CHARMINGLY, my mother always called 14 February “the birds’ wedding day”.
To her generation, it was only alphabetically that nesting could ever precede nuptials. In these brasher times, Valentine’s Day is more about tastelessly large cards and – my central theme today – pink wine.
Traditionally, the romance of the occasion demands something not only pink but also sparkling. For an inexpensive example of that style, try 2011 Codorniu Vintage Rosé Cava (£7.32, down from £10.99 until 25 February, Tesco). In addition to its bright raspberry and strawberry sparkle, there is also a nice mixture of vanilla, lemon-based acidity and a gently contrasting savoury structure.
Moving up to champagne brings us Oudinot Cuvée Rosé Brut (£22, down from £27 until 2 March, M&S). Like the cava, it has a savoury edge, but this one is more biscuity and lends a stylish balance to the wine’s raspberry fruit, fresh citrus liveliness and (appropriately) rose-focused aromatics.
For a step up into the premier league of Champagne, seek out Taittinger Prestige Rosé (£47.99, Waitrose). There is real sophistication here with small but vigorously persistent bubbles, delicate strawberry fruit with a fresh lemon edge and a delightful mousse-like mouth feel.
Another top tipple would be Champagne Henriot Rosé (£54.50, Harvey Nichols). Here, there are also fine, rapid bubbles and citrus acidity to underpin the restrained soft fruit flavours but the backdrop runs from an initial toastiness to a floral finish – rather than the other way round.
Since good champagne is a joy whatever its colour, take a look at that rosé’s companion wine – Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blancs (£43, Oddbins). I have been hugely impressed by the way this wine brings together restrained but appealing lemon and red apple fruit, well judged toastiness on the backdrop and some typically chardonnay chalkiness on the finish.
If the romantic spirit is willing but the wallet weak, nil desperandum. Aldi also has a classy blanc de blanc but at a mercifully keen price. 2011 Philippe Michel Cremant du Jura Chardonnay (£6.99) has delightful soft, lemon and kumquat fruit skilfully rounded out with brioche influences on the finish.
More prosaically (predictably) if it is a man that is being entertained, we are told it is better to approach his heart via his stomach. So, if the resultant candle-lit dinner involves fillet steak sturdier fare than rosé will be needed. Go instead for something like South Australia’s intense and rounded 2009 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet Shiraz Merlot (£13.95, The Fine Wine Company, Portobello and Musselburgh). This contains a pleasing mélange of fruit influences that include bramble, mulberry and black cherry along with a finish of chocolate and sweet spices. There is some tannin but it has largely worked through now and confines its participation to a muted concluding grip.
Something especially appropriate for the day – providing the food is not too robust – is a red Beaujolais Cru; 2012 Domaine Le Carjot Saint Amour (£10.99, cellarandkitchen.adnams.co.uk). Unsurprisingly, sales from that appellation sell brilliantly just now – but this is no novelty wine. Like most Saint Amour, this is medium-bodied with a pleasing layer of spice to sit atop its bright cherry and raspberry flavours. There is, however, also some savoury substance to make it work with a wider range of food and a spike of acidity to prevent it being one-dimensional.
2012 Tbilvino Qvevris
Kakheti, Georgia, 12.5 per cent
Very unusual white wine made in clay vessels and exhibiting a distinctly orange colouration but with an interesting flavour range. This combines a savoury, herbal backdrop with lemon acidity but a tangerine-centred, marmalade style, off-dryness. The adventurous will love it.
2011 Signature Pic St Loup
Languedoc, France, 13 per cent
This is from a seriously underestimated region and uses classic Rhône varieties to deliver a smoothly textured red with dark plum, bramble, vanilla and liquorice flavours with nice acidic contrast, a pleasingly smooth texture and just the right touch of tannin.