Best Budget-Friendly Wines For Weddings

Top oenophiles share tips on choosing the best wine for your wedding festivities.

wine bottle with tags

    Photo Credit: Nick Brown Photography

Nowadays couples are more sophisticated about the wines they serve at their receptions and other wedding-related events. At the same time they’re concerned about costs. We asked some of the best experts in the industry for their tips on how to serve delicious wines—and stay within budget.

Ask about your venue’s bar policies 
Some venues will require you to order your wine through them. If you wish, see if you can order your own; often, you can save money by purchasing wine from another supplier. However, if your venue charges a corkage fee, you could be required to pay $10 or more per bottle. Try to negotiate this out of your contract at the get-go. If the venue requires that you use their wine—and it’s costly—see if you can negotiate for another good option at a lesser price.

Stay within your budget
John Dawson, wine consultant at Zachys Wine & Liquor in Scarsdale, NY, notes that many of the 2007 red wines from Tuscany, Italy, are outstanding and affordable. “I recommend wines like Chianti, Vino Noble de Montipulciano, Rosso de Montalcino and other ‘super Tuscan blends,’ made primarily from the red sangiovese grape,” he says. “Many of these come in under twenty dollars a bottle.” Michele Padberg of Vivac Winery in Taos, New Mexico, says, “The wine should be interesting and unique. A varietal that most people haven't heard of is a great conversation starter and gives you the ability to stay in budget." Taking a green approach also helps. “Using a local vintage gives your event a special touch—and it’s often cheaper,” Padberg says. But don’t deliberately go cheap on wine, Dawson advises. Ask your site manager or wine store consultant about mid-list vintages; these may be perfect choices for your bar for less money. No matter your price range, insist on quality.  

Understand the “point” system but don’t live by it
Wine Spectator, a magazine and website, has developed a widely accepted 100-point rating scale for wine. Padberg says, “Anything above 85 is supposed to be great, but in many people’s eyes it has to be over 90, which actually means you may be missing out on a lot of varied, beautiful wines. When it comes down to it, don't listen to the wine critics, listen to how you respond, if you like it, drink it!”

Consult your menu 
Key is to match the “body” of the wine to the food: big wine, bold food; light wine, lighter flavors. Having a backyard barbecue for your rehearsal dinner? Try a zesty red Rhône. Pair a chardonnay with a wedding-weekend clambake. According to Natalie MacLean, author of Red, White and Drunk All Over, A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass, seafood does well with a crisp, white verdicchio; chicken marsala with a red, like shiraz or zinfandel; a green salad with a bright chardonnay or muscadet (both white).

Consider your guests’ tastes 
How can you be sure you’re investing in wine that your guests will like? Dawson advises buying one bottle apiece of wines that interest you, and then holding a tasting with friends. “The consensus method works well,” he says, “because you’ll get a lot of varied input. However, the final judges should be the bride and groom.”

Expert Picks for Under $20
John Dawson, wine consultant at Zachys, offers his best affordable choices:


Sauvignon Blancs:

New Zealand: Box o' Birds, $16.99
New Sealand: Kim Crawford, $19.99
Italy: Giovanni Rosso, $19.99


Italy: Classico from Santerelli 2010, $13.99

Pinot Grigio

Italy: Sciarpa 2010, $11.99


France: Saint Veran "Les Monts" Roger Luquet, $15.99
Macon Villages Louis Chevallier 2009, $14.99
Argentina: Alfredo Roca Argentina 2009, $13,99
California: Finnegan's Lake 2009, $13.99
California: Foxglove 2009, $18.99


Light Bodied

Italy: Barbera d'Asti Berro Pico Maccario 2009, $9.50
Italy: Nero d'Avola Arancio 2009, $7.99
Italy: Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Sciarpa 2008, $9.99

Medium Bodied

Italy: Bere Tuscan Red Viticcio 2007, $15.99
Italy: Valpolicella Classico Vaona 2008, $12.99
France: Pasquet 2009 Bordeaux, $13.99
France: Cotes du Rhône St. Esprit Delas 2009, $13.99

Full Bodied

Italy: Sangiovese Toscano Tosco Poggio Salvi 2007, $19.99
Italy: Amore I Greppi Tuscan Blend of
Cabernet Savignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, $15.99
Italy: Montefalco Rosso-Fongoli 2007, $18.99
Italy: Neprica Tomaresco 2009, $10.99