BUBBLES AND ROSES FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

I have to admit my wife and I aren’t big on most holidays or special occasions. Frankly, we’re put off by the commercialism. That’s especially true this time of year. Having just made it through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, we’ve been facing the Valentine’s Day onslaught for a month now.

It’s not that we have anything intrinsically against these holidays. It’s just that it is hard to find the meaning behind all the commercialism and we prefer to take the road less traveled.

For example, if we go out at all on New Year’s Eve, we go early and come home early. We’re more likely to stay home; make dinner for ourselves; and, of course, open a bottle or two of wine. The same goes for Valentine’s Day, our anniversary, and our birthdays.

Of course, one thing about holidays and special occasions is that they do provide prime opportunities to open a special bottle of wine. For many people, and I count myself among them, Champagne (or other good sparkling wine) is a classic choice for making any special occasion even more special.

Certainly, it is a prime choice for toasting the occasion but Valentine’s Day also is the perfect time for drinking bubbly throughout the meal. The combination of good acidity, intense fruit, and, of course, effervescence make for a most versatile combination. And don’t forget that some of the best sparkling wines are rosés (which in Champagne typically are a blend of red wine from pinot noir/pinot meunier and white wine from chardonnay).

A fine choice for Champagne would be the Nicolas Feuillatte NV Brut Rosé ($36). It reveals an intensity of red fruits to the senses that signify the passion of the evening. But the NV Brut ($36), which relies more on pinot noir and pinot meunier than many NV Brut, also is a fine choice. It offers cherry notes but also pear and citrus, accented with floral and hazelnut elements that all merge to suggest the fresh flavors and elegance that tickle the palate. A fun option for those going casual or who just want one glass each is the inexplicably named One Fo(u)r, a 2-pack of mini bottles (one Brut & one Rosé, $30).

Sparkling Wine from California can be a god alternative. The Domaine Carneros NV Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour ($35) opens up with a delightful strawberry cream bouquet that creates a sense of anticipation more than realized in the racy, playful palate.

Gloria Ferrer’s NV Blanc de Noirs ($20) tantalizes with sweet sensations of red fruits. Then presents a voluptuous palate that finishes with a delightful zest. The NV Brut ($20) goes more for the smooth, sleek approach. It balances perky fruit with a stylish texture that invites you to indulge.

Of course, Champagne and California sparklers are the obvious choices. If you like to shake things up and experiment, you could try an Alsatian bubbly, known as Crémant d’Alsace. But these bubbles are no consolation prize. Crémant typically is light and fruity but offers a nice measure of complexity.

The best place to start is Lucien Albrecht, the largest Crémant producer. The Brut Rosé ($20) is all pinot noir and has the finesse and flexibility to assume any position throughout a meal. The all pinot blanc Brut Blanc de Blancs ($20) is lithe and supple and would do nicely as a prelude to the main course.

Another adventurous selection would be Prosecco (also the name of the grape) from the Veneto. Prosecco makes a great aperitif but can perform well all evening. The attraction is in its light, fresh aromas and clean, delicate fruit, and low alcohol. I’ve recently been enamored of Valdo’s Nerello Mascalese Rosé ($14) in which the nerello grape adds color and spice to the blend and Valdo’s Brut ($15) for its tart green apple flavors.

Actually, now that I think of it, with all this great wine to drink, maybe having all these holidays and special occasions isn’t such a bad idea after all.

About Rich

I first became interested in wine while I worked in numerous liquor stores during college in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. In the years following college, I researched, tasted, traveled to vineyards in California and Europe, participated in countless tastings. I began writing about wine in 1995 with a column in Out Front Colorado. For me, wine is more than a drink. It is food. It is a connection to the earth. It is culture. There is just something amazing, even magical, about the transformation of grapes into wine. It is also remarkable how drinking wine with food enhances the taste and enjoyment of both. Appreciation of wine has become an integral part of my approach to life, which emphasizes balance, respect for nature, physical and emotional health, and an appreciation of our nature as social beings. In 2006, I was awarded a fellowship to the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.