I’ve never really felt the need to be overly romantic on Valentine’s weekend – Why limit the romance to one weekend a year? Spread the love! It’s nearly 11 years since I met Alan and we’ve always agreed, be romantic the rest of the year too and you’ll be all the more happier for it. But with February 14th falling on a Sunday is the perfect excuse to stay in and cook something special. If you are, here are some of my top drops if you’re off to do your Valentine meal shop!
I love cooking shellfish for a starter. One of my favourites is this fab recipe by Tom Kitchin, which when I fell in love with when he came in to cook it on Saturday Kitchen all those years ago.
So if you are serving shellfish, I’ve got a couple of South African beauties for you to try. I’m big into my Chardonnay at the moment – I think I’m making up for lost time. I used to avoid it like the plague but I’ve since seen the error or of my blinkered ways. One of my favourites to have with creamy seafood dishes is the Journey’s End Honeycomb Chardonnay from Marks & Spencer. It’s £10, from Stellenbosh and is a pure delight! On the nose you can detect a little oak. That’s because winemaker Leon Esterhuizen has matured the wine for six months in French oak barrels. On the pallet it’s smooth with a savoury edge, like toasted almonds in lots of butter with a little appley edge too. Because a Chardonnay like this fills your mouth with flavour, I find you don’t drink it as quickly as lighter wines. So you’re less likely to get squiffy (depending on how much fizz you’ve had first of course!) My other South African tip is Trebuchet Chardonnay from the Western Cape. This is also made by Journey’s End (which I only just found out!) and is so called because in 2013, a 60ft working medieval trebuchet was erected on the estate as a focal point for events. It has a zingy citrus nose and is refreshingly sippable with the warming tang of tropical fruit. If you’re looking for decent Chardonnay on a budget, you pick it up from Majestic Wine Warehouse for as little as £5.99 on the mix 6 deal.
Another great wine to go with seafood is Waitrose’s own label Vina Taboexa Albariño. It sums up exactly how good Spanish wine should taste. It’s fresh, tangy and dangerously easy to drink. I’m a big fan of this grape variety and I haven’t tasted one this good in a while. So if you’re near a Waitrose pick up a few bottles. It’s £7.99 and worth every penny.
I wine that I’ve been guilty of overlooking of late is New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I think I overdosed on it a while back as it was the easy ‘go to’ option. I’m glad to say I’ve rejuvenated my love of the wine through Giesen Estate’s Sauvignon Blanc 2014. It’s refreshing but not overly acidic. It’s more refined and smoother than many New Zealand examples and you can easily drink without food. It’s certainly one to remember for Asparagus season. It’s going to come into it’s own once those green spears hit our plates in the spring. Giesen Estate’s Sauvignon Blanc is available in Sainsbury’s for £8 a bottle and in Majestic for £7.99 on the mix 6 deal.
Asda have a tasty duo from Bordeaux under their Extra Special label. Their Bordeaux Blanc 2014 is refreshing with a savoury greengage and gooseberry hit. It’d be lovely with pan fried prawns or a green salad. Their Bordeaux Rouge 2012 is a Merlot blend and has a smell like brown bread baking with a fruity, peppery quality on the tongue. It’d go great with that steak tonight! The blanc is a snip at £5.97 and the rouge is on a 2 bottles for £10 deal. So stock up!
One of the best red’s I’ve tasted of late is the Villa Borghetti Valpolicella Ripasso 2013. The vineyard is apparently amongst rolling hills in the heart of Valpolicella Classico, with vines stretching as far as the eye can see – according to Majestic Wine Warehouse’s website where you can buy this wine for £9.99 on the mix 6 deal. It is overflowing with herbaceous aromas and boasts that wonderfully Italian flavour you want from a red wine: Ripe raisins, cherries and even a liqourice hint too. We tried it with a fantastic Leon recipe: Roast leg lamb on a bed of macaroni, tomatoes and fresh mint and it was a great match.
A real surprise for me and one worth trying for Valnetine’s Day was the Truly Irresistable Mount Benson Shiraz from The Co-Operative. Made by Grant Semmens in Mount Benson which is one of the flagship regions of Australian’s Limestone Coast, the wine has a glorious deep purple colour and has an intriguing toffee like aroma that is continued on the pallet – You might think I’ve gone mad but there really is a delightfully chewy quality to the wine. And the spicy finish that’ll be great with steak or roast beef. It’s only £6.99, so you can spend your saved pennies on a really good bit of meat to go with it!
So, whatever you’re up to. Have a lovely day and make sure you cook up a storm (wine glass in hand).