PHOTO: Her World Brides Dec 2013

Used to be that all the drinks they served at weddings were orange juice and Chinese tea. Liquor was more likely to be cognac or brandy. Now, trendy brides are those who serve cocktails and dinner receptions. Which wine to serve, what type, how much — if these questions are plaguing you while you’re deciding on your drinks, read our quick guide done with help from Chris Kwek, operations manager (Emerald Hill Group), and Lisa Goh retailer manager of The Wine Culture.

Like anything that’s worth learning about, knowing the basics of wine like type, charateristics, and taste will make it easier for you to decide. Some of the common red and white wines that you can serve at your wedding:

Types of red

Merlot A soft, fruity grape with medium to full body and it makes wine that’s good for red meats. A blend of Merlot and Cabernet is easier to drink and perfect for weddings.
Cabernet Sauvignon This grape ages well, is full of blackcurrant aromas, and is responsible for some of the better reds. It’s a medium to full bodied wine, tastes rich and begs to be served with food rich in flavour like roast duck and roast pork.
Pinot Noir This grape is excellent for wines with earthy and ripe cherry aromas. It’s very drinkable wine with a smooth finish and is a perfect companion for fish or chicken.
Syrah/ Shiraz is a grape that’s more spicy and peppery and it’s great with roast beef and roast pork ribs.

Types of white

Sauvignon Blanc A crisp white with citrus notes or ripe hints of tropical fruit. Goes well with light fare or lightly sauced food. Think white meats, shellfish or pasta.
Chardonnay Popular and very drinkable, with flavours ranging from fresh to buttery, depending on the wood it’s been aged in. Excellent for sipping and will go with most white meats, especially grilled chicken.
Semillon Often blended with Sauvignon Blanc to produce a lively dry white that’s lovely anytime.
Riseling A complex white with a wide range of taste, from sweet to really dry. Generally great with Asian dishes.

Guest-imating
How many bottles of wine would you need? Lisa Goh of The Wine Culture, a wine retailer, offered this advice. “Estimate about two bottles of wine to a table of 10, give or take a little, since some guests would drink less. In my experience, an average wedding dinner needs about 60 bottles. If you want to be safe, throw in another 10-20 bottles,” said Goh.

What to buy
Red wines are usually more popular with Singaporeans. Some guests may prefer white, so an average of serving 80 per cent red wine and 20 per cent white is safe. A tip: Merlot or Pinot Noir is easier to drink while a Sauvignon Blanc or a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semilion is a good choice for whites. These wines also go well with Chinese food.

Where to buy 
Start with your hotel — it may have decent wines and because you are having your reception there, it may put together a good package for you. There’s no worry about corkage or delivery. 

If you prefer to order from wine retailers, check if you’d need to pay corkage first. Some hotels charge a fee if you bring in your own alcohol. Advantages to buying wine direct from retailers: You can get specific wines you like, expert knowledge and recommendations (if you don’t know much about wine) and finally, negotiate a discount depending on your order. TheWine Culture for example, offers a 15 to 18 per cent discount for selected wines. Different retailers have various price and discount range, so research and find one that suits you best. 

Some retailers also offer special promotion periods where certain wines are cheaper or you get a quick wine tasting session to learn more about wines. “It’s good to ask and find out,” Goh said. “Some wine retailers might have special rates around your wedding date so you may be able to buy the wine cheaper.” Ditto for tasting sessions.

How much to serve (so that you don’t waste wine unnecessarily during the dinner): 

  • Ask service staff to let guests know that wine can be served upon request — a good idea if you’re not sure how many of guests actually drink wine.
  • Always serve the wine by half glass. Refill them when they are finished. This helps conserve some bottles as not all will be opened up at once.
  • Let the staff know that if at least three people per table drink wine, be attentive to that table and be quick to refill when glasses are empty.

Matching food to wine

knowing the basics of matching wine to food will help your guests enjoy the wine, and the food better.For more meat-based dinner, serve reds. The tannins in red wine react well with meat protein, allowing the characteristics of the wine to come through. Tannins are what’s responsible for that astringent feeling in your mouth when you drink red wineor strong black tea.Serve whites for a seafood-based platter (white-fleshed fish or shellish) White wines complement mildly-flavoured fish.Some foods go well with either a white or red. Think grilled chicken,salmon, pork or pasta in a mild tomato based sauce. 

Order of wine service

When serving wines at different parts of reception, bear these pointers in mind. Always serve 

  • Lighter wine before a heavier one;
  • White before red wine;
  • White wine should always be served chilled;
  • Young wine before old wine;
  • Dry wine before sweet wine.

This article was first published in Her World Brides December 2001 – February 2002.