Pressure, what pressure? I’m getting married this week and I’ve been agonising over the wines for the wedding lunch and party for months. If you write about booze for a living, your family, in-laws and friends (several of whom are also colleagues) expect you to pour something decent. But what exactly? I’ve changed the line-up 10 times in as many weeks, fretting endlessly about the right combination. People who appear on Desert Island Discs must experience similar headaches picking songs.
With a few days to go, I’ve finally made my choice, and it is unashamedly Francophile. I studied French at university, have lived there three times at different points in my life, and nearly always turn to French wines at moments of celebration or epiphany, the way Miles opens his special bottle of Cheval Blanc at the end of the film Sideways. Of the nine wines I’ve picked for the day-and-a-half of matrimonial festivities, seven are French.
The only interlopers are a Portuguese red and a South African sticky, the latter because my fiancée is from Johannesburg and she’s threatened to thump me if I don’t pour something from her home country.
Rather than match the wines to the food, as I suspect most people do, I’ve picked the lunch menu to partner the wines. I concede that I’ve been a little extravagant, but most of the bottles have been sitting in my cellar for a while and cost me less when I bought them than they would do now. And if you can’t open great bottles of wine on your wedding day, when can you? It is not a day for Pinot Grigio.
We’re going to start with a magnum or two of 1993 Lanson Champagne (not available retail), which I won as part of a Lanson Award in 1999. The house’s wines take a long time to come round, but this should be delicious now after 15-plus years of bottle age. The two white wines are the bone dry, minerally 2002 Trimbach Riesling d’Alsace, Cuvée Frédéric Emile (£26, 12.5%, The Wine Society, thewinesociety.com), although I did consider a sweeter Mosel Riesling; the second is the richer, oakier, yet beautifully focused 2006 Joseph Drouhin, Beaune Clos des Mouches (£55, 13.5%, Waitrose Wine Direct). It is quite young, but opens up nicely in a decanter.
The reds, one from Burgundy and the other from Bordeaux, are the silky, fragrant 2004 Beaune Premier Cru, Clos du Roi, Joseph Boillot (£39.95, Swig, 0800 027 2272; swig.co.uk) and the 1989 Château Léoville-Barton, St Julien (£83.30, 13%, Farr Vintners, 020 7821 2000), a mature, complex claret from one of my favourite people in the wine business, Anthony Barton. Before I head off for a snooze, the lunch will finish with the honeyed, intense, grapey 2004 Klein Constantia, Vin de Constance (£29 per 50cl, 14%, The Wine Society; The Sampler, thesampler.co.uk), one of the world’s great historic sweet wines.
To my bank manager’s relief, the booze I’ve bought for the party the next night is considerably cheaper. We’ve taken the decision to pour Champagne rather than a sparkling wine, but the one I’ve picked – the elegant, refined Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut (£24.50, 12%, Adnams, adnams.co.uk) – is comparatively inexpensive and one of my favourite all Chardonnay bubblies. When that runs out, as I’m sure it will with Oz Clarke around, we’ll switch to a white and a red: the refreshing, honeysuckle-scented 2008 Paul Mas Estate Marsanne, Vin de Pays d’Oc (£7.99, 13.5%, Majestic) from the Languedoc, and the juicy, blackberryish, refreshing 2005 Peña de Pato, Dão (£6.99, 13.5%, Majestic) from Portugal. Both are unusual choices from regions that I love. Should keep the wine writers guessing …
I don’t expect you to buy the Léoville-Barton to join the celebrations, but if you feel like raising a glass of Marsanne or Dão on Friday night to celebrate the happiest week of my life, I’d be chuffed.
Originally published in The Observer