Updated: Dec 13, 2020
Whether you're a seasoned wine drinker, or lean towards a craft beer, creating a wine list to satisfy your guests is stressful! There are a ridiculous amount of wine varieties out there and even for a couple of wine lovers, we still get stumped while standing at our local wine store.
Here's the low down on a few of the most common varieties and how to choose the crowd-pleasers. Of course, you don't have to go with these! If you have a favourite then choose that style over what we have recommended, after all it's your wedding and you should be able to drink what you like!
HOW TO START YOUR WINE LIST
Although there are absolutely no hard and fast rules here, when we are creating a wine list we start with three core wines and go from there. These wines cover the broadest spectrum when it comes to guests and no one should be displeased.
Bubbles - for post ceremony celebrations.
White wine - Sauvignon Blanc, the all round crowd pleaser.
Red Wine - Pinot Noir, soft, versatile and easy drinking.
If you want to extend the list out by one or two, a Pinot Gris is an excellent choice as they are sweeter than your Sav's which will suit some of your guests more so. Then your additional option could be a Rose or perhaps a Chardonnay, both of which we've described below.
Thinking about adding another red? Balance out the lighter, fruit driven Pinot with a heavier Merlot, Syrah, or other red blend! There are so many options out there. Have a read through the styles below and if you have any questions, just let us know. We will also happily taste test wine all in the name of 'research'!
Full disclosure here - I can't resist a glass of bubbles, if someone offers it to me I always say yes please and happily sip away! In my humble, wine loving opinion, bubbles and weddings go hand in hand; the popping of the bottles post ceremony, the constant 'cheers!' heard from all the guests, they're magical sounds.
All bubbles are not created equally, between Champagne's, Methode Traditionelle's, or Sparkling Wine, they have their differences with how they are made and how this is reflected in the price, which you can read about here.
There are also a lot of different tasting styles, all associated with how sweet the wine is.
The safest option for bubbles to satisfy the majority of your guests is to go with a Brut style. This wine is on the drier end of the spectrum, which for guests to be drinking straight off the bat, can have preferable taste. Brut style bubbles also is an excellent pairing for aperitifs, so all of your grazing tables or canapés that you might have post ceremony.
Savvy B is a super safe option to have, and if it is from Marlborough you're even safer again. Marlborough Sauvignon's are world class wines. The growing conditions are perfect for creating acidity coupled with full on fruity goodness so you end up with sunshine in a glass. Because of the acidity you are keeping those who prefer dry whites happy and the fruity notes often come off a little sweet for those who like it a bit sweeter.
Sauvignon Blanc is a really cost effective white wine to have for your wedding, if you're not sure which label to buy, just look for one that is from Marlborough and you should be steered in the right direction. If you're interested in trying a tipple, test a few out! Look in the price range that fits your budget and select a couple with labels you think are pretty cool.
Wine drinkers are usually split into two camps - those who like Pinot Gris and those who don't (and funnily enough, those who don't tend to drink Chardonnay instead!). Pinot Gris is grown all over New Zealand and it's become quite a popular variety so you will have a bit of choice here. The Gris usually sits on the Off Dry - Sweet spectrum so these are the drinkers you are catering too here. For people pleasing, aim for an off-dry/medium sweetness (generally under 20 grams of residual sugar). You can find this info on the back of the label, it will either have it in the blurb using the words off dry, or medium sweet or a sweetness scale with an arrow pointing you to where the winemaker would put it. Some wines will have the exact measurement, which will say 'residual sugar' or RS followed by a number and g/L , it's this number that you are looking at and wanting to aim for under 20g/L. Again, feel free to taste test a few and see what you like the look of! You might want something a bit sweeter which is totally fine because the Savvy has you covered for those who don't!
Summer sunshine quite often calls for a Rose, and with the lighter blush pink shades coming through from many wineries, the drier style is increasing in popularity. Adding a Rose to your wine list can be an excellent choice if your wedding is in the peak of summer, and of course if you and your guests enjoy drinking Rose! When choosing a Rose from your supermarket shelves, look to the tier that is your price range and then aim for the colour you love - we like the blush, or salmon coloured.
Chards had such a bad rap from years of being poorly oaked but I'm here to say they're making a come back! If you haven't tried a Chardonnay recently I urge you to give it a go, especially one from New Zealand. Kiwi winemakers have been producing a stunning subtle oak Chardonnay for a while now, using mostly old oak and keeping the gorgeous fruity undertones. It's not a must have wine on your list as there are still a lot of ABC drinkers out there (Anything But Chardonnay), but if you like a Chardonnay, or someone close to you does, it won't hurt to have a couple of bottles as an option for them if you feel like it. Look for a Chardonnay from Hawkes Bay or Marlborough for the perfect balance of fruit and oak.
Another tip with Chardonnay - it is a wonderful pairing with foods, in particular poultry, so it makes a great addition to your tables during food service.
Another wine variety that is completely misunderstood! Poor old Riesling, everyone thinks they taste like syrup, but that's only the kind your parents drunk too much of. These days Riesling's are super refined and come on any level of sweetness, from bone dry through to dessert wine sweet, which means it can be tricking finding one that you like if you don't know what to look for, oh no, more taste testing. Like Chardonnay, a Riesling doesn't have to make your wine list unless you personally like it or someone close to you does that you actually like and care about what they have to drink. If you have a Pinot Gris on the menu then that will cover the base for most wine drinkers who will want something sweet, if not then follow the same rules at the Pinot Gris and aim for off dry - off-dry/medium in sweetness. Think nothing more than around 20g/L of residual sugar and you should be right! Or if you are wanting something decadent to sip on with dessert, look for some 40g/L+ styles. There are some stunning sweet Rieslings!
Alternatively, if you have a Pinot Gris on your menu and you're wanting to be a bit daring, go for a nice, crisp, dry Riesling. I guarantee you will have some converts by the end of the day! And if you're looking for a recommendation, flick us an email. A Riesling as dry as Ash's dad jokes is the wine that wins our hearts.
This one's for the red lovers, and there will be more than you think! It is always nice to have a red option and Pinot Noir is a great one to have. The price is going to be higher for a red in general compared to a white just because of how they're grown and then made in the winery, it takes a lot longer and needs a bit more love and attention than your Sauvignon's. It will also differ depending on which region it comes from, and each region will have a different tasting profile. We have very long arguments in our house about which region produces the best Pinot Noir, Mr Ash is a sucker for a Marlborough Pinot, while I always lean towards a Central Otago drop. For a comparison in palette profile, I find Central Pinot's to be a deeper more fuller red, where as Marlborough to be lighter and fruit driven. You will find Central Otago wines will be slightly higher in price compared to Marlborough Pinot Noirs, and this is based around the boutique size of most Central Wineries, and also the reputation Otago has for this wine variety.
Depending on where your Merlot is grown it could be super fruity or lovely and earthy, with NZ heading towards the earthy end of the spectrum. Generally deeper than your Pinot, and if it is blended with something like a Malbec it can really pack that punch for mid winter by the fire vibes. Marlborough can pull off a Merlot but it is a rare variety for the South Island to grow because of the cooler nights, so Hawkes Bay is where we find most of our favs.
If you're after a peppery red, go in the direction of a Syrah. It is actually the same grape as Shiraz, just grown in a cooler climate so instead of the big huge hard hitting bold notes that you get from an Australian Shiraz, you will find it is lighter and peppery. Either wine is delicious and both are excellent additions to a softer Pinot Noir. For a Syrah, look for Hawkes Bay (did anyone say Gimblett Gravels?!) as it likes the warmer temperature, although Marlborough also has a few hidden gems in the Syrah department.
DARE TO BE DIFFERENT?
There are so many more wine varieties than what is listed above. If you're wanting something a bit different to pair with your pinot noir to represent the reds, have a look at some of these varieties, some you might recognise and others might sound super foreign to you. You can find some really funky wines in this list, and they tend to be on special because they are lesser known.
Cabernet blends - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Merlot etc
And if you want to slap something else on the white wine list, check out these beauts:
White Blends (most of the time they won't tell you what it is)
If you're stuck on your wine list, or would like some guidance with which brands to try (we try everything from local, family owned wineries, through to the big dogs), get in touch or leave a comment. We can point your empty glass in the right direction!
Ash + Ash