Wine: Fit for a king

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You don't want your wedding tipples to leave a bad taste in your guests' mouths, so choose them wisely.

Champagne Mumm R Lalou Cuvee Prestige 1999 $360. Photo / Supplied
Champagne Mumm R Lalou Cuvee Prestige 1999 $360. Photo / Supplied

When Prince Charles and Lady Diana tied the knot the couple were toasted with top champagnes, such as Dom Perignon, Bollinger RD and Krug.

While it's not yet been revealed what Kate and Wills will be quaffing on their big day, it's sure to be something special - which should be the case at any wedding, regardless of budget.

Charles and Diana certainly drank like royalty at their nuptials, with 1969 Krug Grande Cuvee on the menu, along with 1961 Moet & Chandon Dom Perignon (selected for Diana's birth year) and 1973 Bollinger RD specially disgorged for the celebrations, according to reports.

French champagne is a traditional tipple at many weddings, regal or otherwise. However the forthcoming royal do could herald a change if a current Facebook campaign urging the royal couple to choose "English sparkling wine not French champagne" is successful.

Given the austerity of current times in Britain, a bit of support for their national bubbly appears an appropriate gesture.

It's one of the few styles of wine that Britain can do well in its chilly climes, although I wouldn't recommend many local reds to be inflicted on the happy couple and their guests.

A special panel of wine experts will have probably picked the bottles for Friday's festivities. Most brides and grooms, of course, choose for themselves what will be drunk at their wedding.

Selecting wines needn't be a headache though, in fact it can be made into something fun.

First, think about the food at the reception and work out what would suit what's being served.

If you're not confident in this area, speak to a good local wine store and see what they suggest. And if you're not sure how many bottles you're going to get through, it makes sense to buy through outlets which can often offer wines on a sale or return basis.

Consider crowd-pleasing styles that are particularly versatile, such as a lightly oaked chardonnay or drier pinot gris in the whites, and merlot and pinot noir in the reds. But of course it's the bride and groom's special day, so if they want something more eclectic, then they should feel free to go with their own preferences.

If you're having a big bash, wine bills can be similarly super-sized. If money is tight, some particularly sharp deals can be had online or even through independent retailers at present; the latter will often offer a discount on bulk buys.

Though I'd have loved to have been toasted with Krug from my vintage year at my own wedding, like most others, my own choices were curbed by my finances. However, if you're going to splash out on one wine at a wedding, it is nice to have some smart sparkling for the toast.

It needn't be Krug or even champagne, just decent bottles of bubbly, of which there's ample choice from our local producers.

As well as matching the tone of the occasion, a respectable sparkling will avoid embarrassing episodes, such as one that I experienced at the wedding of an old boyfriend, who served his guests a sweet, cheap carbonated shocker.

I was caught on camera wincing with my first mouthful, instead of smiling while toasting the happy pair, who I did genuinely wish well, while my current partner, who was no great fan of this particular ex, could be heard exclaiming, "trust him to serve bad wine at his own wedding" or slightly stronger words to that effect.

When it comes to choosing your final wines, this can be made into a convivial affair. It's good to try before you buy, and an enjoyable way to do this is by throwing a pre-wedding wine tasting party, where the bride, groom, parents, best man and bridesmaids get together to sample and select their favourites .

Krug may have not kept Charles and Di together, and hopefully their son's marriage will fare better, but good wine choices at a wedding are part of making it a day to be remembered for all the right reasons.

REGAL FIZZ

One champagne house has already cashed in to make a Prince William Champagne in time for the wedding. But for us serfs who don't have eponymous labels, here's some fabulous fizz for important occasions or to make any event feel a bit special.

CHARDONNAY-BASED BUBBLES
Aurum Central Otago Blanc de Blancs Methode Traditionelle NV $34.50
I was sad when this Franco-Kiwi winemaking combo stopped making its excellent chardonnay. However, the fruit from the former wine now goes to make an equally impressive methode traditionelle that's light and elegant, with fresh and vivacious green apple and citrus fruit. (From Artisan Fine Wines, Hamilton Wine Company, Cambridge Fine Wine Company.)

PICK OF THE PINKS
No 1 Family Estate Rose $44-$48
Sparkling rose goes hand in hand with romance. This is one of the country's finest with its gentle raspberry and strawberry fruit, vibrant citrus and mineral and subtle savoury nuances. (From Glengarry, Fine Wine Delivery Company, selected branches of New World.)

PRESTIGE DÉBUT
Champagne Mumm R Lalou Cuvee Prestige 1999 $360
The price tag of this prestige cuvee may mean it's best kept for the bride and groom's personal enjoyment, but if you're looking for something that will rise to a very special occasion this stunning new release will not fall flat.

This recently revived label - the 1999 vintage is the first to be brought into New Zealand - was once highly prized by champagne lovers until it was discontinued by its previous owners.

Now under Pernod Ricard and the guidance of chef de Cave Didier Mariotti - who was in New Zealand this month to launch the cuvee - the whole house of Mumm has been given a quality makeover, with the Cuvee R Lalou re-established as its crowning glory.

Made from Grand Cru vineyards, some of which boast vines dating back to 1928, this 50/50 blend of chardonnay and pinot noir has spent 10 years on its yeast lees gaining complexity.

The result is a top-notch champagne, made in a drier style than many, which combines the green apple, white flower, citrus and intense mineral notes of the chardonnay with the weight and savoury depth delivered by the pinot.

Mumm is one of a handful of champagne houses with a royal warrant to supply the British monarchy with their bubbly, but the palace and the producers are staying mum about exactly what the royal couple will be imbibing.

(With just 40 cases available to the New Zealand market, limited supplies are available from a few fine wine retailers including Peter Maude and First Glass.)

Update: It's now been announced that the champagne being poured at the royal wedding is Pol Roger.

- NZ Herald

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