Success Wedded With Drink

The wedding reception is nothing less than Nightmare on Catering Street: a shocking tale of booze management involving a large, thirsty cast of different ages and social groups who have come together for the sole purpose of getting larger up at your expense. The true extent of the calamity you are facing only becomes apparent after all the other trivial but expensive challenges (dress, marquee, food) have been ticked off the list. Suddenly, you find yourself with a budget of ?000 to keep 100 people well lubricated for at least six hours, and you know there are at least 10 wine snobs, 15 sweet-toothed grannies, a couple of vegans and two Orthodox Jews who wont touch anything that isnt kosher. You get a wine collection that would normally take years to accumulate, and your friends can buy something that seems just a little bit more meaningful than a set of carving knives.


The British might have been putting bubbles into wine before the French, but it is the latter who have turned fizzy wine into one of the most successful commercial ventures in the world. Almost every wedding couple gets toasted with it, every sporting hero gets doused in it, every boat gets launched with it and every business deal gets sealed with it.

At the bottom end of the market, I find it hard to distinguish one bottle of green, raw acidity from another; they all trigger the same Mr. Bean-style facial expressions and they all taste better with a dash of cassis. At the other end of the scale, the investment does pay off. Acidity is gentler and more rounded, flavors are richer and nuttier, and bubbles are finer and longer-lasting. Instead of a ham-fisted, frothy massage, top champagne feels more like delicate oral acupuncture.

Buying advice
Good sparkling wine tastes far nicer than cheap champagne. One bottle of decent vintage champagne is better than two nasty non-vintages and special cuv閑s are a waste of money.

Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wine varies enormously in quality and price. The cheapest bulk productions offer something that tastes and feels like wine shoved through a SodaStream machine. The best can fool even the most determined of experts in blind tasting as with property values, the most important thing is location. You might just stand a chance of achieving the elegance, power and sharp-edged structure found in the Bolingers, Veuve Clicquots and Dom P閞ignons of this world if you can find places where the grapes really have to struggle to ripen and where ripeness comes with bracing acidity attached.

Today, the highest-quality sparkling wines come from the cooler regions of Australia (Tasmania and Yarra Valley), New Zealand, California and - no, this isnt a printing error - England. With its chalk soils and long growing season, England has probably the greatest chance of beating the champenois at their own game. It may take another couple of decades of trial and error, investment and global warming, but the chances of a champagne house hopping across the channel to make sparkling wine are increasing every vintage.

Buying advice

Sparkling wines made by champagne companies (Mumm, Domaine Chandon, Roederer), English sparkling wine (Nyetimber, South Ridge).

The dos of wedding booze

The Most weddings are announced months ahead of the date if its a summer wedding buy your booze in the January sales. Buy the best sparkling wine you can rather than the cheapest champagne you can afford. Most big-brand premium sparkling wines are far better quality than those at the bottom rung of the champagne ladder.


But do be careful not to buy bootleg material, dont feel ashamed about hiring a van and heading off to the nearest bulk-booze warehouse.

Dont serve different wines on the top table. It will only spark off more bitterness among those relations and friends who didnt make the cut.

Dont provide spirits unless youre prepared for the marquee to be dismantled before the wedding has finished.

Dont forget to lock your own cellar door, or the door to wherever youre keeping your own private supply. Believe me, when your guests are drunk, they still somehow always manage to find it.


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