Every wine writer dreads early February because we are expected to unabashedly pontificate about wines suitable for Valentine’s Day. Yes, that day is coming up, and I’m going to reveal the great secret about Valentine’s Day and wine: there is no secret.
The fact is wines that are good other days are good on Valentine’s Day and wines that are poor options the rest of the year are just as poor on February 14th. Is there a wine that will suddenly turn the head of the object of your affection? Hmmm, maybe: you could dazzle with your insight into your lover’s taste preferences, but shouldn’t you be doing that already?
Just as, when asked when to uncork a wine being saved for a special occasion, I tell people that just about any day is a special occasion. I will tell you also that Valentine’s Day is just like any other day: get a wine you and your partner enjoy. Seriously, it’s much harder to find someone you enjoy than it is to find a wine to enjoy with them. I think you’ll be amazed how good even a pedestrian wine tastes if you offer it as an opportunity to commune. Suddenly that wine that seemed a good vehicle to explore shared passions (like sauvignon blanc and goat cheese, rosé Champagne and aged Gruyère, pinot noir and salmon…) becomes a passionate encounter of its own.
I do feel honor-bound to offer some specific suggestions for you, however. Let’s call it a starting point to begin your own explorations, your own voyage of vinous discovery.
Château de Campuget is a rosé from the sprawling Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France. This wine won a gold medal at this year’s Best in Glass (full list of medal winners), it’s a shimmering pink color to fit our Valentine theme and it’s downright delicious. And it’s reasonably priced too – less than a box of drugstore chocolates and so much better.
Speaking of chocolates, the confectionary industry has done a great job leading us to connect love and affection with sweets. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to connect wine to sweets – sweet flavors in food will make a wine feel tarter, so you need to start out with a wine that is at least as sweet, and preferably sweeter, than what you are serving it with. Chocolate has the added, and equally problematic, component of being bitter as well. There are not a lot of wines that can stand up to sweet and bitter at the same time and I confess, I’m not a big fan of chocolate and wine together anyway – I like them both so much I want to savor them on their own. But if you do put them together, one option is the slightly sweet, slightly bitter sparkling wine from northern Italy called Brachetto d’Aqui. Zesty, with beguiling fragrances of black raspberry and violet, brachetto is just plain fun to drink. Some are better than others, so don’t just grab one off a shelf – ask a good wine merchant for some guidance. Cascina Fonda is a brand I’ve particularly enjoyed.
If red is the color of a Valentine heart, you may like it for your Valentine wine as well, and this might be the time to make a daring declaration by selecting something your Val-pal likely hasn’t had before. There were several “out of the mainstream” reds that earned gold medals at Best in Glass this year, including Cascina del Pozzo’s beautifully balanced Barbera, a red blend from Terra de Falanis in Montsant, Spain called Plic, Plic, Plic and a rich yet subtle shiraz (or syrah if you prefer) from Galil Mountain Winery in Israel. I am previewing all the gold medal wines, one a day, on the VeritageMiami Facebook page.
We’ve covered dessert and main course leaving us the opening salvo and what could be a better opening to a Valentine feast than oysters and Champagne? For oysters, you’ll want a bone-dry Champagne, and remember, Champagne comes from Champagne, France – it’s not just any sparkling wine. I like Pol Roger Pure, a Champagne as dry and flinty as a great Chablis.
If you like something a little less austere, try the Best in Glass gold medal winner Drappier, a very ripe and flavorful Champagne, or our silver medal winner, Champagne Canard-Duchène (BIG judge Phil Fuentes is already offering this on his wine list at The Dutch at the W South Beach). Canard-Duchène and Nicolas Feuillatte both make medal-winning rosé Champagnes that are beautiful with strawberries. Strawberries, rosé Champagne, romance….you can probably skip the main course and go right to dessert.