There comes a time in one’s life when it seems as though everyone else is getting married, and for me that happy chapter has now begun, perfectly timed to remind me that my twenties are soon to meet their demise. Over the past few months my close friends and relatives have been either getting married or declaring their engagements left, right and slightly off-centre, with even the most stalwart anti-nuptialist types starting to talk about ‘settling down’. Ignoring the fact that I’m still firmly and stubbornly ensconced in singledom (and thus have little interest in the planning stages, stag parties excepted) some have nevertheless deemed it appropriate to ask my advice on buying wine for their wedding reception. So I ask the obvious questions: What’s on the menu? How many guests? Am I one of them?
Now, as I’m sure many of my colleagues would confirm, this is where it gets tricky. For any wine lover, the desire to hit a flawless food match always seems to overrule any consideration of cost. In my case, a little knowledge invariably leads to demented ramblings about the recommended serving temperature of Beaujolais and the problems presented by profiteroles, with the typical result being a significant hike in the drinks budget. Unsurprisingly, this rarely goes down well with the soon-to-be-happy couple. The average cost of weddings here in the UK is at an all-time high, with some obscene figures being quoted for dresses, suits, venue hire, car hire, catering… when you add to this the fact that our record levels of alcohol duty have made truly cheap-and-cheerful wines all the more elusive, it’s no wonder my protestations of “treat your guests to something really special” tend to meet with disdain.
I should be making a much simpler recommendation: pop over to Wine & Beer World in France. Alcohol duty rates there are still almost laughably low, and for large wedding and event purchases in particular, the savings can be enormous. So much so, you can choose great quality wines the like of which would cost a lot more if bought in the UK, and still save hundreds of pounds. Our current offer on the excellent Yali Winemaker’s Selection wines at just £1.99 is the perfect example. Both are flavoursome, fruit-driven wines that punch well above their price, with enough savoury complexity to make them a pair of brilliant all-rounders and a cracking match for any wedding feast. There’s no excuse for scrimping on the bubbly, either, with Champagnes from just £11.99.
Plus, visiting France is possibly easier now than ever. Since the start of the year, Eurotunnel have returned to providing up to three Channel crossings per hour serving Calais and Coquelles, and there have been improvements in the daily timetable for ferry crossings from Ireland to Cherbourg. What’s more, after a shaky winter, Sterling has really started to regain its strength against the Euro, which looks set to restore Calais’ status as a bargain shopping destination.
Which is good news if, like me, you need another new hat…