Whether you're planning a virtual or socially-distanced celebration, make sure to uncork a bottle of wine befitting of this important event.

By Nashia Baker
June 29, 2020
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Tying the knot is a cause for celebration, and serving the best signature sips during the reception is one way to get the party started. But as couples reassess their big-day plans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, their catering (and bar offerings) will likely have to shift, too. Whether you make things official with a Zoom wedding or throw a socially distanced affair with an intimate group of family members and friends, capping off the festivities with a toast is always a good idea. And if you're hosting a smaller group, you can get a little more creative with your beverage offerings, potentially offering pricier bottles of wine, pairings with dinner, or a more curated bar menu.

Here, we ask a caterer and wine expert for their advice on making the wine selection for your intimate nuptials. Read on for a comprehensive guide to toasting on a smaller scale.

Choose the wine with the best value for you.

First things first: The wine you serve should be based on your taste, and keeping the winemakers in mind can help you come to a decision, says Jessica Lasky of Jessica Lasky Catering. "The value of a wine is less about price and more often in that story—who the people are, why they make wine, why they chose the varietals that they did." Taste test a few different options to get a feel of what makes each bottle unique—and if all else fails, don't be afraid to try something new. "It's good to try new things," Jim Gerakaris, certified sommelier of JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery, says. "Don't be afraid to mention wines you have enjoyed in the past to wine shop advisors or sommeliers and ask for their suggestions about other wines you should try based on your personal taste."

Go with an all-around favorite.

If you can't decide on a new wine to try, consider a classic that a crowd is guaranteed to love. Gerakaris' pick? A 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30, wine.com) from the JUSTIN portfolio. "This wine is made with the same care as the highest quality, traditionally crafted Bordeaux styled wines, and is currently rated the number one luxury Cabernet Sauvignon in the nation," he says. "[It] spends more than a year in traditional small oak barrels to impart depth and complexity, highlighting the influence that the unique growing conditions of the Paso Robles region add to the classic Cabernet character."

Reds are also a favorite in Lasky's book—they are clean, full, and light, which makes them a nice choice for wedding festivities taking place during any season. "I gravitate towards more rustic varietals like Nero d'Avola from southern Italy or Nero di Troia from Puglia," she notes. "They are really great with food and also great to just drink when you're chatting and socializing so they can be served all afternoon and into evening."

Put a wine-based cocktail in the mix.

"We actually love softer-style cocktails," Lasky says. "We work at a lot of wineries and they do not allow hard spirits because of their permits and licenses, so we crafted a softer cocktail menu using ferments, shrubs, and other lighter style spirits—like vermouth or pisco." Another option is the ever-essential sangria. Gerakaris notes this refreshing beverage as a summertime staple that never goes out of style. You can also try a Kir, which is a blend of white wine and a splash of crème de cassis.

Make the big day special—virtually or in person.

As more newlyweds-to-be celebrate their big days over online ceremonies or with a small group of guests, love should still be in the air—and a bottle of wine can be just the thing you need to make the day a little more romantic and special. "I think that given folks aren't together and that Zoom has its intimacy challenges, it might be fun to try to go for some cool wines that have great labels that might make a visual impact on Zoom," Lasky says.

You can even consider shipping a bottle to guests to sip remotely while they stream the event. JUSTIN Wine Society is a wine club and offers 20% off bottles, which will come in handy if you're ordering large quantities. Martha Stewart Wine Co. and Wine.com are two other great resources for online wine ordering and shipping, making it even easier to share your favorite bottles with guests near and far.

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