At Bubble Brothers we take back unopened cases, and are happy to discuss sale or return deals, so you can slightly over-order without worry - though in practice a few spare bottles are often handy for last-minute thank-yous on the day, or to hold on to for after the honeymoon. As far as discounts are concerned, you can look forward to a free bottle with every dozen if you collect from us, or we can deliver your wine anywhere in the country at your convenience instead. Most merchants will offer similarly helpful terms, and like us make no charge whatsoever for taking an interest and giving advice - it’s the least we can exchange for the privilege of being part of the celebrations!

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