Romance Defined?: Great wines for a Valentine's Day encounter

sparkling wineWhat defines romance? You certainly can’t avoid pondering this question with Valentine’s Day nuzzling your neck. Is ita fluffy stuffed animal that squeals “I Love You,” or Godiva chocolate that plugs pounds onto your saddlebags? And, hey, if you’re cajoling with calories, certainly wine fits in there somewhere, if only to loosen up your date for after-hour activities.

Wine already has a romantic side. Its descriptors are rife with sexy adjectives like silky, smooth and velvety, and winemaker artisans pour their soul into each bottle. But with the myriad choices out there, what wine defines romance? I asked my fabulously forthcoming crew of wine geeks to offer their opinion. The responses came fast and furious, telling me that romance still lives.

Sparkling wine, or Champagne, immediately took the lead in the informal straw poll. It’s rather synonymous with romance, with the flirty bubbles and tall, slender glasses. An addition of fresh sliced strawberries — á la Pretty Woman or any number of porn flicks I’d imagine — will lend class to a headache-inducing Cook’s sparkling wine. Or pop some pink Champagne, rare and soft. Or an impressively expensive bottle, like Dom Perignon: “Works for a guaranteed lay,” as one enthusiastic man declared. Hmmm. No hanging chads in that argument.  (Sparkling wine and champagne recommendations)

But red wine came in a surprisingly close second. Perhaps a little less flashy, and more intimate than sparkling, red is something you sip slowly over sensual moments. It aids in the seduction process, allowing two expectant people to linger, with the wine breathing and improving over time, rather than growing flat like sparkling wine.

Cabernets, pinot noirs and syrahs can star in this romantic leading role, depending on how you want it performed. Cabernet is bold, mysterious and gutsy, whereas pinot noir tastes sexier and more feminine. Syrah, a spicy and friendly wine, might also set the mood you’re looking for. But, any red you both like will do, or take the advice of one young buck: “A red that is succulent, savory, with a syncretism of rich flavors. It’s just the liquid to make two lustful lovers pounce.” Mee-yow.

Then we can talk sweet. Although many don’t admit it, people love sweet wine. Not the cloying, diabetic-coma-inducing slop, but slightly sweet, toe-curling dessert wines. Riesling represents the ultimate aphrodisiac, and one man agreed with me, declaring, “Riesling always works wonders for me. Especially when [my date] drinks the whole bottle.” (Riesling recommendations)

Then there’s the “100 percenter:” Port. It can be the difference between a night alone and a night of fun. One exuberant wine geek declared that port gets him the romance he needs 100 percent of the time. You might try it this Valentine’s Day. (Need port recommendations?)

Recommended Wines

La Crema 2007 Pinot Noir Carneros I tried this same wine a year ago and didn’t like it. But it aged into submission. Soft, plush tannins and feminine fruitiness with cherry, tart cranberry and salavacious acidity. Vivid flavors with a nice finesse and very little rustic-ness. Fun, with a mild, mushroomy finish. Sw=1. $28. 4 stars.

Bell 2006 Syrah Massa Ranch Napa If you can get your hands on a bottle (or two) of this limited addition wine (250 cases made), do! Brilliantly bright fruit with fragrant red cherry, raspberry and a dash of spicy, earthy black pepper. Nice, soft leather chap tannins, friendly acidity and a sweet vanilla finish. It’s available, just in limited quantities. You may want to ask your retailer to order some. Sw=1. 4.5 stars. $28.

Bosio 2008 Moscato d’Asti (Italy) This wine is both sweet and slightly fizzy, accomplishing two goals at once. Loaded with full frontal apricots, red apples and peaches. Nicely balanced with enough acidity to prevent it from being too cloying or rich. If you can’t find this one, try Icardi, Batasiolo or La Spinetta, all under $20. Sw=5. 3.5 stars. $13.

Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. 1 (star) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.

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