Champagne is the beverage always linked to the greatest and happiest moments of our lives and a wedding certainly qualifies as one of those moments.
Champagne and its bubbles lend to the celebration and gaiety of this special occasion. Some say there are only two prerequisites for a reception, "cake and champagne." Receptions can run the gamut from the basics to the elaborate, and champagne can have a bit part to a starring role.
Toasts by the wedding party are almost always made with a sparkling wine, and the bit role can end here. I, however, feel champagne should be available throughout the reception. The best time to start serving would be as the guests arrive and the reception line is forming. The amount you are going to consume will be directly proportional to the quality being served. I can guarantee you will drink more Veuve Clicquot than Cooks.
You should get close to 65 pours from a case based on a 5-ounce pour. This will give a respectable fill in most glasses.
I recommend a tall, fluted glass. Part of champagne's mystique and charm comes from the tiny bubbles rising from the top of the stem to opening of the glass. This does not happen in one of those concave-cup glasses. These little devils are hard to pour into and easy to spill out of and do not enhance your champagne of choice.
Weddings are going to happen. Consequently, there are not too many bargains. You can control the quality of the services to be provided, but the price of that quality is usually non negotiable.
You can, however, negotiate the price of your champagne purchase with almost every merchant in our immediate area. They want your business and are willing to adjust their pricing if there is a multiple-case sale.
I suggest you spend some time and do some comparative shopping. You may want your caterer to do everything or you may want to provide the beverages yourself and pay corkage, if required. The wine shops chill, provide glasses and deliver.
Bruts, blanc de noirs and rosés are your best bet. A little pink or copper color looks good at a wedding. Non vintage Veueve Clicquot, Pol Roger, Bollinger, Taittinger, Mum DVX and Louis Roderer are in the $25 to $30 range if you really want to treat your guests to some wonderful bubbles. I like Robert Hunter, Schramsberg and Mumm Cordon Rouge in the $20 to $25 group.
There are some classy wines in the $15 to $20 area including Domaine Chandon Reserve, Roderer Estate, Domaine Caneros, Scharffenberger and Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee. I prefer Cuvee Napa and Brut Prestige from Mumm Napa, Cordorniu Napa and Maison Deutz in the $10 to $15 selection.
Under $10 the going gets a little tough. Ste. Michelle NV is acceptable and Freixenet is not bad if you can stand to look at that bottle all night.
The decision-making process may become difficult. A fun way to solve it is to have your own tasting. Narrow the selections to four or five bottles, get all the principals together and have a party.
When our daughter Jennifer Smith was married, she designed a label that was put on a custom bottling for her wedding. She also personalized small bottles that were given to all the guests.
Kathy Hart at WINEdesigns in Los Gatos can design and produce the labels. Her firm labels Mirassou sparkling for about $240 per case for three or more cases. You can also buy just the labels and adhere them to the wine of your choice. Her number is (408) 354-2506
Hicks is a wine advisor and consultant. He is a partner in a winery and has owned a wine shop. He writes a monthly wine column for the Town Crier.