Romance and wine: Discovering the perfect bottle to celebrate your love

(written for the Los Altos Town Crier)

A carefully selected bottle of wine can convey more than a simple Valentine’s Day gift.

There are certain items intrinsically linked to Valentine’s Day – mushy cards, paper hearts, little velvet boxes, red roses, dark chocolate, Barry White’s voice and wine.
Of all of these, wine has something above the rest. That’s because wine boosts the appeal of every classically romantic gift out there. Even simple paper hearts laid on a table are elevated to utter romance when they surround a chilled bottle of champagne.
A well-chosen bottle of wine is more than just a present. It’s a statement of true understanding of your love’s desires. Trust the French to have a proverb that states it perfectly: “In water one sees one’s own face; but in wine one beholds the heart of another.”
This Valentine’s Day, suitors can impress by gifting a bottle that appeals to established preferences while introducing adventure into their love’s wine world, thus proving just how well he or she knows his or her partner’s heart. Plus, a bottle of wine is made for sharing. Glasses will clink. Feelings will be proclaimed. Romance will soar.


Cue the perfect hue for Cupid’s big night and red wine will be there. Whether it’s a cold night spent keeping warm indoors or a romantic meal out on the town, opening a bottle of red wine on Valentine’s Day is an act of passion.
If fruit-forward Cabernet Sauvignon makes your mate’s heart go pitter-patter, give a bottle of Carménère. Supple and full of berry flavors, this red-wine grape originally from Bordeaux is planted largely in Chile these days. Argentine Malbec is perhaps more readily available on local wine shelves and would equally appeal to big, bold red-wine enthusiasts. Include steak frites on your Valentine’s dinner menu to serve with a bottle of Chilean Carménère or Argentine Malbec, and you’ll look like a food and wine pairing pro.
For those who seek out California Pinot Noir, ignite a new flame of desire by giving a bottle of French Burgundy. Both are made with the Pinot Noir grape, but bottles from Burgundy are distinctly different from those produced in California. Your loves will have years of exploration to look forward to as they take their Pinot Noir affair international.
Syrah admirers will be besotted by other Rhone-style wines. Mourvedre is an earthy, pleasantly peppery and lushly deep dark fruit wine. Often used for blending or making Provencal Rosé wines, Mourvedre is stepping into the spotlight as a great-value red wine. Look for Mourvedre or its Spanish counterpart, Monastrell, and serve either with a Valentine’s lamb shank dinner.


Devotees of wines best served chilled have a wide array of new-to-them varietals to explore. Whether with bubbles or still, thoughtfully chosen and well-chilled wine will heat up your romance.
While the term “champagne” is used to refer to all wine with fizz, technically the sparkler must be from the Champagne region of France to be Champagne. Terminology aside, introducing an alternative sparkling wine to a lover of Champagne is sure to stoke the flames of love.
I recently began my flirtation with Germany’s sparkling wine, Sekt. Bubbly wine has long been produced in Germany, though quality could be questionable. In more recent years, impassioned winemakers are changing the reputation of Sekt, and those imported to the U.S. can be fantastic both in quality and affordability. Look for a bottle made with 100 percent Riesling grapes or a Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc blend.
Chardonnay continues to be the most popular white varietal in the U.S., and for good reason. Both the style in which producers make the wine (oak aged versus steel) and decisions around harvesting the grape (ripeness changes the profile) create a complex spectrum of options.
For those who swoon for the traditional oaky Chardonnays, bring home a Viognier or Marsanne. These full-bodied whites are lush with peach and mango attributes. Winemakers will age Viogniers and Marsannes in oak, too, adding vanilla aromas and creamy, rich flavors.
Torrontes will please your love if his or her wine leanings are toward un-oaked Chardonnay. Argentina-made Torrontes are lean wines with aromas fresh as a meadow of spring flowers. If Indian or Thai takeout is on your calendar this Feb. 14, Torrontes will really impress.
Gruner Veltiliner (a classically Austrian grape), Vermentino (of Italian descent) and Albarino (Spanish white) are three varietals that Sauvignon Blanc fanatics should have in their chillers. When it’s Sauvignon Blanc’s gooseberry attributes that give your love goosebumps, give a bottle of Gruner Veltliner. This zesty and light wine will make immediate friends with a cheese course or vegetarian main.
While Vermentino is an Italian grape varietal, the wine pairs supremely well with food-truck tacos for all those who look to organize a less traditional Valentine’s night out.
Albarino is often described as having an “of the sea” quality, making it a fabulous option for seafood this Valentine’s Day.
Once you’ve chosen the perfectly steamy card, hit one of the local wine shops or grocery stores with your list of varietals to sample, and make sure you’ve got some Barry White on your playlist.


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