Saturday, February 9, 2013

Valentine's Day Wines for Romance

Now that the sandstorms have cleared, romance is back in the air. It's Valentine's Week, time to unleash love-laced scents with every swirl, and savor sips of wines built for love.
Here are Valentine's Day wine picks to get your juices flowing. Let the swooning begin!

While Champagne makes a fine traditional choice, sparklers that let loose with exotic aromas are sure to get you in the mood for love. Say amore with an Italian Moscato, whether a fine-fizz frizzante or full-sparkling spumante. Don't be put off by some of the mass-production stuff you may have glugged down during the Moscato mania of the past few years. The real deal from Piedmont is perfumy with orange blossom aromas and a peachy palate that's bellissima.

If slightly sweet isn't your thing, try a brut rosé sparkler. We like Mirabelle by Northern California's Schramsberg, a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Made in the traditional method perfected in Champagne, France, Mirabelle is beautiful to look at and bursting with fresh, red-fruited flavor. This dry, perky rosé goes with a wide range of foods, from pizza for casual lovebirds to chicken and fish. 

Want to pull out all stops this Valentine's? Match a grower's Champagne to a free-spirited lover, or make your stylista smile with a designer label such as Krug or Tattinger.  

All pretty in pink, rosé is springtime love in a glass, even in the dead of winter. Rosé rocks romance, and comes in a range of styles from around the world. As a wine for pairing up and down the menu, it has few competitors. Rosé can sail along with a variety of small plates or tackle a range of adventurous main dishes. Best of all, rosé leaves your palate feeling refreshed and ready for more – perhaps a few after-dinner smooches. Beyond reliable rosés from southern France, get frisky with rosés made from your favorite red wine grapes. Oregon rosés of Pinot Noir are as seductive as you might expect from that grape while Malbec from Argentina makes a deeply colored rosé that delivers full-throated fruity indulgence.

Even though a glass of white wine doesn't have that come-hither look you get from a glass of red, some whites have the flower power to seduce. Go with aromatic Viognier, whether a French homey from Condrieu or a Central Coast beauty from Calera, Wild Horse or Jaffurs. Go down under with an apricot-scented Viognier from Australia's Tahbilk or Yalumba, or head south of the border to tango with Torrontés from Argentina. She might not even miss the flowers you forgot to order. Well, maybe not.  

If you've gotten this far, you probably agree that reds are made for romance. And they are, especially reds that are soft on tannins yet big on aromatics and mouthfeel. Save the puckering for later and go with a plush Valpolicella made in the ripasso style. Zenato makes one that's creamy and exotic, while Allegrini's effort in Argentina, Enamore, is made to do just that. Other reds that reel in the sirens' call are Syrah (count on Washington, Central Coast, northern Rhone, South Africa and Australia), pricier Pinots (Shea, Bergstrom and Ayoub are consistent winners) and Argentine Malbec. With the latter, spend a bit more than you're used to spending for Malbec to indulge in a sinfully rich experience that's front-loaded by heady violet and boysenberry aromas with a chocolate and dark cherry climax. 

Dessert Wines
Pass on heavy dessert calories and drink your dessert instead. Stickies not only satisfy a sweet tooth but also wrap up Valentine's dinner with tasty, lingering warmth that will keep you in the mood for love. Choices abound, from complex and rich Ports to honeyed Muscat. Look to Australia's Rutherglen or Beaumes-de-Venise for bouquet and exotic flavors with just the right amount of sweetness. If money is no object, go for broke with Essencia, a Hungarian Tokaji that is pure luxury.

My pick this Valentine's? I'm going with the 2008 Clio, an opulent, glass-staining Monastrell-Cabernet blend from Jumilla, Spain. Let us know your love picks in the comments section. Happy Valentine's Day!

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