As a wedding professional, I love nothing more than a really great reception. The food, the family, the friends, fun dance tunes, and beautiful decorations always make for a great evening, and one way to enhance the good time even further is with an excellent wine selection. While you truly can’t go wrong with the standards, these days there are so much more to life than merlot or chardonnay without breaking your bank. Let’s explore a few different varieties of vino that can put a new twist on the old standby of “red or white?”
White Wines : Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, and Gewürztraminer
Sauvignon Blanc starts with white grapes that originated from the Bordeaux region of France, but is now planted all over the world. The name is derived from French and loosely translates to “wild white”. Fans of Riesling will appreciate this crisp, clean white, and will enjoy it along with fish or light pasta dishes. For a nice and affordable SB, I like one by Charles Shaw (the one and only “Two Buck Chuck”) available at any Trader Joe’s. It has a touch of fruity sweetness without being cloying, and has a nice crisp finish.
For a taste of the sweet life, consider a Muscat wine, the basis for many sweeter sparkling wines like Asti. Muscat grapes have a lofty place in history as a major ingredient in the alcoholic drinks served at the funeral feast of King Midas. If you’d like to incorporate this royal fruit into your wine choices, you would do well to select the Moscato by Sutter Home. It is definitely for the drinker that enjoys a much sweeter wine, and makes a wonderful dessert offering. The Sutter Home selection offers notes of peach and vanilla, and has a smooth, creamy finish.
One of my personal favorites that’s steadily gaining in popularity is a variety known as Gewürztraminer. I was introduced to this type of wine by a knowledgeable sommelier when I requested a “little something different”, after explaining I usually defaulted to a safe glass of Riesling. It’s a nice, clean, off-dry aromatic wine, and is one of the few that pair well with Asian foods. Gewürztraminer wines are often found from Germany, but generally the most flavorful ones are from the Alsace region of France. A personal, affordable favorite Gewurz is by Fetzer, though an Oliver Winery based out of Indiana makes one definitely worth sipping.
Red Wines: Chianti, Syrah, and Dolcetto
When you watch movies that take place in any type of Italian setting, the squat bottles of wine you see sitting around, wrapped in straw baskets are bottles of a type of wine known as Chianti. Chianti started out as a white wine, but over the years is now traditionally a red table wine. Chianti gained popularity after World War II when a demand for cheap, drinkable wine increased and has hung around ever since. If you can get past the Hannibal Lecter association, this full-bodied dry wine is an excellent choice for menus that feature Italian foods, or red meat choices. You’d do well to try Chianti by Ernest and Julio Gallo for an affordable choice that will please a crowd.
Syrah, also known as Shiraz, is a dark, red-skinned grape that originated in France. Syrah is a favorite for wine blends as its robustness helps to “pump up” some weaker grapes. You can usually find it mixed with other darker reds like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. Syrah is the name most commonly used through most of the world, with the exceptions of Canada, South Africa and Australia. Shiraz, as it’s known there, is the most commonly grown dark-skinned grape in Australia, a county that produces some of the better affordable Shiraz wines in my humble opinion. A nice, palatable dry red for your reception would be Yellow Tail’s Shiraz, with a peppery nose (aroma) and full berry flavors.
Don’t let the name Dolcetto fool you when approaching these wines. Though “dolcetto” is Italian for “little sweet one”, the name is not based on the sugar content of such grapes, and is thought to be referring more to the area of origin, or the size of the original grapes grown. Dolcetto wines are almost exclusively dry, and are better with a couple years of age. Dolcetto grapes are classified as noir, or black-skinned, and wines produced from them usually feature black cherry or licorice flavors, with a bitter finish. It pairs well with pasta dishes or any meal featuring Italian flavors and red sauce. It is an easy-drinking wine for any fans of dry reds to be served either chilled or at room temperature. Consider Palmina’s 2008 Dolcetto for a wonderful introduction to this type.