Decantress advises a reader with wine-savvy wedding guests.

By Carson Demmond
Updated May 24, 2017
Wine Science
Credit: © Kara Pyle

Dear Decantress,My fiancée and I are stressing over what wines to serve at our wedding. Most of our guests are like we are—not terribly educated about wine. But one couple we're inviting are very into wine, and know a lot about it. Who do we cater to? Do you scale up to try to really impress the oenophiles, or do we basically serve what we'd drink normally, which is... whatever we have on the shelf? –Wine-worried

Hi Worried,

You don’t have to be educated about wine to have an opinion about how something tastes. That bad wines are served at weddings is so old a trope I believe entire stand-up acts have been built around the concept. Or if they haven’t, they probably should. Oftentimes, I’ll skip wine entirely and opt for one of two safe and comfortable choices: gin & tonic or bourbon on the rocks. Unfortunately, that means my chances of getting completely schnockered go up by a couple percentage points. It also might account for why I’m such an awesome dancer.

That’s not to add further stress to your planning process; it’s just to say—nobody expects great wine at a wedding. So you can cross trying to “really impress” off your list. We all understand that when your guest count clocks in at over 100 people, the per-bottle amount you’re able to spend is significantly impacted. I’ve known couples who opted for a small wedding party specifically because they wanted to drink well. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are super cheap wines out there that also happen to taste great. A few categories for which that’s most likely to be true are: (for white) Muscadet, Vinho Verde, generic Grüner Veltliner, and Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, (for red) entry-level Côtes-du-Rhône, anything from the Languedoc, certain Portuguese and Spanish wines, and basic Chianti.

Depending on your venue, you may not be able to choose between any and every wine available on the market. Many places will provide a short list of wines they keep in stock in quantities great enough to accommodate large events, like weddings. If you’re truly concerned about the one couple that will care about what wine they’re drinking, why not just ask their opinion? Say, “Here are the 5 or so wines we can afford for a group of our size, which of these would you choose?” Chances are, they’ll be more than willing to help out by offering their two cents. It’s your big day, after all, not theirs.

Have a wine situation? Send your questions to Food & Wine's Decantress at