Ask The Expert

How to choose your wedding wine - six beautiful budget-friendly tipples for the big day

Wine expert Raymond Blake demystifies the world of wine and chooses his top budget-friendly beverages.

I claim no knowledge of the stresses and anxieties associated with choosing a wedding dress but wouldn’t be surprised if it ranked No 1 in a league table of worries associated with the big day.

Choosing wines for that day may not rival it, but from experience my guess is that it is not far behind.

It doesn’t have to be so.


Certainly, it’s a topic that you should devote some time and effort to, but approach it as something to be enjoyed and not as an intimidating challenge.

Above all, what you want are wines with broad appeal.

I hesitate to use the term ‘crowd-pleaser’ – it carries serious pejorative baggage – but in truth that is what you are after. At other times I’m all for being adventurous in wine choices and I spend an inordinate amount of time seeking out little known gems that I then recommend with boyish enthusiasm. Your wedding day is not the time for those treats so avoid the quirky, left field number that yourself and future spouse have just discovered and are simply dying to share with all your guests. Perhaps serve it the night before if you are having a small dinner for the wedding party.

So, what you want is immediately appealing fruity, juicy flavours, not a wine that tastes sharp and mouth-puckering. Beware a wine that, “will taste much better with food,” it might, but you want something that tastes good on its own and with food.

Check also that you can buy the wines on a sale or return basis. And don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, you are showcasing the wines to a large number of potential future customers after all and probably to some guests who are making their own wedding plans and wondering which wines they should serve.


Wedding venues have a mixed record when it comes to corkage. Some simply don’t want you to bring your own wine so will quote a ludicrous fee when asked. Before you stomp off in a huff, check their function wine list – it may contain some attractive wines and be well worth sticking to. Either way, always make sure to ask the corkage question early on when checking out venues. And be ready to haggle.


If your budget can stretch to it there is nothing to beat the style and class of good Champagne but beware bargain basement stuff, it’s cheap for a reason and that reason is usually unripe, swinging acidity. The two sparkling recommendations here will not let you down.


Cocktails are big news again, many of them based on the great new Irish gins that are coming to the market. Why not work in conjunction with the barman at your wedding venue to come up with your very own ‘Wedding Cocktail’ to be served to guests as they arrive? Go easy on the spirits and heavy on the juices – you don’t want to be serving a knockout blow to your guests – or to your budget. If, however, creating your own cocktail sounds too much like work then stick to a classic such as the Bellini (Prosecco and peach juice).

Beer & cider

It is marvellous to witness the explosion of interest in craft beers and ciders, two drinks at which we excel here in Ireland. If your celebration is less formal (barbecue rather than sit-down four-course) beer and cider could be the way to go. For beer I would suggest the rich and full-bodied O’Hara’s Double IPA ( and for cider, the excellent Dalliance from Craigies is hard to beat (

And to eat…

As with your wine choices, now is not the time for adventure. The old adage: “White with fish, red with meat,” is a good starting point when determining food and wine matches. But you don’t have to be too rigid about it. A light red goes well with salmon, for instance, and the same goes for a white wine paired with a meat such as pork. Chicken, depending on how it is prepared and sauced, can go happily with either.

Raymond’s Recommendations – Wines


• Domaine Duffour, Côtes de Gascogne 2015, France, €11.45, (From O’Briens, nationwide) Delicious ripe fruit with a mild ping of citrus, lovely balance, leaves the palate fresh and tingling.

• Bellow’s Rock, Sauvignon Blanc 2015, South Africa, €14.95 (From O’Briens, nationwide) Refined and elegant with no harsh edges, a mild herbaceous whiff adds complexity.


• Exquisite Collection, Shiraz 2015, Australia, €8.49. (From Aldi, nationwide) Full-blooded, dark fruit flavours with hints of liquorice and spice. A true winter warmer.

• Porta 6, Vinho Regional Lisboa 2015, Portugal, €12.95. (From O’Briens, nationwide). The zany label is a winner and the wine is a juicy, fruity treat, smooth and very more-ish.


• Guerrieri Rizzardi, Prosecco Frizzante, Italy, €14.95 (From O’Briens, nationwide) ‘Frizzante’ means semi-sparkling. Ripe pear and tropical fruit flavours, crisp and clean.

• Bouvet Brut, Méthode Traditionnelle, France, €19.95, (From Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown, Co Dublin.) Elegant and refined. Ripe fruit with a whisper of sweetness gives it broad appeal. Super value.

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