Champagne or Sparkling Wine?

How to make the perfect choice for your wedding day

By Jiles Halling

Some people would say that a wedding’s not a wedding without champagne, but everyone has a budget to work with, so here are a few simple tips to make sure that you have exactly the wedding reception that you want, within the budget you have available.

Am I Bothered?

The first question is “How important is it to you that you serve champagne at your reception?”

If the answer is “ Not Very” then that’s fine – save your money for something that you want more.

Instead of champagne why not try one of the excellent sparkling wines from New Zealand or Australia?

Deutz, Lindauer, Montana are a few names from NZ that are worth trying, whilst from Australia look out for Jansz.

These will set you back around £12. You can pay more for sparkling wine but there’s no need to spend much more or you might as well buy champagne.

If it’s got to be champagne then here are a few tips on deciding which one…

If the reception is to be held at a hotel two issues crop up: limited choice of champagne and corkage charges

Hotels don’t usually have a wide range of champagnes, so if you are a champagne lover you may well be disappointed by the range of champagnes available to choose from.

Sure, you’ll have a big name brand on the list and this may be fine for you. You’ll also probably have a cheaper and lesser-known champagne on the list because the quality is (usually) satisfactory and the price is OK too, however the range may well be limited.

If you’re O.K. with this I’d still suggest that you tell the manager you’d like to taste the champagnes before you decide which to order for the reception. I think this is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask for; for a start you’ll be spending a lot of money on the reception so the least the venue can do is let you taste the champagne for your special wedding day.

If you want something special in the way of champagne, perhaps a brand that has special memories for you, then you’ll probably need to buy it yourself and take it to the venue and that’s when you come across the dreaded corkage charge.

This is the extra, hefty charge a venue makes on any wine brought in by a client to compensate for the fact that the venue is missing out on the profit they usually make on wine and champagne sales. Do check this out first – some venues won’t even let you bring in any of your own wines at all.

In my experience you’ll usually find that even after paying the corkage charge, it’s still cheaper to buy the champagne yourself and take it to the venue and then at least you drink exactly what you want to drink.

If you go down this route or if you’re holding the reception at home, you may already know exactly which champagne you want to serve, but if not, here are some tips to take the mystery out of champagne and help you make the perfect choice….

The Classics – you can’t really go wrong

If you expect to serve champagne throughout the reception, then a fairly full and fruity tasting champagne is a good idea because it appeals to almost everyone.

Nearly all major brands and most other brands too, are made with this in mind. They are a mixture of white and black grapes blended in varying proportions but always with the objective of pleasing a wide audience.

Another factor that almost all champagnes have in common is that they have about the same level of sweetness. You’ll find the word  brut on the label to indicate this, the most popular degree of sweetness.

If this is the style of champagne you want, then you can select with confidence from all of the brands you’re likely to find in a wine shop or on a wine list, in the reasonably safe knowledge that it won’t offend anyone.

A little more zing

If you’re serving just a glass, or perhaps two, of champagne as guests arrive, a light, aperitif-style champagne is ideal and for this a Blanc de Blancs champagne is perfect..

Blanc de Blancs champagnes are made 100 % with Chardonnay grapes and have a fresh, citrusy zing that makes for an ideal aperitif. These white grapes wake up your taste buds and prepare your palate for the meal to follow. So, if this is your preference look for the words Blanc de Blancs on the label

Cutting the cake and afterwards

If you just want to serve a glass of champagne to enjoy when the cake is cut then I really recommend the sweeter demi-sec style of champagne.

The wedding cake itself is sweet and rich so the dry, slightly acidic style of brutchampagne, just doesn’t go with it at all. Demi-sec champagne is a much better match. In fact after tasting the cake the champagne doesn’t seem sweet at all.

Demi-sec is also perfect if you want to carry on drinking champagne into the wee small hours, because it doesn’t have any of the astringency that brut can produce in your mouth after several glasses. If you ask most wine shops and wine merchants they’ll have at least one demi-sec.


Now that you’ve decided which champagne to choose, here are a few tips on serving and style that will be useful if you are holding the reception at home.


Contrary to popular usage, don’t have a tray of glasses ready, poured and waiting for the guests as they arrive. Instead pour the champagne in front of each guest as they arrive.

Why ?

Because part of the pleasure of champagne is seeing the bubbles froth up in the glass as it’s poured and a full glass standing on a tray for 10 minutes, or more, will warm up, start to loose a little of its fizz and not taste half as good as it should.

Adding a little style

If you have any more than about 6 guests, by the time they have drunk a glass or more each, then you’ll need several bottles so why not consider buying magnums (double bottles) instead of bottles?

For a start magnums look impressive, but more importantly they take longer to mature than bottles, and so the champagne is always richer and more full-flavoured.

A magnum will cost you slightly more than two seperate bottles, but for that extra bit of style they work wonders every time.


That’s it then – a few simple hints that will really make sure that whatever your budget and whether you are a champagne fan or not, your reception will be just the way you want it.

Copyright @ Jiles Halling 2010

All rights reserved

If you would like to be part of an exclusive community of champagne lovers, discover lots about champagne and get priority offers on amazing champagne deals, take a visit to

Jiles Halling spent 10 years living and working in Champagne and loves to share his unique knowledge of champagne with anyone who enjoys this wonderful drink. To read his regular blog, and to find out lots more, go to

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s