With Valentine’s Day approaching, love is soon to be in the air. And if not … well, wine helps. I always think of V-Day as an opportunity to break out a bottle of something special—a seductive, irresistible wine that puts an added spark into the celebration. Not that it has to be something overly expensive. There are plenty of great wines that are within reach of most people’s Valentine’s Day budgets. Here are a few of my favorites.
Wherever romance is concerned, bubbly is usually a good idea. And what could be more foolproof than Champagne from France’s iconic Champagne house, MoÃ«t & Chandon? For Valentine’s Day, I’m especially fond of the pink-hued MoÃ«t & Chandon Rosé Impérial ($66.99). It’s full of bright fruit, with Pinot Noir to give it some intensity, Chardonnay for sophistication and Pinot Meunier to lend a roundness of body. The raspberry and strawberry flavors are a nice partner for foie gras, should you decide to splurge on V-Day. For a more classic Champagne, there’s MoÃ«t & Chandon Brut Impérial ($45.14), with its hints of white flowers and toasted-brioche notes, along with pretty peach and pear flavors.
A staple of past Valentine’s Days at our house has been the slightly sweet and gorgeous-in-the-glass Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto ($22.48) from Italy. This sensuous sparkler with aromatic hints of raspberries and rose petals is a knockout with Valentine’s Day chocolates or strawberries and whipped cream. In fact, the wine itself sort of tastes like chocolate-dipped strawberries!
Oysters, of course, are said to be an aphrodisiac, making them commonplace on Valentine’s Day menus. And with raw oysters, there must be Chablis; it’s a coupling made in food & wine-pairing heaven. I really like Louis Michel & Fils Chablis 2010 ($24.17), which is French Chardonnay matured on fine lees and only in stainless-steel tanks. There’s steely minerality here—which helps make it such a good partner for oysters—along with floral notes and a silky mouthfeel; it’s a quintessential example of classic French Chablis.
If you prefer your Chardonnay a little more New World-ish, I’d suggest a bottle of Landmark Overlook Chardonnay 2010 ($28.49). Located in the heart of Sonoma, Landmark has long been one of my favorite wineries, and their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs are particularly spectacular. Landmark Overlook Chardonnay is lightly oaked, with lemony notes, white-peach flavors and hints of tangerine. It’s a really lovely wine for the price and a good alternative to expensive French white Burgundy. It would be great with butter-dipped lobster or crab.
For a gorgeous and inexpensive red V-Day wine, I suggest opening a bottle of Cline Cellars Cashmere ($13.99). Cashmere is a silky, luxurious blend of MourvÃ¨dre, Grenache and Syrah, fermented first in stainless steel and then racked to new French oak for eight months. There is robust fruit in Cashmere, with bright raspberry and cherry flavors, along with dark chocolate, plum and black pepper. It’s like a box of chocolates in a bottle.
Speaking of which, V-Day would seem the perfect time to break open a box of—and I’m not kidding—chocolate wine. Chocolate Shop Box of Chocolate ($20.14/1.5 liter box) is exactly what you’d think: red wine infused with natural dark chocolate. Now, this is certainly not something you’d want to pour at the dinner table. But as a fun dessert wine, or as dessert itself, it’s actually kind of interesting, and definitely unique.
Finally, you frisky folks might want to try “Doggy Style” Cabernet ($12.04) from Utah’s own TwoDog Winery, the self-proclaimed “sexiest wine of the year.”