How To Choose the Perfect Wedding Wine

wedding wineDo you know which wines can make certain foods taste better — or worse? Do you know how much alcohol to buy for a large group? Do you know what the most popular wedding wines are, and why?

Probably not, unless you’re a professional wedding or event planner. If you’re doing a DIY wedding, and you want to class it up by serving wine with dinner, you need to know the basics of buying wine for an event. Happily, the wine subscription service Firstleaf has published a guide, How to Choose the Perfect Wedding Wine, to help.

Why Is Wine Pairing Important?

If you plan to serve wine at your wedding, getting the pairing right is essential. Certain wines are really bad matches with certain foods.

For example, a light-bodied wine like Pinot Noir will get washed out by a fatty meat dish like ribeye steak or prime rib. Similarly, a strong-bodied wine like Cabernet Sauvignon can taste overwhelmingly bitter when paired with a light or acidic main dish, such as chicken in a lemon cream sauce.

What’s Your Priority? The Wine or the Food?

One important thing to decide right away is whether you are dead set on serving a certain type of wine. Some couples like to select from a location that’s special to them, or because they have a certain affinity for it. Maybe your wedding is at a winery and you want to pick one they’ve produced.

Whatever the reason, if you are narrowing down your choice ahead of time, pick the wine, then pick a food to match. If you choose the food first, you’ll then have to try to find a wine from your selected region or winery that’s a good match, which may not be possible.

If you do have a special bottle or winery in mind, talk with the winemaker about what they recommend for pairings. You could even have your caterer and winemaker connect, and create a sample tasting menu for you.

Now — if food is more important to you than wine, pick the entree or entree that really speaks to you, and then find a wine to match. You’ll have a whole world of wineries and varietals to choose from, and you’ll surely be able to find a decent match in a price range that fits your budget.

The Best Wedding Pairings

The principles behind wine pairing are fairly complex. There’s the notion of geographic pairing, which is choosing wine and food that come from the same region. Then there’s the idea of complementing vs. contrasting — sometimes you want a wine with similar flavors as your food, sometimes it’s better to present a unique flavor.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t try to come up with a pairing yourself — pairing is one of the fun challenges of getting really interested in wine. But, if you don’t want to risk it during your wedding, Firstleaf created a helpful chart that recommends pairings for the most common wedding entrees.

Wine Pairing First Leaf

Buying the Right Amount of Wine

To buy the correct amount of wine, you need to know:

  • How long your reception will last
  • How many people will be drinking
  • Your estimated mix of wine vs. beer vs. booze

The rule of thumb for alcohol at events is to budget 2 drinks per person for the first hour of the event, and 1 drink per person for every hour thereafter.

So, if you plan to have 125 drinking guests, and your event lasts 4 hours, you’d need 250 drinks for hour 1, and 125 drinks for each of hours 2, 3, and 4 — a total of 625 drinks.

Having an estimated mix will help you decide how much beer, wine, and alcohol to get.

Firstleaf created another graphic to help.

Alcohol calculator Wedding First Leaf

Wine: A Small Detail You’ll Be Glad You Got Right

With all the other little choices you have to make, picking the right wine may not be top of mind for you. But on that special day, when everyone reaches for their glass to toast you, you’ll want to know everyone’s going to enjoy what they taste.


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