27 May 2013

Wine I've drunk this weekend

Since I've drunk lots of delicious wines this weekend, I thought I would take a break from wittering on about weddings and share them with you. Plus, one of my friends came round my house recently and complained that she'd been on my blog to try and find a wine I liked to bring round to supper, but couldn't find any. So, Caroline, this one is for you!

The long wine whiling weekend started with a visit to the only wine shop in the village, Salisbury's Cambridge Wine Stores. We originally went to get some Limoncello. But when they didn't have any, we ended up spending £70 on wine instead!

I love buying wine from proper wine shops. You get that extra bit of help from the staff who genuinely know about wine. Plus, there is usually a more varied selection of unique wines rather than the standard selection sold at many of the supermarkets. On Saturday, Cambridge Wines was full of middle aged men talking guff about wine. However, one of them have us a tip on a delicious Argentinian Malbec and he was not wrong!
Malbec from Argentinia

La Chamiza Malbec from Cambridge Wines

He recommended La Chamiza Polo Amateur 2012 Malbec. The bottle claimed that, many years ago, the Chamiza Estate was a land of polo horses. But now they grow wines that reflect the polo horse because it is generous, equilibrated and passionate. I'm not sure about all that, but it was delicious!

I think it cost us around £7 which we thought was pretty good value since it was so nice. It was quite a dark, purple wine and tasted of cherries and strawberries with a hint of mocha coffee. It was dry but also velvety smooth. We had it with curry, but would be a perfect wine to have with a burger or lamb steak on the BBQ. 

I've mentioned my brother on here before as he is a proper wine snob and he got me onto wine tasting. As a thank you for organising a recent ski trip, we bought him a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2004 Il Palazzone from Cambridge Wines. He keeps telling me I should upgrade on the wines for the wedding from Chianti Classico to a Brunello but the budget won't stretch yet (sorry, had to mention the wedding). The Queen had it at her wedding apparently, so if it was good enough for her...

We didn't drink the wine as it apparently will be better in a few years. So when he does try it, I'll let you know if it was worth it!

The same brother picked a wine from Dad's wine cellar to drink with our bank holiday BBQ. To say it is a cellar might be stretching the truth somewhat, however, he does have a selection of 30 or so wines under the stairs at his house. My brother picked a rather tasty Shiraz from Majestic with a slightly tasty price point! Dad thought he'd paid around £20 for it, but it looks as though it is currently retailing at £30.
Shiraz from Clare Valley

The McRae Wood Shiraz

As an Australian Shiraz, Jim Barry's The McRae Wood Shiraz from the Clare Valley is pretty full bodied. Bottled in 2004, the wine has spent a few months in oak and has a nice well rounded taste of fruit and spice as ell and lavender and liquorice. We had it with sausages and burgers but would be perfect with any red meat dish. Not the cheapest of wines but if you have a special occasion or want to impress someone, this would be a good choice.

A while ago, we went to the Wickham Vineyard which is near to Southampton in Hampshire. It's lovely there and I would definitely recommend a visit. It's about a 20 minute walk from Botley train station and set in beautiful countryside. You can do a little tasting, do an audio tour of the vineyard and buy local produce. Plus, they have a beautiful restaurant which has only recently opened that looks out over the vines.

Wine tasting at Wickham

Me wine tasting at Wickham Vineyard

We bought a bottle of Wickham Celebration Rose 2010 when we were there. We were saving it for when my friend Natalie came round. But she was too slow and it was drunk this weekend! The bottle claims it has "intense strawberry, raspberry and red currant flavours". However, I think it is more subtle than that description. It's actually a fairly, dry and light rose and not too sweet as some roses can be. 

You don't seem to be able to buy it via their website but maybe you can still buy it in the tasting room at the winery. I think it cost around £10 at the time. We enjoyed it with a Marks and Spencer Millionaire Shortbread biscuit but I think it would go with most things, maybe even a light pasta or chicken dish.
Wine tasting in Hampshire

The view from the restaurant at Wickham Vineyard

Also this weekend we enjoyed the following yummy wines all of which I would highly recommend:

So that was some of the wine I drank this Bank Holiday Weekend. Yes, I am off for a detox now. Someone bring me the Milk Thistle.

19 May 2013

How much does it cost to get married abroad?

Along with most couples, one of the first things we had to "talk about" was how much our wedding was going to cost us and whether we could afford what we wanted. There is lots of reading material about UK wedding costs, but as we are planning to get married in Italy, there was little about the costs of weddings abroad.

One of the reasons we decided to get married in Italy was to reduce costs. Lots of my friends had wonderful weddings but had spent a fortune and many of the articles we read about costs were initially really terrifying. 

Magazines such as Brides Magazine and You and Your Wedding have regular features which break down the cost of getting married. Showing everything from the average amount a couple pay on wedding clothing, rings and tiaras to costs of hiring a venue and going on a honeymoon. Even Mintel concludes that the cost of an average UK wedding is £21,000

My brother's wedding in Fiji

However, what we couldn't easily ascertain was what the costs of the whole wedding were versus the actual event itself. Let me explain what I mean. 

Assuming you're going to go down the white wedding route, many of the costs are the same whether you got married at home or away. For example, you'll still need to buy a dress, wedding ring, groom's men suits, engagement ring and wedding stationery. These will carry similar costs whether you got married in Richmond or Rome. 

What I was interested to learn was whether things like venue hire, florists, caterers and photographers costed more in Titchfield than in Tuscany. 

According to Bridal Magazine, the average cost of the actual wedding is £13,290. So this includes food, drink, venue, photographer, videographer, favours and entertainment. You and Your wedding puts this slightly lower at £11,460. 

Me at my brother's wedding in Fiji

However, according to Mintel, the costs reduce to £6,585 for weddings on foreign soils. But, it's difficult to get a like for like comparison for UK compared to abroad. This is because, in the main, couples don't tend to have the same types of weddings abroad as they do at home. And, one of the reasons that people choose to get married abroad is because they can keep it simpler, invite fewer people and keep the extras to a minimum.

Petals at my brother's Fijian wedding

For example, my brother got married in Fiji a few years ago and he specifically wanted something that was the opposite of a traditional wedding. Rather than a church, they got married on the beach at sunset and instead of a strict wedding schedule, the men sipped margaritas on the beach while the women wandered down a flower petaled path at their own pace. It was a lovely, relaxed day and absolutely what they both wanted, with only immediate family invited. 

Looking at the pricing schedules from Kuoni and Thomson, both seem to assume that this is the sort of foreign wedding most people want. Just a few guests and minimal pomp and ceremony. 

For example, the costs quoted to get married in Rome with Kuoni are from £2,794. This just includes the wedding coordinator, interpreter, bouquet, button hole and photographer. No party, no wedding breakfast, no band, no booze and no guests. Likewise, the standard costs from Thomson to get married in Sorrento are from £805. This does include a cake and sparkling wine for groom and bride, but nothing more.

The difficulty we have is that, although we are having fewer guests than we probably would have if we got married at home, we still (hopefully) have at least 40 people coming along and we still want a sit down meal with speeches, a band and lots and lots of wine. 

As we'd hired a wedding planner, we consulted with him about costs and how much we should budget for our wedding. What we soon discovered was that, realistically, if we are going to have many of the elements of a traditional wedding, the costs are going to be pretty much the same as what we would have paid in the UK. 

The only real savings are as follows:
- We are hiring our wedding venue for 5 days which represents far better value for money than just hiring a venue for a day
- Venues in Italy seem much more relaxed around things such as corkage and feeding children. As we are in our own villa, we can probably supplement the wedding drinks with our own and we can feed the children a picnic rather than a sit down meal
- As we plan to have our honeymoon in Italy, we are saving on separate flights and the wedding effectively will become part of the honeymoon. According to You and Your Wedding magazine, the average cost of a honeymoon is £4,073 without spending money. This is far higher an amount than we expect our costs to be  

Over the next few months, I'll be sharing with you how much we spend on our wedding in Italy and the true costs of getting married abroad. If you have any tips or advice, we would love to hear them.