WineInk: Expert suggestion for the Valentine’s Day pairing of wine with love
British BubblesIn case you wondered, yes, they do celebrate Valentine’s Day in Britain. For a taste of transatlantic love I asked Amy Wislocki, the managing editor of the London-based wine publication Decanter, for her take on a wine for a Valentine. “Pink fizz sounds like such a cliché on Valentine’s Day, but this cracking English sparkling wine is anything but. It’s made in Hampshire by French winemaker Corinne Seely for Exton Park Vineyard and is 100% Pinot Meunier, the most obscure of Champagne’s three primary grapes (the other two being Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). Meunier’s role is usually to add freshness and fruitiness, and this has both in abundance. It’s delicately pink in the glass, with a pretty floral style – take a sip and you’ll be transported to an English garden in early summer.”
Wine and love are a perfect pairing. If you have ever shared a great bottle of wine with the one you love, you know that it can have the sweetest results. Together, they are among the things in life that can make you go “Ah.”
This year, I asked a variety of experts for their thoughts on which wines they might drink with their partners on the day that celebrates love.
With tradition in mind, Greg Van Wagner, wine director, Jimmy’s + Hao in Aspen, suggested the tried and true. “I would reach for a bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé with a loved one any day,” he wrote. “Yes, rosé Champagne for Valentine’s Day is a classic, but it’s because it really is that good of a match. So why mess with such a lovely pairing?”
Johnny Ivansco, a sensitive salesman and wine buyer at Sopris Liquor and Wine in Carbondale, echoed the Champagne theme, though he went a shade lighter. “Champagne Jacques Lassaigne “Les Vignes De Montgueux” is a Non Vintage Blanc de Blanc (100 percent chardonnay),” he said, speaking of the grower Champagne, one that is made by the people who actually grow the grapes. “Lassaigne uses the last three vintages in this blend. Organic, great Champagne with or without food.”
Bubbles, but not Champagne, also resonated for Colin West, a film producer from Lake Tahoe, California, whose latest films for Wine Enthusiast Media are virtual love letters to different wine regions. “The Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée, a Franciacorta wine (an Italian sparkler made using the méthode champenoise), is one of my favorite GO-TO wines to drink with my partner,” he opined. “Champagne is delicious, of course, but the world is full of extremely interesting sparkling wines and the region of Franciacorta is producing phenomenal bottles that also age well.”
West also finds romance in travel, virtual or otherwise. “I find that wine gives you the opportunity to create a special experience with your loved one. For my girlfriend and I, (wine) allows us to go on an adventure anywhere in the world while still being able to stay home with the one I truly love.” Ah.
Others look beyond bubbles in their wine passions. You may expect Ericka Briscoe, the wine director at Kenichi Aspen, to perhaps suggest a sake, but her affections also lean toward Italy. “The 2016 vintage of Gaja’s Ca’ Marcanda ‘Promis’ is a blend of merlot and syrah with a touch of sangiovese,” she offered. “It’s the union of the right amount of this and that. It’s when square pieces work to somehow make a perfect circle.” Aged for 12 months in oak barrels, Promis is a full-bodied wine with flavors and aromas of dark red and blue fruits, a sprinkle of fresh Italian herbs all wrapped in a touch of warm baking spices. “It’s soft and cozy and warm and a perfect wine to snuggle with.” Again, ah.
Steve Humble, owner of Free Range Kitchen & Wine Bar in downtown Basalt, finds love in pairing chocolate with a unique wine from France. “Who doesn’t want to eat chocolate with their loved one?” the restaurateur asks with an exclamation point. “Many wines don’t work well with chocolate, but a match made in heaven are the grenache-based, Banyuls dessert wines from the Languedoc Roussillon region of southern France. Predominant flavors are plums, cherries, burnt orange and espresso. A great example of Banyuls that is findable and affordable is from Chapoutier, about $25 for a 500ml bottle.”
“As far as Valentine’s Day wines, you might as well drink the best with your lover.” So says Jay Fletcher, a master sommelier and wine educator for Southern Wines and Spirits. “Red, of course, is the color. Ruby red even better. Something fragrant, elegant and exotic fits the bill as well,” he says, breaking it down like a somm. “My choice would be the Joseph Drouhin Chambolle Musigny premier cru ‘Les amoureuses.’ Of course, it translates as ‘the lovers’ so you get extra points,” he says of the Burgundian classic. “Beautiful bright cherry fruit with notes of fresh violets and orange peels backed up by chalky minerality and a touch of sweet vanilla. Who does not want that? Not an inexpensive wine (the mid-three figures may get you a bottle), but you deserve to drink it on that special night.”
All are heartfelt, well-considered suggestions, any of which will make your Valentine happy. But when it came to both brevity and a message that resonates, my favorite recommendation came from Penny Devine, a wine distributor with CS Wines in Denver. “Paloma Merlot,” she said plainly and reverentially, referring to the luxuriant, lush, rich red wines grown on Spring Mountain in Napa Valley by Sheldon Richardson that have beguiled lovers of the grape since the wines were introduced at the beginning of this century.
And her thought about Valentine’s Day? Penny simply said, “Wine and love mean peace.”
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“We believe in the power of women, so we turned to what we know, winemaking, and tried to make our own small contribution to the discussion,” co-owner of Ponzi Vineyards Anna Maria said. “We had to do something.”