Delicious, Affordable Wines to Pair with Each Course

Discover how to satisfy your guests' palettes without breaking the bank!


It’s a safe assumption: As long as you serve delicious cuisine paired with refreshing wines, your guests are guaranteed to view your wedding as a success. But if you typically choose wine by grabbing the least-expensive bottle at your local liquor store, selecting wines to satisfy your guests’ palettes AND complement the food (and your budget) can seem like a daunting undertaking. 

We asked Wesley Narron, the chief wine ambassador at City Wine Tours, which hosts walking wine tours in New York City and Boston as well as bachelorette party wine tours, to tell us how to determine the best wines to serve at a wedding. Best of all? All of Narron’s suggestions sell for less than $18 a bottle! Read on to discover which wines to consider, how many bottles to buy, and the best ways to serve your selections. 

What's the best wine pairing for cocktail hour?
“You’ll want to serve something light and dry, especially at the beginning of the party. The Huber Hugo Grüner Veltliner is a refreshing wine with citrus and floral notes…and dirt cheap (though no one has to know). It’s also a beautifully packaged bottle.”

What wines pair well with...
Seafood: Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or the Loire Valley in France 
Chicken: Sonoma California Unoaked Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige, Italy 
Beef: Central Coast California Merlot or Napa Valley, California Cabernet Sauvignon
Vegetarian: Rosé from Provence, France 

Is there a wine that pairs well with cake?
“Here’s the ‘wine with dessert’ rule of thumb: the dessert should be sweeter than the wine. But, you’ll want to have a wine with some residual sugar. Try the Dr. Frank Semi-Dry Riesling, a slightly sweet white wine, or the Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco, a lightly sweet, gently bubbled red wine.”

Does the serving method for dinner affect which wine should be served? Is there anything people should know about choosing wine for a buffet dinner vs. a sit-down dinner?
“The wines you serve shouldn’t vary, whether you choose a buffet or a sit-down dinner. But, how the wines are served will vary. Most sit-down dinners will also have tableside wine service. What to do for a buffet? You could put a bottle of white wine and a bottle of red wine at each table. If you choose this method, don’t forget to plan how the wines will be opened (hooray for screwcaps!) and how to keep the white wine chilled. Or, your caterer might be willing to have a few servers pour the wine tableside, even with a buffet. This is a much better method of portion control than simply plopping the bottles on the tables.”

What types of wine are becoming popular at weddings these days? 
“Cava, the sparkling wine from Spain, is ridiculously affordable – and delicious. The Jaume Serra Cristalino Extra Dry Cava sells for $8/bottle! It’s a great alternative to Prosecco or Champagne.

Vinho Verde, which means 'green wine,' is a light-bodied white wine from Portugal. [The wine is named] green because it’s distributed very quickly after harvest and because it does have a slight green tinge. The Casal Garcia Vinho Verde is a crisp, effervescent wine with a smooth green apple flavor.

The popularity of Malbec continues to grow, especially the ones from Mendoza, Argentina. Malbec typically [features] a deep purple color, is spicily rich with an exuberant juiciness, and has a trademark velvety texture. The Close de los Siete is a Malbec blend from renowned winemaker Michel Rolland. It has a black cherry aroma, with hints of chocolate and coffee.”

If couples don't have a caterer or vendor who is managing the wine service, how do they figure out how much wine to buy?
“Assume you can get six glasses of wine from one bottle. Assume your guests will drink 1.5 glasses of wine during the first hour of the party and one glass of wine each hour for the rest of the party. One hundred guests at a four hour event? That’s 4.5 glasses of wine per guest x 100 guests = 450 glasses of wine. 450 divided by 6 = 75 bottles of wine. Of course, this is assuming all your guests only drink wine – no soda, beer, or spirits. A more accurate method is to use the type of beverage calculator every caterer and bartender uses.” 

What wines should be available at an open bar?
“[Wondering] how to satisfy dear Aunt Mary, who only drinks white zinfandel, and Dwight, the wine snob from your office? You really only need two wines for an open bar: a semi-sweet white wine and a medium-bodied red wine. I’d pick the Domaine de Vaufuget Vouvray and the Lan Crianza Tempranillo. Vouvray is a semi-sweet white wine made from Chenin Blanc grapes of the Loire Valley in France. Tempranillo is a medium-bodied red wine grape from Spain. Crianza refers to how long the wine was aged in an oak barrel (one year in oak + one year in the bottle). 

What’s the likelihood your restaurant/function facility has these wines? Sadly, not bloody likely! So, pick two white wines (Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc) and two red wines (Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon). That’s a selection to satisfy most palettes.”

What is your number one piece of advice for deciding which wines to serve?
“Always taste any wine before you buy it! When you’re really in a pinch? Forget any well-meaning wine advice or food pairing suggestions and buy what you like to drink. 

And find a beverage caterer (or liquor store) who will let you return your unopened, unused bottles. They [may] tell you it’s against the law, but most stores will refund what you don’t use – especially if a case was never opened.”

Attention wine lovers! Get 10% off any bachelorette private wine tour with City Wine Tours when you mention this article on Inside Weddings!

Opening photo by Fred Marcus Studio

Authored by: Erin Migdol

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