Wedding Wines

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wedding.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

As every bride-to-be knows, a wedding is about much more than just the ceremony - it's also about the many special occasions (Dress shopping! Shower! Bachelorette!) leading up to "the big event." 

What's more, every oeno-inclined bride-to-be also knows that each and every one of these occasions is destined to be still more memorable when paired with the perfect glass of wine. 

In this spirit, read on for our complete list of wine suggestions for weddings - as well for all of the associated fêtes that come before happily ever after.
The Proposal
For many couples, the day they become engaged goes down as one of the most memorable of the entire "getting hitched" process.  It also qualifies as one of those rare moments in life when Champagne - and good Champagne, at that - is practically a requirement.  So once the question's been popped, pop the cork on a classic sparkler like Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque ($150) (yes, the one with the gorgeous art nouveau flowers on the bottle), or reach for an excellent multi-vintage like Gosset ($30) for a more value-oriented pour.  

The Engagement
Fêting your engagement with family and friends calls for wines with fresh and crowd-pleasing flavors that reflect the optimism felt by all. To wit, Sauvignon Blanc from warmer climes (think Napa, Lake County) offers plenty of layered flavors without too much mouth-puckering acidity (Spanish Albariño is a good choice for this reason, too).  When it comes to a red, consider a cool-climate charmer without too much oak influence; Cru-level Beaujolais from France works well here, as does tank-aged Tempranillo from California or its native Spain.   

The Dress

The first major wedding "event" many a bride tackles after the engagement, bridal dress shopping is often a group affair, with mothers, maids of honor and - for some brides - a veritable entourage of attendants and friends along to lend input and share in the fun.  To mark this decidedly celebratory affair, brides may wish to uncork something rich and a little decadent for their gang, either during or après-shopping; we like good-quality oaked Chardonnay for the occasion (think Puligny-Montrachet, Napa or Santa Rita Hills), or - surprise, surprise - bubbles.   

The Shower
Bridal showers are famous for bringing together a variety of guests - from close family to cousins, friends and even business acquaintances - and with them a variety of palates.  This is why serving several wines in a variety of styles (think white, rosé and red) is a good idea at a shower - and also provides an opportunity to serve more adventurous styles than you may at the wedding. Wines you might consider include floral, exotic Marsanne (white), rosé of Grenache/Garnacha and elegant, light-bodied Cabernet  Franc (red).

The Bachelorette
Something racy in the vino department is definitely in order for this night that's long been the symbolic "end" of a bride-to-be's singleness.  As such, look for statement wines that pack lots of visual and flavor impact; we like red bubblies such as sparkling Shiraz (dry) and Brachetto d'Acqui (sweet, Italy) for maximum drama.  For something still more exotic, try a medium sweet rose-hued sparkler from southeastern France's Bugey Cerdon - a rare treat that pairs perfectly with chocolate-dipped strawberries.  Lingerie and sexy games optional. ;)

The Rehearsal
Typically held the night before the wedding, the rehearsal dinner is a decidedly special event - but should never outshine the following night when it comes to pomp and circumstance.  As a result, wines should settle nicely into the background here (the better to make way for speeches, after all):  As for whites, look to familiar favorites such as Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay or a good dry Riesling (think Mendocino, New York or Washington State); for reds, look to reliable classics like good quality Merlot, a Bordeaux blend or a supple Pinot Noir.

The Cocktail
Following the ceremony (congratulations, dashing Mr. & Mrs.!), your guests will be looking to celebrate with a glass of something refreshing and elegant.  Generally, having at least one white wine and one red wine available is a good idea, and offering sparkling wine or Champagne as well is a nice touch.  
Choose wines you genuinely like and that are likely to hold broad appeal; for off-the-beaten path options with lots of appeal, try domestic Pinot Grig/io (white), Italian or domestic Barbera (red) and Grenache from France, Spain or California.  

The Dinner
For ease of planning (and who couldn't use a little of this when it comes to a wedding?!), you may choose to pour your cocktail wines at dinner, too.  
Regardless, serving two wines - a white and red - that complement the meal you're serving is a must.  Some all-time favorites with notable food affinities with which you may not be familiar include Sangiovese (as in Chianti Classico), Tempranillo (think Spain's Rioja) and Côtes du Rhone reds from France.  For whites, see elsewhere in this piece:  your options are numerous (and duly noted)!

The Toast
For many newlyweds the most momentous part of the reception, the toast is a symbolic tribute to the union you've just made official.  And while some couples insist on pouring the finest sparkling wine they can afford, others are comfortable toasting with less fancy stuff. Depending on your budget and thoughts on the matter, select accordingly; for a detailed rundown on the many options in sparkling wine available from France to California, click here.  From Cristal to Cava, you're sure to find something that suits.  Cheers to that!

Now that the pressure leading up to the big day has passed, it's your time to unwind, relax and - most importantly - have fun!   This is why a honeymoon calls for playful, romantic wines in which you might not otherwise indulge - think pink bubblies, sweet Rieslings and other dessert wines (this is no time for diets!), Port and fortified wines (decadent? absolutely!), exotic whites and soulful reds.  After all, this is the beginning of happily ever after - a moment meant to sipped, savored and treasured forever.  A moment for wonderful wines, if ever there was.

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Fabulous post. But I'm wondering does anyone have suggestions on where to actually have the wedding ceremony or reception itself. I have a fair amount of friends getting married this year and next, and they are all asking me about places to get married in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino. Wouldn't mind hearing about other places too - I read the article on Livermore which was nice.

I know weddings at wineries is limited, but what about golf courses/country clubs or hotels that aren't going to cost a fortune. Just be nice to know so I can spread the word as it were.

Madrona mannor! i got married there last summer.. beautiful.. and the food was great!! emily is amazing!

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