Poetry and wine are often intertwined, which brings me to
my Valentine’s Day rhyme.
Chocolates and flowers
with kisses are showered
flutes are clinked
with Champagne and a wink
End your evening’s court
with a glass of tawny port.
I hear you: stick to wine writing.
Champagne is the perfect start to a romantic evening. Its bubbles are festive and smiles are immediate. And rose’ Champagne’s color flatters Valentine’s Day roses.
The non-vintage Ayala Rose Majeur is a Champagne that more consumers should get to know. Ayala disappeared from the American market sometime in the 1990s and only recently returned. Now owned by the well-known Bollinger Champagne house, Ayala Rose’Majeur has an eye-catching salmon tint and its medium body carries pleasing cranberry flavor. And Ayala is one of the best values in the Champagne market, retailing for about $55.
Taittinger is one of my favorite Champagne houses. Its non-vintage Prestige Rose’ is an orange-rose shade with floral and red fruit aromas. It’s made from a blend of Champagne’s three grapes- chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir- but the latter two red grapes comprise 70 percent of the blend. They provide a delicious red berry taste with good acidity, and the chardonnay provides a full, rich mouth feel.
Taittinger’s practice of aging all its champagnes longer than the regulations require brings added complexity to its wines and allows consumers to enjoy them immediately.
The non-vintage Taittinger Prestige Rose’ retails for about $59.
Alfred Gratien is a handcrafted Champagne, only 250,000 bottles are made yearly (the giant houses Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot make millions of bottles each year). In a tradition bound region, where Champagne companies are secretive about their style, winemaker Nicolas Jaeger is the fourth-generation of his family to make Alfred Gratien Champagne.The non-vintage Alfred Gratien Cuvee Paradis Rose’is its very best wine. The cooper hue and ethereal texture are complemented with hints of orange and raspberry aromas and flavors. Its refined form makes it a rose’ Champagne to savor and sip. It retails for about $130.
Chocolate candies and tawny port are a wonderful duo. Dark or milk chocolate, whether studded with hazelnuts or almonds, or filled with fruit-flavored ganache are perfect with 10-year old and 20-year old tawny ports.
Some like the fruitiness of 10-year old Tawny; I prefer the toned down, but not muted fruit quality of 20-year old tawny.
Taylor Fladgate, Sandeman, Fonseca and Graham’s are excellent Port producers. Their wines are richly flavored, exquisitely balanced and have a finish as long as a summer sunset.
Take a small bite of a Belgium chocolate, sip the tawny port and you’re on your way to pure decadence.
Happy Valentine’s Day.