The Grape Question By Lauren Steventon
The Luxury Channel meets Eminent Wines’ Hans Vandeputte.
Hans Vandeputte, Viticulturist and consultant at Eminent Wines, shares his secrets for selecting the perfect wines for your wedding.
If you want to have the perfect wedding, the secret is to find a wine professional that will help and guide you. I have done events where I have chosen the wine and people did mention it, they remember it, and they enjoy themselves. For me, that’s a job done. So, if you really want to get it right, then it is good to have a professional. But, if not, it is always a sensible idea to play safe bets – meaning France, Italy, maybe Spain. I wouldn’t go adventuring. Generally the safest bet is France, because most people know the wines. So for your reds, think Bordeaux; for white, the Loire Valley. If you are a new world person, then New Zealand is good for whites, and Argentina or Chile for red.
It’s always difficult to pair the wine with the menu as it all depends on the people and the choices. If you have a simple menu with starter, main course and dessert, then you can accompany the starter with white, maybe the main will be a red – but you want to have a choice of a different white, because certain people don’t drink red – and then for dessert usually ladies will stay with white. So generally you want a starter white, then a white and a red for main course. Even if the main course is meat, some people want to stay on white. Similarly, if you have fish as a main course, you don’t necessarily have to stay white, I would offer also a red wine. Lots of people, me including, will drink a red wine with fish.
The old rules do not apply so much any more. We have such a diverse choice of different styles of cuisine, including marriages of different world cuisines that it becomes complicated to actually nail down cemented pairings. Lots of wines now are also made just to drink, not necessarily to have with a big meal, maybe instead to drink with small nibbles, or sort of tapas style food. The culture of dining has changed and has opened itself up. So, when it comes to weddings, there is a bit more attention needed to be paid to choosing wines to accompany the menu, and, as we now have the whole new world making pretty good wines, the choice is immense. Generally, it’s always good to give people choices, maybe two whites and two reds.
Champagne is another big part of a wedding, and choosing the right champagne is just as important. You have the big commercial champagnes: Moet et Chandon, Veuve Cliquot, Ruinart, Mercier, Mumm, Laurent Perrier. They are the big powerhouses of champagne. Each try to create a different style. In general, there are a few houses that base their champagnes on a kind of more aperitif champagnes, other brands will more have a party champagne to just pop and drink and enjoy – for example Moet et Chandon. Then you have the craftsmen, which really have create the champagne, which is also designed to go with food.
I would say, for a safe bet, go for the big brands. The best champagne house, where you cannot go wrong across the hole spectrum is Bollinger. For good craftsmanship, I would say Jacques Selosse and Egly-Ouriet. If you are a connoisseur in champagne you should know them, and if not you should try them, they absolutely make it out of the hearts. They are small production, but they are beautiful.
Also – don’t forget sweet wine. It is an interesting one, because generally people go for champagne, white red, and then when it comes to the end they say, “oh no, we are not doing sweet wines”. It all depends. I think it is always good to end with a sweet wine, or a fortified wine for your dessert. There is a beautiful Rivesaltes from the Rousillon region. It is a dessert wine, but it is a bit more towards your leather, your plums, really soaked in alcohol for a while, much more dense and almost just between Port and wine. It goes wonderfully with black forest style or really chocolaty desserts. From Bordeaux you will get your sweet Sauternes. They are very popular with fruit tart or meringue. Then you have also your German ice wines. They are beautifully crafted wines which you can have with more sorbet-like ice cream-like dishes. Then, for something different, you have your dessert wines from America, based on herbs and fruit. They let indigenous herbs from the terroir, such as rosemary or thyme, marinate into the wine. It is very nice, but hard to find in Europe as it is a very small production. New Zealand and Australia also do their dessert wines. Some will be more based on Bordeaux, Sauterne style, others will try and find a more individual style. But I would say yes, go for dessert it helps with digesting. Maybe at the end even have an Armagnac or a cognac with a big cigar – why not!
The two things that make a good wine are the terroir and the winemaker. How he studies the wine, how he wants to create a wine. It’s pretty much one person, the winemaker, and the soil you’re standing on. If you work that one well, that will make you an excellent wine.
It’s difficult to choose my favourite wine. Pomerol or Saint Emmillion from Bordeaux, they are amazing wines, then you have the super Tuscans, some in Piedmont in Italy – mind-blowing. You have a few in Spain that will blow your head off. Portugal – people forget about it, but these guys are making beautiful wines, they are beginning to be known and export more. Of course, a few Australians, or even America, regardless of what people think, have some of the most absolutely astonishing wines – but they are staying in the country. Some big domains from Bordeaux settled themselves in Chile and Argentina, but it will take some time. Old world still rules, and probably will for a long time. I am not pro-French or pro-Italian, I like the product.
If people want to learn more about wine they should contact Eminent Wines. We do private tastings, with or without food, we have private sommeliers, maintain wine cellars – even organise wine tourism or investment.