Wines Online has served many wedding couples and answered numerous wedding wines recommendation requests since 2003. Most of these relate to Chinese wedding banquets. You can find many online articles about choosing wedding wines, but there are actually some key differences between Chinese and western banquets that really affect wine selections. In this article, I will point them out and how you can go about picking the “right” wines.
Key Difference #1: 8 dishes (or more) on the menu
At a Chinese wedding dinner (or lunch), there are normally 8 courses served. Sometimes you may come across 9 or even 10 courses. There is the cold dish (appetiser), soup, prawns, roasted chicken, steamed or baked fish, vegetables such as broccoli or Chinese spinach with scallops or abalone, braised noodles or fried rice and a dessert. On the other hand, most Western banquets cover only 4 to 5 courses.
Unlike Western banquets, Chinese banquets typically do not pair each course with a special wine. Most venue operators in Singapore also don’t have the manpower or glassware to let you serve a different wine with each course. Therefore, you have to choose a limited selection to go with the whole banquet.
All the articles I came across suggest choosing wines that pair with the food. This is great for a normal meal but for a Chinese banquet, this is simply not true. The different menu items and cooking styles makes it impossible to find a wine that will pair with all the dishes. So, ignore what the articles say about food pairing. Don’t fret over whether the wine you chose will go well with the food. You simply can’t. How then do you choose the wine?
Key Difference #2: Unfamiliar palate
Most Chinese banquet guests are casual wine drinkers and are unfamiliar with wine. There are some connoisseurs but from my observation, most guests are relaxed about what they drink. It is important though that you appeal to the general taste buds by choosing a wine that is pleasant, easy to drink and delivers some power. Go for wines that have the following characteristics:
Rounded and fuller texture: Wine that fills the palate instead of being lean. Imagine full cream milk instead of skimmed milk. It will give a more luxurious mouth feel. For white wine, a Chardonnay may be more suitable than a Riesling. For red wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Merlot rather than a Pinot Noir or Barbera d’Alba.
“Sweeter” wine: Wine lovers may scoff at this, but the truth is that for most untrained palates, sweet is an instantly recognisable flavour. We find comfort in familiar things and the same goes for new experiences like drinking wine if you are the occasional drinker. A sweeter wine is more pleasant, and it distracts the drinker from the tannins (the element that makes the wine tastes rough, or as we Singaporean Chinese say “siap”) and gives a “shiok” feeling.
A warmer climate red wine from countries like Australia will be nice.
Key Difference #3: Light wine drinking culture
At the risk of offending other wine merchants, I feel that some of the estimates in the wedding wine recommendation articles are exaggerated. There is normally no need to go beyond 1.5 bottles per table of 10 persons. A bottle of wine pours between 6 and 8 glasses depending on the size of the glassware. At 6 glasses per bottle, 1.5 bottles per table means you serve 9 glasses at each table. In the Singapore context, wine drinking at Chinese wedding banquets is still quite light. Unless all your guests are heavy drinkers, there are 2 reasons why this is sufficient.
Firstly, half the adults at the table will drink wine and the other half won’t. This means for the guests who drink, they will ALL be drinking about 2 glasses per person. This is quite a tall order for casual drinkers. For weekday banquets and lunches, people generally drink even less.
Secondly, when our customers give us the expected attendance, like 40 tables of 10 people each, we will estimate that they need 60 bottles. In reality, these attendance figure includes children. In all banquets, despite the hosts’ best efforts in getting people to RSVP, there will be no shows. The children and “no shows” figures provide additional buffer against the heavy drinkers. These 2 factors are often overlooked and explains why a lot of couples end up with many left over bottles.
I hope this article helps you plan your wedding wine needs better. We have a couple of wines that are very popular with our wedding customers if you need a head start in choosing your wines. They are good value for money and suit local taste buds. Click WEDDING WINES to view them. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be happy to help you.