My Rouses Everyday, July & August 2018
From champagne to cava and brunch to bachelorette parties, there’s a sparkling wine for every moment of your wedding celebration.
Sparkling wine is the unsung hero of wedding festivities, as essential to the event as the best man, bridesmaids and buttercream frosting. Though the caterers will likely be in charge of wine and spirits at the reception, the events surrounding the wedding are begging for good bubbly too. With wine, a little care can elevate an occasion to an experience, a gathering to a celebration. Here are a few places where wine well employed can make a wedding weekend as memorable for the guests as it is for the newlyweds.
A champagne flute imbues elegance. Always. This rule is inviolate. You pick one up and you know you’re there for something special. Make it the opening act of your wedding weekend. If you have family and friends visiting from out of town, you’ve probably reserved hotel blocks to ensure a roof for every head, ease travel accommodations, and encourage socializing before and after the ceremony. Here is where you can make your first big impression and establish the tone of the event. Consider having a bottle of wine waiting in each guest’s room.
The sky’s the limit as far as what you might choose, but sparkling rosé is a safe bet, with bonus points for it being an inviting “anytime” wine. You might uncork that traditional blend tonight, but who wouldn’t want the rosé right now? Sparkling rosé is often thought of as a summer wine — it certainly pairs well with a sunny day — but it can be just as invigorating when the leaves turn colors. It is an excellent addition to lunch, or to enjoy alone at daytime meet-ups.
Korbel Sweet Rosé is an approachable California sparkler that’s cotton-candy pink in color and packs a light, easy fruitiness. Korbel has been making California sparkling wine longer than any other winery there and, year after year, its bottles have a consistent flavor profile with a lingering, sweet finish. Another California wine, Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, is crisp and refreshing, and will hit you with strawberry and blackberry notes and a soft, dry finish. Mumm Napa is owned by the famed G.H. Mumm in Reims, France, and uses the same méthode champenoise as its counterpart in the Champagne region.
Later that evening, depending on where the rehearsal dinner is held, there might not be a wine list commensurate with either the solemnity of the occasion or your love of the sparkly stuff. The good news is that you can often bring your own wine; the bad news is that, depending on the restaurant or venue, they might charge a corkage fee, which is a surcharge for them to open each bottle of wine. (It might be considerable; check in advance.) If you’re going to bring your own sparkling wine, plan for each bottle to fill five glasses, and for each person to have two servings. Multiply times the number of people attending the dinner, and you know how many bottles to buy.
At some point that evening, you’ll be easing into the first of several toasts to the bride and groom (still to come is the wedding itself, and maybe a brunch the next day). Although there’s been lots of toasting and celebrating at engagement soirées, bachelorette and bachelor parties, and bridal brunches, the toasting at the rehearsal dinner can reach a fever pitch surpassed only by the wedding day toasts themselves. Something special is in order. A Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs will hit all of the right notes. Most sparkling wines are made from a blend of three grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay — the first two red, the last white. Blanc de Blancs, however, is made only from white grapes. Schramsberg’s version, born in Napa Valley, is 100% Chardonnay, and the first Chardonnay-based brut sparkler ever produced commercially in the United States. The wine is well-structured, crisp and lively — it offers initial citrus notes before a slow, foamy wash rolls across the palate. It is also a versatile drink for the occasion, working with or without food pairing.
The Bachelorette Party
The most obvious label likely to grace the tables of any bachelorette party is the distinctive yellow of Veuve Clicquot. This champagne is like a bottled version of its namesake, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot, who, when her husband died, inherited his meager and failing wine investment, and through cunning and business acumen turned it into a champagne empire.
The Widow (“Veuve” in French) Clicquot practically invented the modern champagne industry. She was a smuggler, a hard-knuckled businesswoman a century ahead of her time and the creator of the riddling rack (used to this day to free yeast from champagne bottles, leaving them crystal clear), and she somehow still found time to invent, as legend has it, rosé champagne. Her dalliances with handsome male employees were infamous (if very quietly so), and of course she never remarried — she would have had to give up her dynasty. Veuve Clicquot is what you think of when you imagine an excellent, consistent champagne. Described in one word: vivacious.
Make no mistake, however — Veuve Clicquot is perfect for the bachelor party as well! (The men should be so lucky!) Another option worth careful consideration is G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut. (Racing fans will recognize the label from the podium celebrations after Formula 1 races; it was until very recently the traditional champagne sprayed wildly by the winner. It is also the Official Champagne of the Kentucky Derby.) The company was founded in Reims, France in 1827. The flagship label of G.H. Mumm, Cordon Rouge, is like springtime on the nose — it is fresh and lemony — easing into fall on the palate as green apples. The wine has a lovely, dry finish.
The Big Day
Weddings can be exhausting, and these days they are heavily documentedd — photographed, Facebooked, Instagrammed, Tweeted and Snapchatted, so a refreshing glass of chilled sparkling wine might be just the ticket for getting in the mood on the big day. And if the bride is hosting a private breakfast for her bridesmaids, Cava and Prosecco are perfect ways to start the big day.
Cava, a Spanish sparkler named for the caves (cavas, in Catalan) in which it ages, is proving to be the trendiest beverage at breakfast places in New Orleans. Morning staples like eggs, bacon and toast tend toward the salty side, so Cava’s slight sweetness makes for a balanced breakfast flavor profile. Prosecco is likewise a fine breakfast choice — as beverage or entrée — and the point of departure for a million mimosas the world over (just add orange juice). But don’t feel beholden to the ubiquitous, well-trodden mimosa! Santa Margherita Prosecco and peach juice will give you a bellini. Add mint, lightly expressed into the glass, and a teaspoon of sugar make a sparkling julep. Prosecco is one wine simply begging to party with other ingredients.
Later in the day, when hair and makeup are being done, the wine can continue to flow. The last few years have seen a democratization of sparkling wine; while still center stage for formal affairs, it has become a go-to choice for casual imbibing also. No trend better reflects a relaxed relationship than the addition of a drinking straw, or sipping it straight from the bottle. Sparkling wine comes not only in the traditional 750 ml bottle, but also in 375 ml “half” bottles, and quarter-bottles called “splits.” While drinking straws really only work with splits, don’t let convention stop you from drinking directly from a standard-sized bottle.
Once the families and friends have gathered, and the bride and groom have swapped rings and promised to keep their thing going ’til death them do part, and tears have been shed, and everyone has moved on to the reception, with each attendee quietly vowing, “We’re just staying until the cake” — it is time to make your next big, sparkling move. With the cake comes the toast. In terms of the sheer number of photographs that will result, the toast will be second only to “You may kiss the bride.” Make the wine you are drinking — the wine that will be so well documented — count.
Champagne is for showing off. If the most adventurous wine you’ve ever tried has a kangaroo or footprint on the bottle — and there’s nothing wrong with that, but this is a wedding! — you probably eye on occasion the 50- or 80- or 200-dollar bottle of wine and wonder why someone would ever spend that much money. If all goes well, you’re only going to get married once. So there might be no better occasion in your life to find out what’s in that wildly expensive bottle of champagne. And if you’re going to do it, do it right. Go for the Dom Pérignon. Be warned, however: If you open a bottle of Dom — especially a vintage Dom (i.e., a champagne made from a single year’s growth) — you are more likely to annually celebrate the wine you had than the wedding that prompted it.
You probably won’t want to buy the amount of Dom Pérignon you’d need to serve every person attending the reception (though if you do, please invite me to your wedding — I’ll even stick around a little longer than the cake-cutting). Options for the room (but that are suitable also for the bride and groom) include Perrier-Jouët and Piper-Heidsieck. The first, Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, is noted for being floral on the nose and warm and round on the palate, and it pairs well with wedding cake. Piper-Heidsieck, the second of our hyphenated choices, is also a proper champagne — as French as the Eiffel Tower, despite a name that’s anything but. You can expect its bubbles to bring almond and hazelnut notes to your nose, and apple and pear to your palate. It is a balanced bubbly that should prove accessible to novice and wino — that is, er, wine connoisseur — alike.
For the bride and groom, the day will have ended as fast as it arrived. For guests that have been well wined, the same should be true, with new friends made and suggestions swapped on how to deal with tomorrow’s hangover. The whole point of the ceremony is, after all, the union of families, the bringing together of friends, to witness your special day. And if you take nothing else away from this, take this: Your wedding wine matters; make it part of the festivities and use it to excite and elevate. Leave it only to your caterers, and you’re likely to have guests served from a pair of two-handled jugs, one labeled “white” and the other, “red.”
You wouldn’t go to a seamstress and ask for “a white one — just the standard wedding dress, sequins or something — take my measurements and I’ll be back next month.” You wouldn’t pop into the bakery and just ask for “a wedding cake — whatever, three tiers, a little bride and groom on top, and I’ll be back for it Thursday.” A fine wine is as crafted and labored over as the most elegant dress or cake, and as fragrant and inviting as the most precise and exquisite floral arrangement. And unlike the dress, which you will likely never wear again, you can revisit the wine again and again. Give it the attention it deserves, and it will return to you a lifetime of memories.