After a recent trip to Italy, Mark Slaney selects four types of wine that would be perfect for a Valentine’s Day meal
Browse the web and there’s no shortage of suggestions of wines for Valentine’s Day. Recurring suggestions seem to be, not unsurprisingly, pink Champagne, sparkling wine and ones with brand names that are blatantly selling the wine on the name and label first and last. Take your pick from labels with pictures of Marilyn Monroe or from wines with names such as Ménage à Trois. Alternatively, have a think about the sort of wine that you and your loved one really enjoy and consider what you want to eat and what you want to drink with it.
Having just returned from a wine tasting trip to Italy, I’d like to suggest four Italian wines that neatly cover all eventualities and food pairings. And if there’s a country where romance and love are always high on the agenda then I think Italy has to be a front rank contender.
For a sparkling wine that has a quality level that puts it in competition with good Champagne search out a bottle of Franciacorta. This tiny wine region in northern Italy near lake Iseo makes classy sparkling wine from exactly the same grape varieties and in just the same laborious way as Champagne. There are not many producers but Barone Pizzini, founded in 1870, is one of the oldest and is available in the UK. Their 2005 Riserva is terrific. The wine is lovingly made and is given more time to age than most Champagnes can afford to, or be bothered to, give to their wines. I could happily drink this wine as an aperitif but to be honest I feel it’s more of a food wine and would accompany very nicely something like smoked salmon followed by some lobster or turbot which would be the sort of thing I’d be thinking of cooking on Valentine’s night.
For a white wine for a dinner a deux that will please the most discerning wine palate I’d like to point you in the direction of a wine maker called Jermann. Founded in 1881 this wine estate entered the ranks of Italy’s greatest wine producers a hundred years later under the direction of the highly talented Silvio Jermann. In the 1990s I tried a new wine Silvio had just launched in 1987. Called “Where the Dreams Have No End” the wine has gone on to gather a lot of praise and the definitive guide to Italian wines “Gambero Rosso”, published annually, still scores it highly. The wine is now just called “W… Dreams… … …”. It’s a big, dramatic chardonnay that will happily sit centre stage on a dinner table. If the name is too much for you or you aren’t a chardonnay fan then try Jermann’s “Vinnae”. This white, made from the local Ribolla Gialla grape supplemented with Tocai Friulano and Riesling Renano is one of my favourite Jermann wines although nowhere near as pricey as some he makes. It’s dry, zesty and high in acidity and medium weight on the palate. It’s a little bit unusual and really drinkable. I think it would be ideal with something like spaghetti vongole.
Lacrima di Morro
For a red wine search out a Lacrima di Morro. Umani Ronchi Fonte del Re 2012 is one such wine. This little wine region came into formal being in 1985 after the plantings of the local Lacrima grape became so depleted that something had to be done to save this unusual regional grape variety from extinction. Lacrima, meaning ‘tear’, is named thus perhaps because the delicate grapes are prone to weeping. Look for a tear on the label. This medium weight red has a pronounced aroma of violets and roses which makes it as enjoyable to whiff as to glug. The palate is firm but really fruity and it has a long, dry finish. Cracking with a bit of roast lamb or even a juicy steak, the wine is pretty seductive and it repays being open and ideally decanted half an hour before you start on it.
Finally, if you enjoy a glass of sweet wine with your pudding then try, if you haven’t already, a Vin Santo. There are now numerous examples of this historic Tuscan dessert wine to be found. Whilst it can be either white or rosé and can range from dry to very sweet, most bottles are typically a golden white and are sweet but not as sweet as, say, a Sauternes. Even something as simple as vanilla ice cream and a biscotti can be transformed by the addition of a glass of Vin Santo.
Stockists: Barone Pizzini Franciacorta is shipped by Vintage Roots, Jermann wines and Umani Ronchi wines by Enotria Wines. Contact the shippers for local distributors or check the web.
Mark Slaney has been a commercial wine buyer for hotels and restaurants for over 30 years. He has written a book on wine, Tasting Notes, which has just been published in paperback. He is also General Manager at the Horseshoe Restaurant with Rooms, Eddleston, By Peebles, Scotland, EH45 8QP
Main image: Sippanont Samchai / Flickr / CC
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