How to Choose the Best Wine for Your Wedding

wine spectator grand tour
Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour, where you can sample 200+ top-rated wineries

Aside from the beautiful flowers, great music, and those wedding favors you spent hours searching for online, you want your guests to leave your wedding remembering two things: your food and your wine!

In fact, after attending more weddings than I can remember, I can safely say it’s the food and drinks that stick out the most. And no…it’s not because of those bad culinary wedding memories most of us have all experienced. Thankfully, the days of dry chicken and overly sweet Chardonnays seem to be behind us, and wedding guests (and couples) can create an experience that rivals their favorite restaurant.

But exactly how do you make sure you’re delivering the best for your palette and your budget, especially when it comes to wine? Lucky for you, it all comes down to tastings!

That’s why we thought it would be fun to (ahem, in the name of research) sample an amazing collection of wines recently at Wine Spectator’s Grand Tour in Hollywood, Florida. The event featured more than 200 wineries from the best wine-growing regions in the world, all rated 90-points or higher from Wine Spectator editors. It was a great chance to meet the producers, taste their vintages, and discover wedding-worthy wines that would impress any oenophile you invite.

Our other goal was to find wines that you could purchase locally or online, especially if you are lucky enough to supply your own wine for your wedding. Read on to see our favorite picks from the Grand Tour, as well as our interview with Master Sommelier Ian Cauble about how to choose the best wines for your wedding!

best wedding wines
A selection from Masi vineyards

The wines below are some of our favorites from the event, and range from $20-$65+/bottle online. They would all make for an impressive selection at a wedding!

Fontanafredda Barolo

Their Barolos range from affordable to higher end, and offer a lot of complexity for the money. We had their Barolo La Rosa from 2016 at the event, which has a 96-rating from Wine Spectator and was a great medium-bodied, juicy red.


Enrico Serafino Monclivio Barolo

A complex wine whose 2016 vintage has a 93-rating from Wine Spectator, it’s in the top 3% of wines in the world for a great price!


Patz & Hall Chardonnay

Their 2019 has a 93-rating from Wine Spectator, who notes the “creamy finish with rich acidity” that made this one of my favorite white wines from the event.


Vivanco Tempranillo Rioja Reserva

Riojas consistently offer a great value, which makes this such a perfect wedding choice.


Masi Amarone

This wine tasted 2-3x more expensive than it actually was. We tasted the 2012 vintage, which Wine Spectator (who rated it a 93) said was highly drinkable through 2027.

Though not as budget-friendly as the above picks for your wedding, if you’re looking to add to your wine collection and splurge, these wineries offered some of the best sips we had all evening as well:

Read More: 6 Wedding Budget Tips That Will Help You Save

After you’ve swirled your glasses and made your wine tasting notes, you’ll want to make a plan for your wedding wine list. Here are our expert wine tips, including how many wines you’ll need, how to pick the best ones (and serve them) as well as ways to save:

How Many Wines Should You Have at Your Wedding?

The number of wines you pick for your wedding should be based on how much you (and your guests) enjoy them.

“If I had a wedding, I might have six or seven different selections because I’m a wine geek and that’s what I do for a living,” says Master Sommelier Ian Cauble, star of the documentary SOMM and founder of SommSelect.com, an online wine club and shop where you can find unique wines from around the world. (P.S.: It’s where we buy the majority of our house wine!). But for the average couple, he recommends a selection of four. Here is what he suggests:

Sparkling

“If budget is concerned, look for something like Crémant,” says Cauble, noting that if a Champagne-style sparkling does not come from the Champagne region (such as Crémant de Loire in the the Loire Valley, for example) it’s called Crémant and not Champagne. Which can make a big difference to your wine budget.

“Where a good Champagne might cost $50, a good Crémant costs $25,” says Cauble. “It’s a great way to over-deliver for your guests and still be budget-conscious and bring something of high quality.”

Rosé

“I think a rosé is always good, specifically if you’re getting married in warm weather,” says Cauble. “You don’t have to have a rosé…I just think it’s such a great summertime beverage.”

White Wine

If you have Champagne and rosé, Cauble suggests “a lightly buttery chardonnay…something from the coast of California” to go alongside them on your wine menu. Otherwise, opt for a “a light, refreshing white wine.”

Red Wine

“I think you always need to have one red wine. For me, pinot noir is a great go-to because it pairs with salmon…beef…chicken…you can pair it with pretty much anything and pinot noir’s going to make people happy,” says Cauble. His favorite pinot noir picks are currently from Santa Barbara, Monterey, Sonoma County, and Oregon.

WGM Says: The type of wine you pick should definitely be influenced by your menu. If your catering company is providing alcohol as well, you’ll want to see if you can do a wine tasting from their available selection along with your food tasting. If you can BYOB, you can work with a company like SommSelect to pick out the perfect pairing for your specific menu. E-mail their concierge team at info [at] sommselect.com to learn more.

What to Avoid When Picking Wines for Your Wedding

Cauble says there are two things that can get in the way of having great wine at your wedding.

Not Tasting the Wine First:

“You’ve just got to make sure you taste it and make sure you like it,” says Cauble. Once you do find one you love, he adds that you’ll want to make sure you’re “emulating that same experience” when you first drank it, including the “temperature you liked it at.” Speaking of temperature…

Not Serving the Wine at the Right Temperature

“I always say that most Americans drink red wine way too warm and white wine way too cold,” says Cauble, so you’ll want to make sure you have a plan in place with your venue.

While he suggests white wine be served at 42-45 degrees Fahrenheit (not the typical refrigerator temp of 34) putting it on ice for your wedding should suffice. “The better the white wine, the warmer it can be consumed,” says Cauble. For reds (which he recommends storing at about 58 degrees Fahrenheit in a wine fridge) it can be trickier.

“I think the most important thing is making sure that the bartenders are conscious to not be serving the wines that are sitting on the black top of the bar…at 95 degrees…because they will get there,” says Cauble, adding that you don’t want a warm glass of red wine the same way you “don’t want a warm gin and tonic.” So, talk to your venue about how they plan on serving the wine at your wedding in order to make sure it’s the right temperature.

You Might Also Like: Listen to our episode with Ian Cauble on The Woman Getting Married Podcast!

How to Save on Your Wedding Wine

“When you’re going to a wedding venue, most of the time they have wines that they get for $8 a bottle and they charge you $55 a bottle,” says Cauble. “Sometimes you [can] negotiate that before and ask them, ‘Okay, I’d like to have my wedding here. Can I bring my own wine?’ And if they say yes, they’ll typically offer a corkage fee,” says Cauble. “If you can get it under $20 a bottle, that’s great, because then you can buy wine from retail and utilize a source like SommSelect.

WGM Says: When we were planning our own wedding, we specifically looked for a venue that would allow us to bring in our own alcohol. While the venue we fell in love with initially told us they had to provide the wine and spirits, a little negotiating (as Cauble suggests, above) made it possible for us to BYOB. So don’t be afraid to ask!

Have you picked out the wines for your wedding yet? Let us know what your favorite finds are in the comments section, below!


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Listen to the Woman Getting Married Podcast

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