Only serving wine, and possibly a “signature cocktail” at the wedding reception has become a popular way to reduce wedding costs, and keep guests in line (very few people will get falling-down drunk on Chardonnay). The key to making “wine only” feel like a sophisticated and elegant decision, as opposed to a cost-cutting measure, is to make sure that your wines are chosen to complement your food choices.
The Cocktail Hour
Although it’s called “cocktail hour” it could just as easily be a wine and cheese hour. Consider serving bubbly wines (Champagne, or a less expensive sparkling wine) with Baby Swiss, Brie, Chevre, or mild cheeses like Colby, Edam and Gouda. Cheese tends to make wine taste even better, it mellows the taste of the wine, and in return the wine does the same for the cheese. Starting your wedding meal with this excellent combination will make your guests’ taste buds so happy that they’ll never notice that hard alcohol isn’t available.
In the same way that the dishes you serve as appetizers tend to be lighter than those you serve as the main course, the wines you serve early in the evening should be lighter than those you serve as the night goes on. That’s why many people start with white wines and move to red wines.
The Main Meal
As mentioned above, red wines are a little heavier and do better paired with heavier foods. If you’re offering beef or pork entrées, consider having a Pinot Noir, which will go well with both of them (as well as with pasta). If you’re having chicken and vegetarian options, you can still have the Pinot Noir, but consider also offering a Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. Both the Chardonnay and the Sauvignon Blanc will also complement your pork options.
Remember that everyone’s taste buds are a little bit different, so what seems like a natural pairing to one person, may not taste so great to another. Having a few options (two white, two red) available, will ensure that everyone is happy. If you are having a plated meal (as opposed to a buffet) have the waiters pour the wine, instead of the guests. It will seem very elegant, but in fact saves you money since it prevents over-pouring and over-consumption.
In Europe, a cheese course is often served after the meal, before dessert. Doing so might allow you to serve smaller entrées and smaller desserts, while still maintaining an elegant air. Consider a Port with strongly flavored cheeses like Bleu Cheese, Stilton and Roquefort. Remember, at this point in the evening your guests need the slightly stronger taste of a red wine instead of the lighter white wine.
With dessert itself, a white Riesling or Cabernet would make an excellent accompaniment to wedding cake. Chocolate is traditionally “hard to match,” but as Merlots and Shiraz’s have become popular, people have discovered how well they go with chocolate.