Ah, amore! Among the holidays that honor parents or gather friends and family, there is but one that celebrates romantic love. Valentine’s Day began as a tribute to forbidden love. The day aptly celebrates the rogue Saint Valentine, who the Romans imprisoned for performing weddings banned by the Emperor. Luckily, romantic love is not quite as dangerous today, and Valentine’s Day is now celebrated nearly worldwide.
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat would Valentine’s Day be without wine? The world of wine is abundantly filled with romance. There is hardly a book or movie about love that does not include a scene where a bottle of wine plays a supporting role. Wine seems to be an essential component of love, first appearing at the anticipated big date and there when you reminisce at your twentieth anniversary. Wine heightens the pleasure of the meal and the moment.
Whether you’re launching a budding romance, kickstarting a flagging passion, or celebrating an enduring relationship, there is a great wine that fits each occasion. Our recommendations cross the span of love. We give you bubbles to add spark to a new love, a wine to impress the most ardent chocolate lover, a wine the color of love, and one idea to celebrate the years as your love grows. Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to open a special bottle of wine tailored to the both of you.
[quote floatLet’s start with a wine that celebrates lasting love. In the 1940’s Elisabetta Fagiuoli and her husband Sergio settled into their picturesque farm in the hills of Tuscany. After raising their children, Elisabetta returned to her family profession. Sergio tended the vineyards and Elisabetta made wines unique to the region using ancient methods to produce a traditional Chianti and Vernacia, an indigenous white varietal. Together, Elisabetta and Sergio have released their wines at every vintage since 1971. And Elisabetta, now 78, is celebrated as the oldest generation in the three grand dames of Italian winemaking. If you wish to pour a wine as enduring as their love, you’ll find their Sono Montenidoli Chianti Colli Sensi at about $25, and Vernacia at about $38 in shops that specialize in Italian wines.
[quote float=”right”]There is hardly a book or movie about love that does not include a scene where a bottle of wine plays a supporting role. Wine seems to be an essential component of love, first appearing at the anticipated big date and there when you reminisce at your twentieth anniversary.[/quote]Never underestimate the joy of effervescence. When the occasion is truly special, bubbly is nearly always the wine of choice. For something new, look to a high end Cava for your Valentine’s Day sparkler. The best Cava now rivals the quality of fine Champagne. Our choice is a Cava that is as special, elegant, and frivolous as the day should be. For over 30 years, Agusti Torello Kripta Gran Reserva Cava was unavailable to the public—vintner Agusti Torello made this Cava exclusively for his royal and celebrity friends. The box, bottle, and even the cork are beautifully designed. And the bottle’s punt (bottom) is curved so that it can only be propped up in an ice bucket, encouraging you to leave none behind at the end of the night. A few years ago, Torello decided to make a little more for limited release. Only a few bottles make it to North Carolina each year, but it’s worth the search at $90 a bottle.
Perhaps it’s simply the color, but rosé wines are beginning to find their way on to Valentine’s Day tables. Provence produces crisp, light rosé ideal for the summer. However, few know that other regions of France produce rosé with the same elegance but with more texture and flavor. We recommend Harri Gorri Pierre Rosé at $30, a rose made from a Cabernet Franc blend produced by one of the best wineries in France’s Basque region. Its versatility makes it a perfect partner for just about anything you’d like to serve, including chocolate. And it’s French—what could be more romantic than that?
Yes, chocolate is the classic sweet gift of Valentine’s Day. But I’m pulling out the best from my arsenal and telling you to skip the chocolate and pour this instead. Your secret weapon for the Day should be Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Gran Reserva 1983, at about $44 for a half bottle. First, it’s made from the only grape I know of that has a proper first and last name, Pedro Ximinez. But more importantly, this dessert sherry is sealed in oak barrels and left for decades. Only after 25 years are vintages selected for release and then only after they have attained classic character. Within its dense texture floats notes of smoke, roasted coffee, and dark chocolate that end in a spicy hint of curry. More people call to thank me for this recommendation than any other.
We end with an idea of how to celebrate this and future Valentine’s Days. In different parts of Europe, couples often receive a case of wine at their wedding. The couple serves one bottle at each anniversary to reminisce and celebrate how both the wine and their love have improved with age. You can use this fine custom for Valentine’s Day as well. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to age wine. But to get the most from your new tradition, you’ll need to store your wine in a place without sunlight or vibration, and a temperature somewhat less than 60 degrees.
Half the fun is selecting the right wine for future Valentine’s Days. There are but a few wines that age well for one to two decades, such as Barolo and Brunello, or left bank Bordeaux, which includes the sweet wine Sauternes. For a bit of a twist, we recommend the relatively unknown Sagrantino grape from the Montefalco region in Umbria. Sagrantino is the only truly heavy red wine of Italy. And it is one of the few wines that both can be enjoyed young with an hour of decanting and improves beautifully over a decade or two. Our favorite is Tabarrini Colle Grimaldesco Sagrantino 2009. Normally this wine runs about $55 a bottle, but the importer temporarily lowered the price so that most wine shops can offer this wine at about $36 for a while. This wine would love to join you each year as you celebrate your life together.
John Kerr is the co-owner of Metro Wines located on Charlotte Street in downtown Asheville.