Some suggestions for Valentine’s Day wines including Cremant d’Alsace, Pedro Ximenez and several whose names reflect romance.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers January 26, 2011
Many centuries ago, Euripides noted the intimate relationship between wine and passion: “Where there is no wine, there is no love.”
The ancient Greek playwright undoubtedly was alluding to the aphrodisiacal qualities of wine’s myriad flavors. The choices for this Valentine’s Day include many wines that allow the full expression of this association along a broad range of styles. Here are some suggestions.
Sparkling wines, such as Champagne, are a classic way to celebrate love. Less expensive but equally pleasurable alternatives include Cremant d’Alsace. Made in France’s Alsace region that is noted for delightful dry white wines, these sparklers are created from Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, using the traditional method of secondary fermentation within the bottle.
The best are well-balanced and food friendly, such as the lemon-scented Jean-Baptiste Adam Cremant d’Alsace Brut NV ($23) that has crisp acidity, green apple and biscuit flavors. Other tasty choices include the creamy Francois Baur Cremant d’Alsace Reserve Brut NV ($20), with floral white fruit notes and a lengthy, lush finish, and the 100 percent Pinot Noir Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose NV ($23), with dried red berry, strawberry and cherry flavors on a nutty, slightly citrus frame.
Wines with labels that reflect romance are perfect for sharing with someone special. A non-sparkling Alsatian alternative for lovers is the 100 percent Pinot Blanc Hugel et Fils Cuvee Les Amours 2008 ($10.50/half bottle), which has tantalizing lemon, apple and pear flavors along with subtle minerality in the smooth finish. Chasing Venus 2010 ($16) is a classically flavored crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with bright gooseberry and tropical fruit flavors along with grassy notes and minerals in the finish; it works well with oysters and other shellfish. Made from Syrah grown in Chile’s Colchaqua Valley and adorned with a an image of Cupid is the lovely Montes Cherub Rose 2009 ($13) that has hints of pepper and spice accenting bright red cherry and strawberry flavors. The Folie a Deux Menage a Trois White 2008 ($12) is a blend of Chardonnay, Muscat and Chenin Blanc showing pear and tropical fruit on a citrus backbone.
From Napa’s “Castle of Love,” the full-bodied Castello di Amorosa Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay 2008 ($38), has rich tropical fruit, apple, fig and cantaloupe flavors with a spicy oaked finish, while the Castello di Amorisa Il Barone 2007 ($75) is deep and concentrated with toasted herb and cedar aromas leading into currants, licorice, dark cherries and black plums. Napa’s Terra Valentine Winery creates a number of enjoyable wines including the very approachable Terra Valentine Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($40), which is redolent of flowers and mint with soft toasty dark currants and earthy notes that is currently drinking beautifully. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, the Terra Valentine Marriage 2006 ($75) also is reaching its prime with spicy dark cherry, blackberry, chocolate and cinnamon flavors and a lengthy soft finish. Big and incredibly smooth, the Mollydooker McLaren Vale Carnival of Love Shiraz 2007 ($90) is quintessential Aussie, displaying layers of blueberries, spicy dark plums and cherries that blossom into a luxuriantly prolonged finish.
Matching wines with Valentine’s Day chocolates can be a challenge because the flavors can clash and leave a sour taste. One approach is to select a wine that is sweeter than the chocolate. A favorite pairing is creamy white chocolate with the sweet Spanish dessert sherry created from sun-dried Pedro Ximenez grapes such as the Valdespino Pedro Ximenez El Candado NV ($22), a rich, mouth-coating complex delight of raisins, figs, anise and molasses.