Drink & Dine: Super Sips for (a Potentially Perilous) Valentine’s Day
Red and pink are the banner colours of Valentine’s Day, and they are ace colours for wine as well. Photo: Foxys_forest_manufacture/Getty Images
Can we just come right out and say it: Valentine’s Day, despite its seemingly innocuous and benevolent facade, can be among the most perilous dates on the calendar.
Sure, it’s swell if you happen to find yourself in the throes of a promising new relationship. What could be more thrilling than an officially mandated celebration of your love?
But even in golden situations like that, dangers lurk. Do you buy a gift? If so, what kind of a gift? A small token of appreciation or a pricey ‘I’m in this for the long haul’ statement piece? If you’re single — or, gasp, recently broken up — Valentine’s Day is a cruel reminder of your status, especially if co-workers are receiving bouquets all around you.
For those in long-term relationships, meanwhile, the occasion could be great … or an uncomfortable recap of how electrifying things used to be, one mortgage and a Mastercard ago.
So, yes, Valentine’s Day can be fraught … unless of course, the occasion is leveraged to celebrate any love, not just romantic love, in which case friends, pets, housekeepers, Uber drivers and mind-reading baristas are in for a bonanza.
And where there is excellence in life, there is usually wine. Red and pink are the banner colours of Valentine’s Day, and they are ace colours for wine as well. So, let’s drink.
Pink wine is often thought of as a summertime drink. But it is typically made from red grapes such as Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Syrah and Grenache, which we tend to favour in winter months, albeit in a form showcasing longer skin contact, lending the wine its rich colour. (As the experts at Wine Folly note, “Rosé happens when the skins of red grapes touch wine for only a short time,” resulting in a soft, salmon colour.)
But softer colour doesn’t necessarily mean dialed-down taste. Rosé from Tuscany, for example, can be quite robust with flavours of cherry, berry and herb. Italian rosé blends might also include Pinot Grigio grapes, adding a fresh zing to Sangiovese and Syrah. Ditto some rosés from Ontario.
While in the Italian section, imbibers can also opt to sample rosé Prosecco unavailable officially until 2020 when the Prosecco DOC Consortium announced that the production of ‘Prosecco DOC Rosé’ was approved. (Prior to this, Prosecco bubbles had to be white.)
Of course, Provence is the usual go-to for delicate, bone-dry rosés and there’s no reason not to explore labels from this region, which can range in affordability but can also be relied on to bring the quality. Hats off to whoever drafted this lovely description on the LCBO site for La Riviera Côtes de Provence Rosé 2021, featuring 70 per cent Grenache grapes and just two grams of sugar per litre:
“Beautiful aromas of spring meadow, apricot and nectarine paint a vivid picture and echo nicely in the flavours. The palate is tangy and bright, with a lovely, smooth texture enlivened by a slight pétillance (or sparkle). Chill and sip with grilled seafood or herbed chicken.”
Right?! Many rosés have floral notes, which make them a lovely complement to a gift of flowers, always a solid bet for Valentine’s Day giving. Who doesn’t cherish fresh blooms in February?
Few things in this life pair better with chocolate than red wine. Since Valentine’s Day is almost always celebrated with gifts of chocolate, a medium- to full-bodied red is a great accompanying gift as you head over to a pal’s house, heart-shaped box in tow.
A fun recent-ish trend in reds is wines finished off in repurposed spirits casks, such as Robert Mondavi Merlot aged in barrels once used to age rum, “contributing chocolate, rich vanilla, honey and black olive notes to the black plum Merlot character.”
You can also find several Cabernet Sauvignons finished in repurposed whiskey barrels (and vice versa, with whiskey finished in barrels once used to age red wine). In addition to upping the flavour, these wines are great talking points and a reason to explore beyond your reflexive red selection.
No matter how you mark the occasion — or don’t — Valentine’s Day will be better if shared with wine. Don’t forget to treat your barista.