Wedding season is upon us, and with all the stresses and strains of preparing for your big day, wine choices can often be overlooked or left to the last minute – which means you can easily overspend or exceed your budget. This is such a shame because there are some fabulous deals out there that couples can take advantage of to ensure that their wine choices really wow the guests without breaking the bank. Wine is a super important element of any meal and most of the couples that I work with for wedding wine planning really want to get it right and impress their friends and family – but they don’t know where to start! So here are some of my top tips to make your wedding wine experience that little bit easier and to ensure you can find value for money.
• Corkage policy. The first thing to look at is the venue’s wine list and its corkage policy. Venues tend to mark up their wines quite heavily (75%-85% is average) which means that their entry-level wine at e.g. £40 may well be a £5 supermarket bottle. With corkage at £15-£25 a bottle, you may often be able to offer much more quality to guests per bottle by buying yourself at the supermarket and paying for the corkage. This also means you get a much wider choice of wines – but do compare the corkage + the cost of supplying the wine vs going off the wine list. Corkage is normally sold or returned so you shouldn’t pay for any unopened wine (and you can take it home to enjoy yourself!)
• How much wine? When catering for a wedding, you need half a bottle in total per person on average for still wines, plus 2 glasses of fizz per person (1 bottle of sparkling will produce 6 glasses = 3 people). Some people will of course drink much more than half a bottle but many will drink less – trust me, it balances out more than you would think! So for an 80 person wedding, you might choose 40 bottles of still (e.g. 20 white, 20 red) plus 25 bottles of sparkling
• Stock up on offers. As long as you have somewhere to store the wine, a top tip is to buy when the supermarkets have offers. For example, at the time of writing, Sainsbury's is offering 25% of the uber-trendy Whispering Angel rose – just £15 a bottle. That’s the cheapest I can find it anywhere! Offers like this run seasonally and they’re the perfect opportunity to stock up on all wines
• Don’t fret about fizz! As long as it’s served ice-cold on a nice warm day, there is no need at all to buy expensive champagne when there are so many amazing sparkling alternatives. Look at crémant (French fizz made in the same way as Champagne but from different parts of the country), and South African cap classique (Graham Beck is a good brand to look for – priced around £14 in most supermarkets and Majestic). Prosecco DOCG is another option (La Gioiosa £10 most supermarkets) or Cava(Waitrose organic Codorniu 1872 Cava Brut for £10.99 and often on offer down to £7.99.)
• Don’t be afraid to go off-piste. When it comes to wedding wine, you will want to impress but you are also mass-catering. There are so many hidden gems in the wine world - regions that offer great value for money like Romania and central and south-eastern Europe. These regions often have a long history of making wine but only now are these bottles hitting our shores. Bottles to look for include Zana Sauvignon Blanc (Ocado, currently on offer for £7.50) and Sorcova Pinot Grigio (£7.99 Waitrose). Try Portugal for fabulous full-bodied reds. For the Albarino lovers (that great white wine from the Rias Baixas in Galicia), buy Vinho Verde which is grown just below Rias Baixas and is available for a fraction of the price.
• Seek out South Africa! The country’s wine history dates back to 1659 when the Dutch first landed – South Africa has a storied winemaking history which is often overlooked. They make some outstanding white and red wines with many international grape varieties thriving like Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Look for the range from Creation Wines- £14.99 in Majestic.
• Cash in those ClubCard points. If you shop with Tesco, a good time to buy is when your club cards have double points, this really adds up. If you can time it so the discount and double points are on this is a double win!
• Trade secrets. I really like Morrisons' ‘The Best Range’ (especially the Chianti at £8.99) and I really rate Sainsbury's Taste the Difference ‘Prosecco Superior Conegliano Valdobbiadene (£10). These big supermarket ranges have been handcrafted with a skilful team of wine experts spending hours on giving you the best glass. If you are looking for a can’t-go-wrong, ‘does what it says on the tin’ wine I have a lot of respect for the ‘Definition’ range at Majestic - great value and good quality wines in the range.
• English Sparkling. English sparkling wine is stunning, locally made, handcrafted and winning awards for its flavour. The sparkling wines are a taste of England and whilst I really enjoy a sip the price point is comparable to champagne in many cases (this is a premium product being made in small quantities). But - the supermarkets’ own brand English wines are often made by the same award-winning experts at the same vineyards – so Morrisons “The best” English sparkling wine which offers incredible nutty brioche, toasty notes (£27) is made by Cherie Spriggs from Nyetimber (which retails for £38.99 at Waitrose). What’s more, it’s on offer – you can buy 3 and get 25% off until 8/8/23.
Finding great value wine for your wedding may be easier than you think. I would never spend less than £6 on a bottle of wine and never more than £20 for a wedding party. You can find incredible wines in between these prices by shopping smart and taking advantage of discounts, points and free home delivery. Majestic also offers free party glassware (you pay £1 deposit per glass, return them clean and Majestic delivers for free when you spend £75). This is good value for money when glasses are £3-£4 each normally.
So – don’t just pick from the venue’s list – ask them about corkage, negotiate on price and get out there and get shopping for those wonderful wedding wines to impress your guests.