Choosing a wine for Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be so different from any other special occasion. That said, sparkling wine or Champagne is the ultimate celebratory beverage, and the obvious choice for romantic endeavors. It’s a no-brainer — you can’t go wrong by picking a quality Champagne, no matter how you choose to spend your Valentine’s Day. You can drink it as an aperitif, with appetizers, through the meal, and in the hot tub afterward (beyond that you can let your creative juices run wild with the possibilities).
Ideally, I recommend you spend the extra dough and get a “real” Champagne, meaning the bubbles from France. Why? Because first of all your lover is worth it. Secondly, the fact that you’ve chosen the “real stuff” makes the motion that much more special. Finally, the majority of French Champagne you find will have the versatility mentioned above — in fact most Champagne labeled as Brut will have enough structure and acidity to drink right through a main course. Some of the brands you can trust include Bollinger, Deutz, Laurent-Perrier, Pommery, Heidsieck & Monopole, Gosset, Mumm, Billecart-Salmon, Roederer, Veuve-Clicquot, Taittinger, Ruinart, Leroy, and Bellefon. Understand that the aforementioned list is a small sample of what’s available, and I provide them with the assumption you rarely purchase Champagne, offering some trustworthy names you will likely see on a wine list or in a retail shop. If you are a more advanced imbiber of bubbles, you may want to check out the Champagne and Sparkling Wines for New Year’s article.
If you’re only into sparkling wine as a pre-emptive quaff to dinner, then you might rather prefer a Prosecco or a Moscato d’Asti, which are fizzy wines from Italy that have just the slightest hint of sweetness — just enough to whet your palate and get you in the mood for a romantic dinner.
Foregoing Champagne as your dinner pairing, you should choose a wine just as you would normally — pick a wine that will go with the meal and both you and your partner will enjoy. The only difference comes with the budget; if you are the type of person who weighs the price of a wine as much as the vintage (don’t be ashamed, I’m guilty), then throw that sensibility out the window on Valentine’s Day — it is an evening for splurging, not counting pennies. One night of breaking the budget won’t destroy you, so go ahead and pick that wine you always wanted to try but could never justify the expense. If your date knows you well enough, the surprise of your careless spending will heighten the romance, and you’ll be paid back in spades later in the evening.
Still looking for something that just screams Valentine’s Day? Short of being corny, you have two more options: choose a pink / rose wine, or find a wine that has something “lovely” on the label.
There are two types of pink wines — dry and off-dry (sweet). If you are a regular wine drinker and enjoy dry whites and reds, you’ll be pleased to find that dry rose can be not only a refreshing aperitif but also very adaptable to a number of dishes. Some of the best rose wines in the world come from Spain and Portugal, and are fairly inexpensive. There are also good choices from France, particularly Tavel and Bandol. Regardless of the region, be sure to get a fresher vintage — ideally, a wine labeled within the last two years. Like most white wines, rose wines tend to fade quickly, and are most enjoyable young.
If you or your date drinks wine only on occasion, or finds most wines are too dry or bitter, but you still want to have something pink, there is always white zinfandel. Personally, I’m not fond of white zins, but I will recommend Pink Truck, which is a blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Zinfandel. Though it definitely has a sweet component, it also has good structure — medium acidity and mild tannins — that allow it to match well with food. It is a perfect pink for people who are weaning off cola with their meals, and for those who think Yellowtail is the best wine ever. In other words, a step up from white zinning.
Finally, should your choice be to be clever, you can choose a wine that actually says love on the label. One of my favorites is the Beaujolais Cru Saint-Amour … which literally translates to “saint love”. Being a Beaujolais, it should match well with a variety of foods, so will make a safe choice. Additionally, there is a line of wines from Tortoise Creek that are labeled “Les Amoureux” (the lovers). There are whites and reds and you’ll know them by the cartoon drawing of two lovey dovey turtles, one holding a bottle of wine, the other a glass.
Happy Valentine’s Day!