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wine selection for special dinner

I'm helping a family member with advice on the menu for a dinner they are hosting before the wedding day (aka "rehearsal dinner"). It will be a very special occasion.

The plan is to serve champagne during the first course of several appetizers, which will be somewhat spread out, to encourage adequate time for toasts.

Question: Is it important to pour the same champagne throughout the first course? Or would it be acceptable to pour a *name* champagne, e.g., Piper Heidsieck, Perrier Jouet or Taittinger, for the first toast and then a lesser-known blanc de blanc or maybe Prosecco for additional rounds? I guess technically speaking you would want to change glasses with the second pour, but let's assume that wouldn't be an option. So, I guess the question is whether it's better to just forego the *fancy* bottle and have a no-name French or Italian sparking wine for the appetizer portion of the meal.

Note: As there will be 50-60 people at the dinner, the cost difference between the two wines isn't trivial. Also, I suspect almost no one (but me and maybe 1-2 others) will even really notice what is being poured.

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  1. I had someone come into the store just the other day that was shopping for a Rehearsal Dinner.
    Depending on the food, you could get away with a Cremant or Prosecco and not have to worry about "fancy" bottles. That being said, if the "knowledgeable" people are sitting with the Bride & Groom or at one table, y'all could probably get way with having a disguised bottle of your favorite bubbles. Wrapping bottles in crisp, white napkins looks classy and can serve multiple purposes. : )
    I'd save the "name" Champagne for the Head Table at the reception as a special treat.

    8 Replies
    1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

      Great idea, BWS! Serve the fancy stuff to the Head Table (only), that's an interesting thought.

      The appetizer would consist of an assortment of small portions of shrimp cocktail, crab cakes and oysters Rockefeller. The restaurant offers a French blanc de blanc and Italian Prosecco for roughly the same price, which is about half the cost of the name-brand champagnes; they don't list a Cremant.

      1. re: uwsgrazer

        Totally depends on the producer but Blanc de Blancs is more neutral for food than Prosecco (in my opinion). But Prosecco tends to be more of a crowd-pleaser and cheap Prosecco is usually better than cheap Blanc de Blancs.

        1. re: goldangl95

          The choice would be Grandial Blanc de Blanc for $38 or Martini & Rossi Prosecco for $40. If it makes a difference the dinner will be held in August in Florida, so we are talking about hot weather conditions.

          1. re: uwsgrazer

            The Grandial is 100% Trebbiano (Ugni Blanc), so probably a step down from the Prosecco.

            1. re: uwsgrazer

              mmmm the M&R Prosecco is not up to snuff, imho. I am not familiar with the Blanc de Blanc.

              1. re: ChefJune

                The Grandial Blanc de Blancs is no great shakes either. $38 for a bottle of that calibre is astounding; I managed to get that back in Sydney for well around A$17, (including the Aussie tax on imported wines, and this was before the days of the strong Aussie dollar!).

                I agree with the others that you should keep it consistent throughout. However, if you are concerned about quality, is there a way that you can bring your own wine in by special arrangement, and let them charge you a corkage fee per bottle? You could also probably save a fair bit of money this way, especially if your wine dealer gives you a special rate for a bulk purchase.

              2. re: uwsgrazer

                It appears the Grandial is a rather unknown wine. The Martini & Rossi apparently is a screw top and therefore lacks in some carbonation. It also has a reputation for being decidedly mediocre. I don't think either are good options though at least the Prosecco is a known quantity.

                1. re: goldangl95

                  Most Proseccos are frizzante (lightly sparkling) rather than spumante (highly sparkling). That has nothing to do with the screw cap, Martini used to use Champagne-style corks.

                  Prosecco's not carbonated, per the DOC it's made with the Martinotti (Charmat) process, or for some DOCGs metodo classico (méthode champenoise).

        2. I was at a wedding a number of years ago where a dry sparkling Spanish wine was served, it was superb.

          1. IMO, Get a better Prosecco or Cava or Crémant or any other sparkling wine instead of a cheap Champagne.

            1. Thanks to all for the feedback. So it seems that the Blanc de Blanc and the Prosecco are out. Even though they are half the price of the champagnes, the value just isn't there.

              I like the idea of bringing our owns and paying a corkage fee. I'm not sure the host will go for it, and I'm also a bit concerned with all the wedding festivities, out-of-town guests, etc. it's one more stress that may not be worth it. In the event the plans somehow got disrupted, wine not delivered or delivered incorrectly, etc. I would feel terrible and at least partially responsible.

              So, how about Piper Heidsieck Brut at $68 or so per bottle. That doesn't seem to have as outrageous a markup as the less expensive sparkling wines. Any opinions on serving this champagne with the appetizers and during the toasts?

              2 Replies
              1. re: uwsgrazer

                Update: The restaurant won't allow us to bring our own wine; no corkage fee option. Too bad, it was a good idea

                1. re: uwsgrazer

                  The markup on the Martini is about 4X wholesale, the markup on the Piper Heidsieck is about 3X. So in that sense it's a better value.

                2. " Also, I suspect almost no one (but me and maybe 1-2 others) will even really notice what is being poured..."

                  Alot of your answer is right there. Why splurge on something almost nobody will appreciate?

                  Instead put that money on something they will appreciate, whatever that may be... a nicer dessert, a name-brand coffee service (or an espresso bar), an upgraded main course, some name beers for the beer drinkers in attendance... or just a nicer gift for the couple or keep it in your pocket.

                  Your group is not alone, there are many gatherings where the toasting ritual is what matters, not the bubbly itself... I once brought a nice French champagne to an annual reunion of high-school pals, I could just as well have brought bottles of bottom-shelf california fizzy, nobody cared but everyone loved raising a glass to the occasion.

                  1. 1. I strongly discourage trading down during the course of activities. Your second sparkler needs to be fuller than the first. Anything less will taste like water.

                    2. There is good value in Cremants. Maybe the restaurant will special order such you. I don't like the lesser choices at all.

                    3. Why do you have to keep pouring bubbly? It’s perfectly normal to switch to still wines with the meal.

                    1. For ANYONE who DOES notice, you (and the family member) come off looking like a cheapskate . . . VERY bad form. I would strongly advise against it.

                      Why can't you simply pour a Crémant de Bourgogne / Crémant d'Alsace / Prosecco / California sparkling wine for the event?

                      FWIW, we poured a Crémant d'Alsace at the rehearsal dinner to start, before moving on to Sancerre with the meal itself. For the wedding, we served an Alsatian Pinot Blanc and a Côtes-du-Rhône Vieilles Vignes with the meal, and served a méthode champenoise sparkling wine from the Santa Cruz Mountains (only 300 cases produced annually) for the wedding toast and appetizers.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: zin1953

                        Excellent choices, Jason!!!!