Some Romantic wine suggestions.
By Louis Marmon
Washington Jewish Week February 5, 2004
Wine, like love, is a deeply personal affair. One may be attracted to a particular style, taste, or appearance that someone else would find less appealing. For a romantic dinner, it is best to select wines that you both will enjoy and there are several approaches to make sure the wines express your affections.
If your dinner partner is very visual, consider choosing a wine with love on the label, perhaps a bottle of Chateau Calon-Segur which has a large, round heart. A kosher red wine, the Roberto Cohen Saint Amour (2001) is delicate but balanced with slightly spicy plum flavors. Other possibilities include the silky-smooth burgundy Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses that is known for its subtle cherry and berry taste or the Hugel Pinot Blanc Cuvee Les Amours (2001) a dry white wine with apple and citrus flavors that is excellent with fish.
Champagne remains the classic wine for romance. True Champagne is produced only from a region of 85,000 acres in France near Epernay and Reims. It is made from just three types of grapes, chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier and the characteristic bubbles are due to a second fermentation step that traps carbon dioxide in the bottles. There are three main types; “Blanc de blanc” made entirely from chardonnay grapes, “Blanc de noirs” made entirely from red grapes and “Rose” which can be made by allowing the wine to sit in contact with pinot noir skins for a short while, or by adding pinot noir wine into the Champagne before the secondary fermentation. Try the Montaudon Brut Grande Rose, a Rose champagne with a strawberry nose and cinnamon and ginger flavors or the more citrus tasting Laurent-Perrier Brut.
There are many other sparkling wines made around the world that are excellent values. From California the Domaine Carneros Brut (2000) has cherry and ginger flavors while the Chandon Blanc de Noirs has a nice, well-balanced apricot and strawberry taste. Some kosher choices include the Israeli-made Yarden Blanc de Blancs, the Abarbanel Cremant d’Alsace produced in France and the California grown Hagafen Brut.
Or you can choose a wine that will complement the dinner menu. Red, the color of passion, offers the most versatility with rich foods. With meat or veal try the Lehmann Mentor (1996), a Cabernet sauvignon based blend that has licorice, currant, mint and plum flavors. Milton Park Shiraz (2002), an Australian wine described by my wife as “warm and cuddly” has licorice, blackberry and cassis notes and would also work well with hearty dishes. An interesting winery is owned by Chaim and Elisheva Gur-Areh, Israelis that now live in California. He is the inventor of several food products including Cap’n Crunch cereal and their di Arie Zinfandel (2001) is wonderful with deep berry flavors and the characteristic spiciness of a California Zinfandel. Some kosher choices include the excellent Baron Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley (1998) also from California, that has blackberry, currant and cranberry flavors, the Israel produced Tishbi Merlot Special Reserve (1998) which has a toasty, cherry and berry taste and the Yarden Mount Hermon Red (2001) a blend that has a blackpepper, spicy taste that would work well with Mediterranean dishes. Two good values are the Step Road Shiraz (2000) that is moderately spicy with notes of raspberries and cherries and the Finca Soberno Reserva (1999) a bold Spanish wine made from tempranillo grapes with a nice balance of cherry flavors, spice and new oak.
For white wine lovers the Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay (2000) is a full, lush wine that rivals a grand cru Burgundy possessing flavors of pears, oranges and butter. Pinot Grigio is one of the most popular imported white wines and the Cortenova Pinot Grigio delle Venezie (2000) has soft fresh fruits and a clean smooth finish. Two kosher choices are the Bartenura Pinot Grigio (2001) which is drier or the slightly fruitier Dalton Sauvignon Blanc Reserve (2002).
Dessert wines are the perfect finish to a romantic meal. They come in many styles and are produced in three basic ways. The first is by concentrating the natural sugar content either by air drying, by removing frozen water from the grapes after they have been allowed to freeze on the vine or by allowing a fungus (Botrytis cinerea) to desiccate the grapes and impart a honey-like flavor. The second is to add a neutral spirit such as grape brandy to stop the fermentation while there is still a high amount of natural sugar and the third is a complex method of fractional blending called “solera”. To complement dessert, consider the R.L. Buller and Son Fine Tokay a delightful blend with mouth-filling orange and creme carmel flavors or the Chambers Rosewood Muscat that tastes of molasses, brown sugar and raisins. A kosher choice would be the Yarden Dessert Wine which has notes of spicy dried fruits and oranges.