Sommelier Roundtable: Which Wines for a Wedding (And What Were Yours)?

With wedding season—and a royal wedding—upon us, we asked 7 wine pros what they crack open to party
Sommelier Roundtable: Which Wines for a Wedding (And What Were Yours)?
Harry and Meghan might be serving English fizz and Tignanello. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)
May 4, 2018

Your wedding might well be the biggest party of your life—and certainly the most stressful. From invites to in-laws, you'll have enough on your mind without worrying about what to drink when it's time to let loose. Whether it's a lavish low-key affair, intimate gathering or blowout, these seven somms from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award winners, each of which plays host to quite a few nuptials, have you covered with wine advice to please all the palates in attendance.

In the spirit of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry's upcoming wedding—and the wines they may or may not be pouring—we also quizzed these somms on their own reception libations.

Wine Spectator: What reds, whites and bubblies do you like to recommend when someone has a wedding at your venue, and why? What did you pour at your wedding?

Gretchen Thomas, wine and spirits director of Barteca Restaurant Group, including 13 Best of Award of Excellence–winning Barcelona Wine Bars

Reserva-level Cava, all the way. Gramona, Recaredo, Raventós, Juvé y Camps, Sumarroca, Avinyó—there are so many outstanding Cava producers that make Champagne-quality bubblies that are affordable, delicious and, if you are planning to drink more than a glass, they are much drier than many other typical types of sparkling wines.

I got married in August 2010 by a justice of the peace in Norwalk, Conn., and had pizza afterward with a bottle of Provence rosé at a BYOB in Rowayton. We plan on having a semi-formal "real" wedding for our 10-year anniversary, and Palacio de Fefiñanes Albariño III Ano will certainly be flowing.

Robin Puricelli, wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Lido at Dolphin Bay in Pismo Beach, Calif.

Being near the heart of Edna Valley, I love to support our neighbors and local wineries. For sparkling wine, I suggest the Laetitia Brut Rosé. For something a little more fun and funky, the Sinor-LaVallee Pét-Nat of Pinot Noir is delightful. The label is so cool, and the juice is fruit-forward, yet refreshing and bright, making it a super-versatile food-pairing wine.

Being in Pinot country, there is an abundance of small boutique wineries producing high-quality wines at a stellar price point. For whites, we have an abundance of aromatic whites that are flourishing in Edna Valley. A crisp, refreshing Zocker Grüner Veltliner, round and luscious Mattina Fiore Albariño or zippy Presqu’ile Sav Blanc are all fun options for an outdoor, ocean-view event.

I haven’t had my wedding—yet! But when I do, I would offer the El Lugar Pinot Noir Blanc (yes, a white Pinot), which is wildly unique and appealing to both white and red wine drinkers. For its visual appeal and beautiful texture, the Contratto Millesimatto from Italy, made in the traditional method and aged for over three years on the lees, is a fun alternative to Champagne. For red, I always love the Grenaches from A Tribute to Grace. Or maybe Samantha Poe's Ultraviolet Cabernet from Napa. Although I love Old World wines for myself, I want to showcase what California has to offer, and I know my guests would love it.

Rubén Sanz Ramiro, head sommelier at Grand Award winner PM & Vänner in Växjö, Sweden

Selections are based on a budget basis. We really take it from there. A wedding is the celebration of a lifetime, so we pay a lot of attention to the choices of wines. They need to have, in whichever category, a special touch. That begins by always suggesting Champagne, if possible in a larger format, which adds a degree of festivity and exclusivity. Then, wines from regions or producers that have certain pedigree, status or feeling.

At my wedding we kept it very simple, because simplicity was part of the character that we wanted to create. Therefore, we served great amounts of Champagne (Pierre Péters Blanc de Blancs Reserve Le Mesnil Sur Oger); a wine from my home region, Ribera del Duero (Finca Torremilanos Crianza), since it obviously holds a special place for all of us; and light and fresh dessert wine to go along with strawberries in the summer.

Michelle Corry, co-owner and wine director at Best of Award of Excellence winner Five Fifty-Five in Portland, Maine. Her husband, Steve, is the chef.

We sit down and do some extensive talks with the bride and groom in order to get a feel for their tastes, theme, menu items and who their guests are. We really try to get the couple to narrow down their choices so as not to overwhelm the guest. We also try to convince them to think about their guests and what would please most of the people. Obviously budget is also a major consideration—not always a comfortable topic, but certainly an important one.

[Our wedding] was such a long time ago! We were married in Key West, so we wanted fun and lighter-bodied wines. We chose a California Chardonnay, as a crowd-pleaser, and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for our whites. We did a domestic Pinot Noir, but offered a Cabernet, even though we did not think it terribly appropriate for the food or climate. As we are talking about 18 years ago, the exact wineries escape me.

Nancy Smith, co-owner and wine director at Award of Excellence winner Michael Smith in Kansas City, Mo. Her husband, Michael, is the chef.

The bride and groom will often opt for wine flights to be paired with their tasting menus, in which case I will start with something light and easy with bubbles for the amuse—my go-to is Scarpetta Vino Spumante Brut Rosé from Italy.

One white I introduce to a lot of couples is William Fèvre Chablis. I don’t want to overdo it with an oaky, buttery Chardonnay, but a lot of people still want to see a Chardonnay served, so I go for this wine from France, which really surprises people who have not previously tried it. It covers all bases and is very versatile with menus. One of my favorite wineries in the world is Chappellet. I go for the Chappellet Mountain Cuvée quite a bit for events. It is a nice blend from Napa, which many of our guests know and have traveled to. It works well with mushrooms, pancetta, tomato-based pastas and meat courses.

Wendy Heilmann, wine director at Pebble Beach Resorts and its three Best of Award of Excellence winners, in Pebble Beach, Calif.

We have such a diverse array of venues and clients that we spend a lot of time with each couple to learn what they have envisioned for their special day and how to best personalize the wine offerings. Some of my favorite wines to offer for weddings:

Paul Bara, Grand Rosé, Bouzy. Who doesn’t love rosé Champagne? This grand cru 100 percent Pinot Noir bubbly overdelivers for the price. Whether for the reception, toasting or paired with a dish, it’s a spectacular addition to any menu.

Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. I have this producer on my desert-island list. I love their Sauvignon Blanc because it’s clean and doesn’t lean either too far into grapefruit or too far into a tropical style. It works well for receptions, salad, fish or light vegetarian courses.

Roar Pinot Noir, Garys’ Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands. Many couples that come to Pebble Beach to get married want to celebrate with local wines from the area. Roar is one of several local producers we recommend frequently.

Personally, I have yet to walk down the aisle, but I am engaged. Don’t be surprised if you see the above-mentioned wines on my table as well! The other wine that I enjoy year-round is a refreshing, lower-alcohol still rosé wine. A nerdy favorite of mine is Markus Huber Zweigelt Rosé. At only 11.5 percent ABV, I could enjoy it all night and not worry about a raging hangover heading into my honeymoon.

Daniel Pernice, co-owner, general manager and wine director, Award of Excellence winner Osteria Mattone in Roswell, Ga.

You want to get something that speaks to your preference in wine, but also has enough mass appeal that people will want to enjoy plenty of it with you. Popular candidates at Osteria Mattone include the Palagetto Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2016 for a light, crisp white wine with notes of orange zest and chive. Also the Poggio Anima Samael Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2015 makes for a delicious, uncomplicated red full of classic Montepulciano character like fresh Bing cherry, sun-dried tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. Finally, for a sparkling wine choice at any Italian restaurant, you really can't beat Prosecco. Zardetto makes their [non-vintage brut] in an easy-drinking, fruit-forward but not sweet, and well-balanced style. And, for something special, one of my favorites is Le Vigne di Alice Prosecco Superiore ($54), featuring a lively effervescence and fresh flavors of white peach and Bosc pear.

[For my upcoming wedding in November], I’ll be looking for ones that are on sale! Seriously, though I’d love to pour nothing but vintage Champagne and 1978 Barolo at my wedding, cost is a very real thing for the vast majority of people getting married. … Also it’s gotta be something I can drink plenty of and not feel too much of the side effects the next day—just bein’ honest! The Henry Marionnet Domaine de La Charmoise Gamay 2015 is an excellent example: affordable, made organically, and I love both Gamay and Loire Valley wines. For white wine, the Prelius Vermentino 2016; Volpaia was the staff favorite at my first server job many years ago, and their Prelius estate in Maremma produces wines of equal caliber and even greater value. For sparkling, the Valentin Zusslin Crémant d'Alsace Brut Zero, which meets all the criteria plus it's happened to be there for several big occasions in my life so far.

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