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WINE SAVVY: Wine planning for weddings

Shop for wine well in advance of the wedding and sample various options before making the selection. Thinkstock.com1 / 2
David Devere2 / 2

During the past few weeks, I've been asked about selecting wine for wedding receptions, and while I'd love to say: "Here are the perfect red, white and sparkling wines for your wedding," the reality is, there are too many factors to consider to make a specific recommendation.

But I can talk about the economics of purchasing wine, how many bottles per guest you should plan for, and what's the best wine for pairing with wedding cake.

AMOUNT

A single bottle of wine contains five 5-ounce servings. Five ounces is a typical pour at a restaurant when you order wine by the glass. If your guests have two or three glasses each, a bottle will supply 2.5 guests with wine.

If you want to account for nondrinkers and over-drinkers, divide the number of guests by 2.5 to come up with the number of bottles needed for the reception. For example, if you have 75 guests, divided by 2.5, which equals 30 bottles of wine. Keep in mind that a case of wine is 12 bottles, so round up to the nearest case. In this example you'd need 30 bottles which rounds up to three cases of wine. Also consider that if you're supplying beer and mixed drinks, you might need to increase or decrease this number. You know your guests best, so plan accordingly. You can always take extra home, but if you run out, you'll see your guests head for the door.

MIX

Once you've got the bottle count down, you need to pick your mix of red and white. If the reception is in the evening during winter or fall, you should select 1/3 more red wine than white. If the reception is during the spring or summer, and certainly if outside, have an equal amount of red and white and possibly add a rosé, if the reception is outside on a warm day.

BUDGET

Now that you know how much wine and what color, you'll need to select a budget. Of course you can spend as much as you want, but there is no reason you can't select a good, distinctive wine for about $10. Here's how.

First, buy from a store that'll give you a case discount, and you shouldn't feel out of place in asking. Next, look for hearty red wines from Chile, Argentina or South Africa. If you have more than $15 to spend, then shop in the Californian, Washington, Spanish or Australian sections.

White wines from Italy, Chile, New Zealand, California, South Africa and France's Loire Valley all offer good quality options for about $10. You can buy wine in the $5 range, and these wines often come in large 1.5-liter bottles, and they'll hail from Australia and Chile. These wines will not leave a favorable impression on anyone. It's not that they're bad, they're just bland and one-dimensional.

THE TOAST

Sparkling wine for the toast is often a source of much contention. Here's how to navigate it successfully.

First, are you going to serve the toasting wine with the wedding cake? If so, buy a sweet, slightly sparkling wine from Italy called Moscato d'Asti. This wine will pair perfectly with the wedding cake, and people will be amazed at its deliciousness. They'll remember the "champagne" if you serve this sparkling wine from Italy.

But if you are a stickler for tradition, the toasts aren't being paired with wedding cake and you want a dry style of sparkling wine — but don't have a Champagne budget — then Italian Prosecco or Spanish Cava are great substitutes. Prosecco and Cava are both made in a very similar style to Champagne, but they use different grapes and cost $8-$15 a bottle. A good rule of thumb is to divide your number of guests by seven to determine how many bottles of sparkling wine to buy. This should give everyone about half a glass to toast.

Finally, shop for wine well in advance and sample various options before making the selection. This will help you decide exactly what wine to buy, and having a wine-tasting for your wedding can be a fun part of the planning process.

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