Don’t stick with what the caterer has to offer if you want your ceremony to go with some fizz, writes Christine Austin.
I suppose I should have looked where I was going, but rushing down the street, turning into my building to quickly drop off some shopping and head out to the (ice) hockey game, I turned a fraction too soon and tripped over the kerbstones around the garden. Base over apex, head over heels, I flew through the air, landing heavily on one arm which now lies useless on my lap, wrapped up like a Christmas turkey, and about the same size.
This is why, if you missed me at Fodder in Harrogate last Thursday or planned to see me at the Malton Food Lovers Fair today, I won’t be there. Driving is impossible and even opening a wine bottle is beyond my capabilities. So apologies, I’ll be back on the circuit as soon as possible.
Meanwhile I must admit that I am not a regular ice hockey supporter, but instead of rushing to watch the Sheffield Steelers, I was in Vancouver at the time. The Vancouver Canucks were due to meet the San Jose Sharks and while I missed the game, the local team lost, so we both had a miserable time.
But this is a wine column – so what on earth has my injury to do with wine? I was actually visiting Vancouver for the Bridal Shower of my future Canadian daughter-in-law. No, I didn’t know what a Bridal Shower was which is why I had flown nine hours across the Atlantic to find out. I discovered that this is a mid-afternoon, all-female gathering of friends and relatives hosted by the bride’s mother where everyone says nice things about the bride and there are games such as making a wedding dress from rolls of loo paper. Admittedly, for those of us brought up with typical English reserve this sounds rather bizarre, but it is a great way to get to know the guests who will all be pitching up at the wedding in a few weeks’ time. There are also presents, which doubles up the gift quota for the happy couple.
With food and wine available, this event also provided a great opportunity to taste some of the wines planned for the big day. This is a vital part of the planning for any wedding so if your family is about to experience this kind of big event, with or without a Bridal Shower, then you need to select the wines in advance and make sure they are food and family-friendly.
These days there are just as many brides sweeping down medieval halls and hotel staircases as country churches. Wherever your event takes place, try to make sure you are not locked into the dreary, expensive selection provided by your caterer even if you have to pay corkage for bringing your own wine.
Once the ceremony is over, everyone is not only starving, having neglected to eat since breakfast but they are thirsty too. Photographs are an important part of the occasion for the happy couple, but try not to leave your guests with rumbling stomachs while the bride and groom strike romantic poses by every local monument and lake. It is a good idea to provide canapés and a selection of wine and non-alcoholic cocktails to bridge that gap, which will avoid a stampede to the buffet later.
Any collection of distant relatives needs a good fizz to get the party started so head for the light floral notes in a good Prosecco such as Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore (£9.99). This has gentle floral aromas with apricot and citrus fruit and it will accompany all kinds of canapés until the bride and groom have finished their photography session.
This Prosecco is only a shade sweeter than most champagnes so you could pour it throughout the meal. It also comes in magnum-sized bottles (£19.99) which is a sensible size for a large gathering.
Slightly drier, with apple freshness and a soft, nutty complexity, Cloudy Bay Pelorus from New Zealand would be perfect to pour throughout the reception (£15.99 on multibuy from Majestic until 10 June). For just 50p more per botttle (until May 21) you could pour Sainsbury’s Blanc de Noirs champagne which has a rounded, toasty brioche character or try the lighter, fresher, more citrusy style of Sainsbury Blanc de Blancs (£16.86 until May 21).
Sheffield merchant Le Bon Vin (www.lebonvin.co.uk) often has the best prices on champagne, although the top deal at present is on Veuve Clicquot Which is a lovely wine, although not particularly suited to a wedding. Often known as “The Widow” after the widow Clicquot who ran the company so successfully after her husband’s early demise, the bright orange label is an unnecessary distraction on such a happy day. Instead head for Taittinger Brut Réserve (£35 on multibuy down from £40, Majestic until June 10) for its elegant fruit and long, toasty finish.
With food you should offer a choice of red or white wine and Marks and Spencer’s new Italian range could provide some excellent whites. Try M&S Vermentino di Sardegna 2012 (£7.49) for soft, ripe pear and citrus notes which will happily accompany the usual salmon and chicken dishes. Among the reds, a sure-fire favourite is Guigal’s Côtes du Rhône 2010 (down to £9.99 on multibuy at Majestic) for its ripe, plummy, spice-edged fruit.
Whoever is paying the bills for the wedding will probably wonder whether it is worthwhile nipping over the France to stock up with wine. Undoubtedly there are some serious savings to be made on duty and VAT although you should carry something to prove that you are buying for a wedding to avoid too many questions.
Take enough time to buy a few sample bottles and try them before you buy. Alternatively head to Majestic in Calais or Cherbourg where the savings are transparent and the range is familiar (www.majesticinfrance.co.uk).
And our choice of wines? Well for the marriage of a lovely Canadian girl to our equally nice English son there has to be a careful selection, so there will be wines from British Columbia all the way through the reception – but for the toasts there will be one of England’s finest sparkling wines in the glass. Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé Brut from Cornwall (£26.95, direct from the vineyard www.camelvalley.com) is being specially exported to Vancouver for the occasion.
And I am promised that the cast on my arm will be off by the big day. I really hope so, and I will be a lot more careful when walking about in future. Buying a hat with one arm out of action is proving somewhat of a challenge.