Special tasting: Wedding wines

Wedding guests can enjoy fine wines without breaking the budget for the bride and groom's big day
Wedding guests can enjoy fine wines without breaking the budget for the bride and groom's big day

After receiving more requests than ever for wedding wine recommendations, Helen Coburn decides to road-test the best varieties available for the big day



13 April 2012

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Wine journalists are regularly asked for wedding wine recommendations and this year I’ve had more queries than ever. During the boom, while budgets were always a consideration, there was often a willingness to trade up a bit to a special occasion wine, costing, perhaps, €12 or so. This year things have definitely changed, with more than one couple asking for a wine at €8 or less. Now that’s quite a challenge but, nevertheless, I managed to round up a few promising bottles and things culminated in a tasting session attended by three brides and their mums. We eventually decided that although the sub – €8 band was not a complete desert, it was more realistic to aim for a budget limit of €10. There was plenty of choice at this level and, of course, if retailers are supplying such wines in bulk, deals can be struck with the importers to deliver a keen price. 

One piece of good news is that corkage rates appear to have dropped a bit over the past couple of years. In 2009, corkage tended to be €10 for still wines and €15-20 for sparklers. Now, with venues more anxious to secure large functions, things are much more flexible with some establishments indicating charges of around €6 and €10 respectively. Wedding couples, or, indeed, anyone organising a function should negotiate hard, as some venues, for commercial reasons, will quote high corkage rates initially but are actually willing to settle for considerably less, once the event is assured.  
General advice is to allow a half bottle of table wine per person, with around 55% red wine and 45% white. Even if you’re not quite on the ball in terms of the colour breakdown, you’ll find, thanks to the non-wine drinkers, that there’s enough of each in any case. After a good many years when red wine was tending to increase at the expense of white, I’ve found at some recent functions that more white was actually drunk. The fashion for sauvignon blanc seems to have driven this trend. Despite all the talk about pinot grigio, I haven’t found much awareness of it amongst wedding planners. Sauvignon blanc is much hotter and some couples, even when choosing chardonnay or other white, order a half case of sauvignon blanc as well. When it came to value reds, we found cabernet sauvignon scored very consistently; this reflects its natural quality attributes which tend to come through even where sites are less than perfect and crop yields high.
The still wines which follow all cost €10 or less and our tasters felt they over-delivered on their price. Sparklers cost more but we still felt they were all value for money. 


Burkes of Bordeaux White 2010 (Comans). Fresh, well balanced white and green fruit flavours with decent length for the money. Produced by a relatively new estate with Irish connections.
Errazuriz Estate Chardonnay 2010 (Cassidy). Easy going citrus fruit with pleasing acidity.
Carmen Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Dillon). Decent varietal definition, with lots of gooseberry and green apple. A great choice for salad based starters.
Rietos Verde Rueda 2010 (Comans). At €7.99 this is great value for money. Nicely balanced apple and gooseberry – and keeps well in the fridge for quite a few days. Great aperitif.
Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2009 (Dillon). This was voted best value chardonnay by some journalists recently and it’s certainly on the money with decent concentration for the price.
Torres San Valentin 2010 (Findlater). Its flute bottle makes a strong impact on the table but what’s inside is good, too, with zesty lemon and light apricot touches.


Cono Sur Cabernet 2010 (Findlater). Cono Sur has had a lot of attention for its good value pinots but this is, if anything, even better for the money. Tasty, fresh blackcurrant flavours with decent structure and length for the price.
Undurraga Cabernet 2010 (Comans). Also keen value for money, with nicely defined blackcurrant and plum flavours and, again, good length for the price.
Carmen Reserve Cabernet 2009 (Dillon). Another cabernet goody, with tasty berry and blackcurrant flavours.
Borsao Black Label Campo de Borja 2010 (Searson). This is based on garnacha and has a lovely warm heartiness to it which means it’s great with red meat. This is just over €9 but the range includes quite a decent red for under €9 along with a very tasty one for €10.70. Don’t forget to try for deals! 
Burkes of Bordeaux Red 2010 (Comans). At last – a decent value red Bordeaux. Tasty plum and blackcurrant with well-balanced alcohol.
Castello Monaci Piluna Primitivo 2009 (GilbeyGleeson). Decent chunky stuff from southern Italy; perfect with red meats and duck.

Sparklers Under €20

Perelada Rosada Cava (Comans). Lovely pink hue and busy bubbles with fresh summer fruits.
Valdo Nerello Mascalese Prosecco Rose (Febvre). Soft berry fruits mark this elegant pink bubbly.
Jeio Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Brut (Searson). Serious proscecco in dry style; will fool plenty of champagne fans. There’s also a pink from merlot and pinot.
Jacobs Creek Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot (Irish Distillers) Well balanced citrus fruits and even a hint of baked bread. Solid value.
Rosa Regale is the perfect sparkler for fruit desserts

Rosa Regale is the perfect sparkler for fruit desserts

Sparklers Over €20

Miru Miru (Gilbey). This retails in the mid 20s and is a serious rival to quality champagne. Citrus and green apple with toasty notes and decent weight.
Taittinger Brut Reserve Champagne (Febvre). From a small number tasted, our group divided on their favourite champagnes but the deals currently available on this label ensured it scored on value. Champagne A Fourtin (Liberty) also drew favourable mention.

Sweet Sparklers

Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui (Febvre). Gorgeous strawberry and raspberry notes. Delicious with fresh fruit desserts.
Innocent Bystander Moscato (Liberty). Light, frothy, pale pink, and loaded with berry fruit. Pefect end to a meal.


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