Pucker up! It’s time to get soft and smoochy! Whether you’re in a relationship or not, who cares? Open some wine and get on with it! I’m not a huge fan of going out for dinner on Valentines Day. I have memories of over-priced under-performing menus of average restaurants in my youth. I’m sure that if I chose one of my favourite restaurants these days, I wouldn’t be disappointed but the truth is, I love an excuse to stay at home and have a date night with the fire roaring.
So, if you’re doing the same and need a few sips to go with your food, look no further as I have some ideas.
On the fizz front, Waitrose have a new own label bottle of rosé Champagne that is worth a shelling out for. Full of juicy, fragrant redcurrant fruit, it’s a fizz that actually tastes pink! Some pink Champagne doesn’t actually taste as inviting as it looks but this one is an exception to the rule. At only £19.99 until 21st Feb (usually £24.99) it’s made by the house of Alexandre Bonnet in the south of the Champagne region and is made from 100% Pinot Noir.
If you’re looking something a little kinder on the wallet, Aldi have a couple of pinks to whet your romantic whistle for under a tenner. Their Bordeaux Crémant Rosé, made by traditional Champagne method with a rosé blend, has a crisp strawberry tone. OK, it isn’t as soft or as sophisticated as Champagne, but it’s a good drop to sip midweek with your nibbles. And if you want a super low priced deal their Spumante Rosé is only £4.99. As well as hedgerow fruit, it has a pear like quality too.
I’m all for a bit of English fizz at any occasion, and these days there’s so much to chose from. One vineyard I’m rather keen on at the moment is Hattingley Valley, one of Hampshire’s finest (of which there are rather a lot these days!) Their Classic Cuvée 2013 delivers a zesty and vibrant yet sophisticated drop of fizz with warm toasty notes and a classy finish. It certainly gives Champagne a run for its money. Their 2013 rosé is equally delicate and delicious with a subtle strawberry hint. If you want to impress, you can score major points if you put either of these in your fridge. You can purchase their wines direct at www.hattingleyvalley.co.uk (Rosé £34.95 / Classic Cuvée £29.95) or in Waitrose (£37 for the rosé and £30 for the Classic Cuvée). You can also buy Hattingley Valley wines at The Naked Grape and Wine Utopia.
While we’re on the fizz front, I have to mention Codoniu Gran Cremant Cava 2014. It’s no secret that I prefer Cava to Prosecco and this subtle and refined wine has light, fine bubbles and a subdued biscuity taste which is really inviting. It’s £9.99 from The Co-Op.
And if you want to get something pink on the table this Valentines, Sainsbury’s have a couple of low priced sips that you could opt for. Their zingy Taste the Difference 2014 Vintage Cava is fun for pre dinner nibbles and at £9, it’s not going to put a hole in your wallet. If you want a still rosé, their Taste the Difference The Vine Garden Fairtrade South African pink is vivacious and bone dry. Great if shellfish and chorizo are planned or if pan fried salmon is on the menu. This wine contains no less than 47 different grapes(!) and is £7.
Back to Aldi, if you’re turning up the heat in the kitchen and cooking something spicy, they have a couple of interesting Italian gems perfect for spice. The dash of sweetness in both wines is just what a firey dish needs. Costadune Grillo / Chardonnay blend is a white wine from the Menfi coastline on the southwest of Italy, a region known for its aromatic white wines. On the nose there’s a whif of pineapple chunk sweets (remember them?) and tropical fruit. There’s initial vibrant acidity that develops into a sweet pear drop taste. Villa Terri Leggerment Appassito is a good red option and has a typically peppery Italian nose. There’s a hint of Chianti style flavour when you taste it with an subtly sweet finish. Very food friendly. Both wines are £5.99 and are available online from 9th February, and in store from 12th February.
Another soft and warming red, with less sweetness I might add, is Waitrose Romanian Pinot Noir. Soft and juicy, this wine is from the sunny Dealurile Munteniei region of Romania and is delicious if duck or game are on the menu. The wine is a snip at £5.99, so see what you think. The Co-Op’s Truly Irresistble 30 Degree Pinot Noir from Chile is also really worth a try. It’s from the Casablanca Valley and has really fresh fruit within its grips and a spicy finish, which I think you’ll love. And it’s £7.99 price tag isn’t bad either!
A delicious white wine perfect for shellfish is a wine you can buy in draft form www.morewine.eu which is a Bristol based company that focuses on young wines that are made to be sipped sooner rather than later. More Wine focuses on wines available bag in box or on tap in selected cafes & bars. They can also deliver their range of organic and biodynamic wines straight to your door via their online shop at www.morewine.eu so check out their website for more info.
As well as semi sparkling wine in a can (Quello, available in 200ml cans sold in packs of 24 for around £2 per can), I kid you not – They sell wines that don’t need to be stored in bottle. Their ‘bagnums’, pouches and draft wines are revolutionising wine buying not just in the West but in outlets all over the UK.
One wine that I love is a their draft Grüner Veltliner from Austria. A fresh, white pepper nose entices you into it’s rounded and vibrant taste. A beautifully tangy white, perfect if scallops are on the menu. You can buy this wine draft or BIB (Bag in box) for the equivalent of £9.37 per 75cl.
And at the same price you can get a draft red wine from Austria that gives Pinot Noir a run for its money. Zweigelt is a grape that in this instance makes a soft, fruity wine with a hint of violet and plum. It’s light yet velvety texture is a delight on its own or with a midweek tomato based pasta dish. Bring on the Bolognese (And don’t tell the Italian winemakers out there!)
And if you want something to accompany that decadent lobster dish you’ve planned for the love of your life, you can’t go wrong with Les Millières Montagne Premier Cru 2013. It’s great with French style sophisticated shellfish. The fresh green melon nose is a treat. In the mouth, it’s tangy and rich. Whilst there’s a vibrant zing, the wine is buttery with an elegant finish. It’s only £7.99 at Majestic Wine Warehouse, so get some in and people will think you’ve paid twice the price for this lovely drop!
While we’re on the subject of good Chardonnay (and you know I’m a fan!) Tesco Finest White Burgundy at £8 is beautiful and fresh with a classy, rich finish. It is the perfect example of how exciting easy drinking French Chardonnay can be. The Co-Op have a young and fun Chardonnay too. Their Australian Chardonnay 2015 is £6.99 and is a great example of a fresh, sparky-tasting chardonnay with a hint of ripe apples and pears. It’s really worth a try.
So, whether you’re dining on your own, with a date, long time partner or with friends and family – Use 14th February for an excuse to open something nice! Treat yourself…. It is Tuesday after all!