By The Wine Guys, Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr
Color is often associated with mood. You’re feeling blue, in the pink or green with envy. This month we bet you’re seeing red. Red is associated with strong emotions, but February is all about romance. Erotic scenes in art are doused in red and it’s the only color you see on candy boxes and greeting cards. Do you plan to buy daffodils for Valentine’s Day. We hope not; red roses are what is expected.
Red – or shades of it – are the color for Valentine’s wine too.
Whether you’re in a restaurant or, like us, gathered intimately around a table at home, there should be pink or red in the glass. Pinot noir, for instance, is often described as sexy and alluring – terms that can apply equally to the person sitting beside you. Rosé champagne may be expensive – what are you saving money for? -- but there’s nothing like bubbles to excite the senses. A French rosé also has appealing color and is a versatile match to food.
Get your romance on and try one of these wines.
Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé ($80). Founded in 1818 shortly after the marriage between Nicolas Francois Billecart and Elisabeth Salmon, there are few luxury rosés that will deliver a romantic love note like this. Creamy in the mouth with strawberry and raspberry notes, citrus aromas and persistent bubbles, it is a wine to enjoy sip by sip with or without food. Frankly, for us it’s the meal.
Champagne Perrier-Jouet Blason Rose Ecobox ($75). Lively black cherry and pomegranate notes with persistent bead and lingering finish.
Mumm Napa Brut Rose ($25). A good value from California, this brut has black cherry and citrus notes. Lovely color would make it an appealing quaff once in the glass.
Argyle Brut Rosé 2018 ($30). If you can’t afford champagne, there are many alternatives from the West Coast. Winemaker Nate Klostermann succeeded legendary Rollin Soles in 2005 and carried the tradition of making great value wines. His 2011 Extended Tirage Brut ($85) is an extraordinary wine that competes with the best champagne, but the rosé is a good value for this occasion. Red fruit and white peach notes linger all the way through the finish.
Gerard Bertrand Cote des Rosés 2020 ($17). From the Languedoc, this beautiful blend of grenache, syrah and cinsault is remarkable for its intense aromas and pure fruit character. Faint orange in color, it has dominant grapefruit notes with a hint of orange peel, all contained in an eye-catching bottle with a rose-shaped bottom.
Berne Inspiration 2020 ($20). From Chateau de Berne, this blend of grenache noir, cinsault and syrah has a vibrant berry nose, fresh acidity and strawberry, cherry flavors with a hint of lavender.
Berne Romance 2020 ($15). Grenache noir, cinsault, syrah and merlot combine to make an aromatic and fresh wine with strawberry and peach flavors.
Ultimate Provence UP 2020 ($22). This bottle is so beautiful that a guest took it home to use for olive oil. But it’s also beautiful inside. A blend of syrah, grenache noir, cinsault and rolle, its fresh fruit character, fresh acidity and citrus, spice notes get rave reviews.
Etude Estate Pinot Noir 2018 ($47). From the cool Northwest Carneros, this luxurious pinot noir is packed with bright strawberry and black cherry flavors with hints of spice. The fine tannins and balanced acidity make it a good match to dinner fare, such as salmon, tomato-based pasta sauces, veal and more.
Ruffino Modus Toscana IGT 2017 ($28). Cabernet sauvignon and merlot are blended with the local sangiovese in this super super-tuscan wine. Forward cherry, plum and spice notes would complement meat-based pasta. Amore!
Beaulieu Vineyards Reserve Tapestry Napa Valley 2018 ($65). If beef is on your menu, here is a great choice. Using Bordeaux grape varieties, Tapestry offers great complexity, layered fruit, soft tannins and a long finish. What isn’t there to like? Ripe plum and black cherry flavors with hints of raspberry, spices, forest floor and currants.
Loveblock Pinot Noir 2020 ($37). From New Zealand’s Kim Crawford, this exuberant pinot noir is loaded with black cherry fruit. Extracted, lush and delicious.
If pink champagne isn’t your style, here are some bubbly alternatives.
Louis Roederer Collection 242 ($60). We’ve been big fans of Roederer’s non-vintage champagne, but this one is even better. Roederer phased out its non-vintage brut premier and in its place offers this multi-vintage version. Instead of looking for consistency year after year, the new blend changes proportions according to the vintage. Collection 242 debuts with 56 percent of the blend coming from the 2017 vintage. Normally, it’s a bit dicey to depend on the fruits of a single vintage in an area confounded by cold weather. But global warming makes each vintage predictably good, thus sparing producers from dipping deep into reserves. Chardonnay dominates the blend. It is refined and textured with fresh tropical fruit notes.
Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut ($60-70). Bone dry with some yeast notes in the nose with apples and citrus flavors. Try with bold even oily fishes such as mackerel, or raw or very rare tuna or salmon.
Champagne Bollinger PN VZ15 ($120). A new wine in Bollinger’s lineup, the PN focuses on a different region to showcase its pinot noir-based champagne. This version is from Verzenay – nearly half comes from the 2015 and the rest features reserve wines dating back to 2009. It is an exquisite, full-bodied champagne that is bold enough to complement food. Stone fruit flavors, effusive pear and cherry aromas with toasty, hazelnuts hints.
Champagne Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru ($80). Using reserve wines from 25 vintages dating back to 1985, this all-chardonnay champagne has the delicacy and finesse you expect. Lime and grapefruit notes.
Champagne Lanson Le Black Label Brut ($50). A very fairly priced champagne crafted from 50 percent pinot noir, 35 percent chardonnay, and 15 percent pinot meunier. Very well balanced with apple/pear notes and a light toast finish.