Are you looking to add some extra sparkle to you big day with lovely champagne or fizz? Waitrose wine buyer Anne Jones gives her top tips on what to buy and how to choose.
On a champagne budget
However frugal or extravagant your wedding plans, there's a fizz to suit. It's worth considering whether your guests will ever see the label; if not, judge the liquid not the looks - the Waitrose Brut NV is exceptional value at £19.99. If your purse strings are too tight for champagne, a style called Crémant is made in a similar way but with gentler fizz, for example Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne (£13.99). cava is also hugely under-rated and improving in quality all the time, you can get great examples for under £10. If your guests are generally prosecco-lovers, you can save by choosing the Waitrose Bright and Fruity Sparkling (£6.49), which is made in exactly the same way from the same variety, but just outside the official region. Don't forget to look out for promotions and to factor in case discounts - including on mixed cases, so you can order all these suggestions to try in advance - an essential part of the planning!
If you want something pink
Pink fizz is an obvious choice for a traditional summer wedding, and it can also be a great way to be creative as well as save some money. If you want champagne, the Alexandre Bonnet Brut Rose is superb value at £26.99. However if the colour is more important to you than the fact that it's champagne, a great trick is to add a drop of fruit cordial to white sparkling wine, along with a fresh slice of strawberry or a raspberry - especially if you have caterers to do the pouring!
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To save for just the two of you
The most important person on your wedding day is you, so whatever you've served your guests make sure you have a bottle of something special for yourselves. Often the biggest brands are not necessarily the best, but some really are worth the money - my favourites are Bollinger and Pol Roger, as they are both in a relatively rich flavourful style. A great value vintage grand cru is Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs 2005 (£33.99) - made entirely from chardonnay, this is citrussy, refreshing and with fantastic depth of flavour.
To have with cake
Champagne generally isn't a good match with cake - it's too dry and so doesn’t help the flavours of either the fizz or the cake. Instead choose something soft and fruity such as the San Leo Asti (£9.99).
For a low-alcohol option
Prosecco usually has slightly lower alcohol than champagne or cava, but if you really want to pace yourself, the soft, fruity, slightly sweet style of Asti is only seven percent. Alternatively you can serve white wine spritzes - fill half a flute with white wine and top up with soda or sparkling water, and an ice cube to help keep your cool if it's a hot, sunny day – we can all hope!
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Which will age?
Fizz made in the 'traditional method' ages best. Other sparkling wines such as prosecco are designed to be drunk young, so will fade away before you get to the big day. Vintage champagnes will usually develop more depth and complexity with age, but some non-vintage champagnes are made with a proportion of older, 'reserve' wines, and so age brilliantly too.
If you want to buy British
You can keep it local by looking at our extensive range of local English sparkling wines on Waitrose Cellar. Many of these are only available in the stores closest to the vineyard, but when there's enough stock to share around, it will be available online, so keep an eye out for your local vineyards. Some of the more widely available English sparkling wines can rival good champagne for quality - Nyetimber Classic Cuvee (£31.99) looks stunning as an addition to the table and Ridgeview Merret Bloomsbury (£24.99) also has a very loyal following.
To mix in a champagne cocktail
First of all, do some experiments with your champagne cocktail to see if you really do need champagne. The Graham Beck sparkling wine (£13.99) from South Africa is made from the same grape varieties as champagne and is much lighter on your wallet - and having been used at celebrations by both Obama and Nelson Mandela, you're in good company.
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All-rounder for a champagne reception
While you might think that all champagnes taste alike, there are actually many styles to choose from. Blanc de Blancs are made from chardonnay grapes and are bright, zesty and citrussy. Blanc de Noirs are made only from the red-skinned Pinot grapes, and so tend to be richer and fruiter. Many NV blends are made from a mix of the two and it's worth trying to find one that isn't too far on either end of the scale to please as many people as possible and also look for one that has had more maturation than usual before release, or the use of a high proportion of reserve wines, adding character. The Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve (£29.99) fits the bill perfectly.
To view the full range of fizz available from Waitrose visit Waitrose Wine Cellar.