Lifestyle & opinion

Choosing wines for any occasion - tips from our Showroom team

Are you looking for some ideas for wines for weddings or other big get-togethers, or maybe just something a bit different to try? Fine Wine Adviser Conrad Braganza of our Showroom team shares some of the tips he regularly gives members visiting Stevenage.

Wines for weddings or any occasion: Tips from our Showroom

Working in the Showroom, we derive a great deal of personal satisfaction giving advice to our members. It allows us to flex our wine muscles, display our passion for the joy of good wine and justify those years of drinking… I mean studying!

Entering the Showroom can feel a little daunting – faced with 800 plus wines, the prospect of narrowing it down to a few can seem like a mammoth undertaking, so faced with this tusk… ahem task… let us be your tour guides for a journey into the world of wine and see what we can discover together.

Always on hand to offer help and looking for any excuse to show off over 20 plus years of collective knowledge and the chance to wax lyrical (talk wine!), we relish the chance to help members get that bottle, be it a midweek sipper, culinary companion, present for someone special, or crowd pleaser for a big event.

The Enomatic machines offer the chance to taste a number of different wines
The Enomatic machines offer the chance to taste a number of different wines

A tour of the Showroom

Seeing (or in this case, tasting) is believing for many and one benefit of visiting our Cellar Showroom in Stevenage is being able to take advantage of our Enomatic machines. So, we often suggest making your way over to these wine dispensing machines which offer up at least eight wines for you to try, with a regularly changing selection. While in that area of the Showroom, don’t let the gates discourage you from visiting the Vintage Room, crammed full of fine wines from all over the globe to suit all tastes and budgets. You’ll find all sorts of special bottles here, it’s not just grands crus and big names, so do give it go and dig out a gem.

Our wedding service

The wedding service we operate in the Showroom provides the perfect platform for us to help you to get the best wine for that special day. As we’ve written about previously in our online guide to buying wines for weddings, there are many factors to consider. Of course, our colleagues in Member Services are adept at guiding you through your decision-making too but what can you expect when you visit us in person? With our service, members can access our advice directly and we will assist you in making your choice by offering a selection of four wines (under £10 each) that you can sample free of charge. In addition, the Enomatic tasting machine provides at least another eight more wines to try at no cost.

Personally, I look to crowd pleasers. I generally recommend steering away from flavours that are too bold, avoiding wines that are heavily oaked or marked by searing acidity. It’s better to opt for wines that will suit the food served on the day but that will be equally happy quaffed while dancing the conga! Speaking of which, maybe an eye on alcohol level is wise too, particularly if the wines are going to be available throughout the event.

We also have a recommended selection of wedding wines on the website you can browse.

Conrad Braganza

My ‘go to’ wine recommendations

I have my ‘go to’ selection that I feel caters to most people’s needs, from dear old aunties who maybe have the occasional glass with food, to your boss whose wine cellar contents have fuelled many a water cooler chat. Any tenuous link will help us focus your choice further, though… maybe the favourite wine you had in that taverna in Tuscany or the bottle you ordered while first locking eyes over a Chinese? This will help give your day that personal touch and create a talking point, perhaps, around the wines.

Many wines I choose feature regularly in our main List and on the website – after all, it wouldn’t make much sense to recommend an obscure little wine that we don’t always have in stock. And, even for what can be considered a modest budget of around £7 a bottle, many an option is thrown up. Crowd pleasers abound at this price point.

For whites, aromatic Duo Des Mers Sauvignon-Viognier is a sure-fire winner – it’s already a member favourite, so you can pretty much guarantee that your guests will love it too. South African chenin blanc is a good banker for events, the fruit is always nicely rounded and they often have good texture, making them great with food too. The Fistful of Schist Reserve Chenin Blanc from Swartland is great value. My favourite (and many members’ too!) would be Les Pierres Bordes, Marsanne-Viognier is an easy-drinking blend of Rhône varieties grown in the sunny Languedoc region of southern France. For reds, at the lower price point I always suggest opting for wines that are soft and fruity, such as the Spanish Sabina Tempranillo, which comes from Rioja’s neighbouring region, Navarra. Fuller in body and named after Bacchus, the Roman God of wine and celebration, Baccolo Appassimento is a lovely ripe red from the Veneto which gets its rich style from partial air-drying of the grapes; a little oak helps soften the texture too.

If you’re stretching to a slightly higher budget, then for whites, think Burgundy or Burgundy-esque wines, like the charming Pecorino Abruzzo from Contesa which regularly wins awards and garners many five-star reviews from fellow members. You might stay with Italy for reds too, and our rich Society’s Sicilian Reserve Red which is guaranteed to hit the spot and would be a good choice if you’re planning an equally rich red meat dish. For something a little more laid-back head to California and the Cline family’s Farmhouse Red which offers terrific value and easy charm.

The sparkling question

No celebration is complete without bubbles and here I favour the C’s, though cava and crémant rather than Champagne. Both of which are made by the same method of secondary fermentation in bottle but, for me can be more accessible as they are usually not as dry and are a little more fruit forward. The Society’s Cava Brut Reserva NV is made for us by the family firm of Sumarroca and is soft and easy to drink. The Society’s Celebration Crémant de Loire comes from Gratien and Meyer in Saumur and is not just appropriately dressed for special occasions but is equally refined on the palate. Bubbles with no troubles, in my book!

Finally, I always feel that the wine should merely complement the day and as the special couple you should be the ones receiving the compliments.

A selection of wines in this article

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